Volunteer Time Off vs. Structured Corporate Volunteering
In my role as Vice President of Corporate Social Impact here at WeHero, I have spoken to hundreds of companies of all sizes (a majority of them being Fortune 500 organizations) about their Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.
Offering employees VTO (Volunteer Time Off) is an ongoing theme and trend in midsize to large organizations. Their intent is to do good and be a company and recognized brand that gives back while being supportive of employees’ volunteer efforts. To see why, click here for our Corporate Impact Report.
Are VTO programs delivering on their intended goal? After hearing from many of the employees and managers that work in these companies with VTO programs in place, the answer is a resounding, no.
The common theme; many of the employees are not utilizing their VTO hours though the company is paying and giving them free time away from the office. The result?
Their VTO programs are not making the impact or goals as intended by the policy.
While companies have die-hard volunteers who consistently volunteer using VTO when available and volunteer regularly on their own personal time — a majority of employees themselves are not using it as intended.
The reasons we most commonly hear are as follows:
- I don’t feel like I am really making an impact.
- It takes me out of the office and puts me behind on my work — I don’t have time.
- It’s hard to find a non-profit that accommodates me, where I feel comfortable.
- I feel under pressure to volunteer and most of the time just take it as PTO time. (OUCH!)
For managers, I often ask, “how do you measure the impact your employees are making with your VTO program?” Their typical response, “we have no process in place to measure this other than a checkbox that they did it”. (OUCH #2!)
Let’s look at the numbers:
If a company gives an average of 3 days per year of VTO time, (many give 5 but we will be conservative for this example) this is what it looks like based on a $75,000 per year salaried employee.
$288 per day/employee x 3 = $864.00. If you consider time away from the office to volunteer for a 500 person organization, that equates to a cost of $462,000 the company is spending towards employee wages and 12,000 hours out of the office to volunteer.
Now for the loaded question: What is the impact that the above company is making against the just shy of a half a million dollars they are spending to do good? Do they know?
Most do not based on the hundreds of conversations I have had over the last 13 months.
Let’s compare that to companies that have a Structured Corporate Volunteer (SCV) program in place.
SCV programs are similar to VTO but have the following benefits:
- Employees are away from their work on average 2 hours opposed to 8 hours per day.
- They generally have a choice to participate giving them ownership to the cause they are supporting.
- They are educated on the cause and fully understand the “why” behind their volunteering efforts and their time spent in supporting it.
- Employees work together towards a common cause. The volunteer event is also a team-bonding event that helps improve company culture — creating happy employees in the workplace.
- Impact. They understand the impact made on the cause they are volunteering for and how their hours spent did good in their community and beyond.
Now let’s look at the math again, this time on an SCV program. The average SCV volunteer event for WeHero is $70.00 per employee.
Take the same 500 employee company and offer one SCV program each quarter, or 4 times per year. The cost for the company equates to $150,000 (32% of the cost of the typical company VTO program) and 4,000 hours away from work as opposed to 12,000.
The best part; the company will have impacted approximately 6000 lives. Whether that is school children, the homeless, those affected by a disaster, veterans, first responders, or those serving in our military. They could also have planted 6,000 trees.
A company with a SCV program is a company that gives back, that makes an impact, and a company that people want to work for.
When I hear someone from an organization say “My company gives us VTO, but won’t give us any budget for an SCV program. I need your help to figure out how to spend my hours so I can report them to Human Resources. I just need a few hours of my 8 hours allocated per day because the rest of the day, I plan on taking off”? All I can do is scratch my head and sigh.
A lot of companies are starting to realize the issues behind VTO and are heading in the right direction. They are seeing a strong ROI from their SCV programs and are making an impact in the process.
To anyone who is struggling with a similar dilemma in the workplace, please feel free to reach out to us. We are here to make sure you and your company have the right tools to be successful in your social goals. You have the will. We have the way.
– Lisa Bauer, Vice President of Corporate Social Impact, WeHero