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Alicia_Schmidt
Community Manager
Community Manager
VP, Member Impact, Pledge 1%

After you have defined your objectives, it's time to formalize your employee volunteering program. Start by establishing structured policies that can be effectively communicated to both potential and current employees


To kickstart your efforts, consider initiating an official Volunteer Time Off (VTO) policy. Research indicates that 68% of employees consider it crucial or highly important for their employers to offer paid time off for volunteering (What U.S. Employees Think About Workplace Giving, Volunteering, and CSR).

 

Create a Volunteer Time Off (VTO) policy

 

Volunteer time off or VTO is when companies offer paid hours or days off for employees to volunteer during their work time for a community cause. Employees usually request VTO the same way they request paid time off (PTO), according to their own needs and schedules.

 

A VTO policy can work in any company and at every stage of growth. It allows flexibility for the employee to organize their own opportunities and volunteer with causes they wish to support. Employees select community partners, which empowers them to get involved with issues they care deeply about.

 

Some key questions to consider:

  • How many employee hours or days do you want to allocate to volunteering?
    What makes financial sense for your company? Most companies budget for 3-5 days per employee annually.


  • Who do you need to sign off on your company policy?
    Is board or executive approval required? Does the employee need to get approval when they want to use the time off? 


  • What will you count towards VTO?
    It’s a best practice to make an official statement that explains approved and company-supported activities.

  • Will your annual VTO hours be “use them or lose them?”
    Psychologically, this can help motivate sign-ups. Employees won’t want to lose the opportunity to volunteer and might feel a greater sense of urgency to get involved.

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If you can, give your team members a full week of volunteer time a year. At Atlassian, we do this for a couple of reasons.  First, it’s really difficult to do something genuinely impactful with just a day per year. Second, even though only about 75% use their VTO, and many do not use the full week, Atlassians love knowing they’ve got it and that we encourage them to use it.  We’ve found it’s better to aim high and give them more opportunity."

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Mallory Burke

Impact Program Manager

 

Adapting VTO to your workforce

 

Be sure to evaluate company time off policies in partnership with the HR/People team. As stated previously, even if you have unlimited time off, we recommend establishing a clear volunteer time off policy that reinforces behaviors, provides incentives, and tracks hours to motivate employees to participate and leverage this time.

 

In instances of hourly workers who don’t have paid time off, you may have to establish specific parameters and processes for volunteering as a category of approved time off. Ideally, your whole company is involved in your giving program, but you will need to develop a plan to navigate between salary and hourly employees if you have both.

 

 

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diz.pngDiz Petit
Founder and CEO of Liquidonate

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• Feed off of the groundswell support of your employees.
Many employees were already volunteering in the community and were excited to be champions in the office. We wanted to build on this momentum, which is why we launched a VTO policy. It made it easy for employees to get involved with our corporate program, and helped give them time off to do the volunteer work they were already interested in.

 

Work with your team on building volunteer time into the work day.
We used an overtime financial model to make this work from an operational standpoint.

 

Work with managers to help them understand the importance of VTO and ask them to be flexible with allowing employees to leave 1 hour early or arrive 1 hour late.

 

Create a number of different opportunities for employees to get involved.
This includes organizing a variety of activities and events all days of the week (and at different hours) to appeal to a wide variety of employees and make less stress on the workforce model.

 

 

 

Virtual volunteering

While virtual volunteering was already gaining popularity prior to 2020, COVID-19 and the rise of remote work accelerated and solidified its relevance. Virtual volunteering has become a successful way to facilitate employee connection across remote teams and ensure employee safety all while supporting nonprofit causes.

   

Strategies for overcoming some common virtual volunteering challenges

Virtual volunteer experiences are valuable, but often require extra effort to ensure they are fun, engaging, and high-impact for employees. This work is not easy. Here are three common challenges companies face:

Challenges

Solutions

Getting Employees to Sign Up and Show Up

 
  • A more independent work environment often means fewer opportunities to layer volunteering into existing programs

  • Employees are at higher risk of screen time fatigue

  • With reduced in-person touchpoints, there is lower visibility into how individuals’ work time is allocated
  • Offer choices on how to engage, including flexible solo volunteer opportunities

  • Identify rallying agents and ambassadors to drum up support among peers

  • Use new communications opportunities (meetings, check-ins, newsletters, etc.) to promote and remind

  • Crowdsource ideas from employees themselves

Creating a high-quality experience.

 
  • With less direct engagement with one another, employees may feel less connected to a cause, inspired, or motivated to learn something new

  • Nonprofit partners may also face new capacity constraints as they prioritize responding to urgent community needs

  •  Employees may be balancing other commitments with child care, at-home schooling, and/or elder care
  • Expand the definition of what counts as a volunteer engagement, offer participation incentives, and make interactions as connected, impactful, and fun as possible

  • Proactively communicate with community partners to understand the bigger picture context, anticipate challenges, and create contingency plans as needed

  • Adjust expectations about volunteer participation to ensure goals are realistic, adding value rather than creating more stress

Tracking Participation and Impact

 
  • Virtual volunteering often requires self reporting, and therefore activities might be shorter in duration and less conventional than in-person

  • Social impact leaders have less visibility into what employees are doing and how to track engagement
  • Use clear guidelines and expectations to guide new measures of engagement

  • The best sources of feedback are from employee participants and nonprofit partners - follow up after each virtual volunteer opportunity with a quick survey for feedback (can be phone calls or short meetings, or you can send a Google form or questionnaire)

 

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This past October, we kicked off our Pro Bono volunteer program to help our Observability for Good customers better use and succeed with New Relic. We put employees on teams, then paired them with a nonprofit customer for two weeks. There’s a set schedule of a kick-off and hand-off. They generally spend eight hours total per group. We have two cycles a year and it’s going really great. Employees provide meaningful product support and get one-on-one exposure with a customer and level up their volunteer experience, using their technical and strategic skills for good while connecting with other Relics. We track impact through surveys, quantitative and qualitative feedback"

 

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Lauren Keeler

Manager Social Impact

 


Pro Bono and/or skills-based volunteering

 

Pro bono and/or skills-based volunteering allows employees to apply specific knowledge and/or skills to meet a community need. This could involve offering functions like marketing, legal, programming, web design, translation, mentorship, tutoring, copywriting, app development, project management, and so on. Your sales executives or other employees might be perfectly positioned to assist nonprofits with their own customer journey through your product.

 

Type

How it Works

Benefits

Considerations

Pro Bono and/or Skills-Based Volunteering

Many nonprofits need access to specific expertise that your employees may have to offer. 


A pro bono program can involve teams working together on a shared project, or individual employees working independently. 


Projects can be conducted virtually or in person, and can compliment your product pledge.

A high-impact way to support your nonprofit partners while showcasing your employees’ expertise


Great way to ensure your product donation is used effectively

Requires more internal staffing support and coordination with nonprofit partners to ensure the right match is made and expertise is delivered effectively

 

For companies looking to outsource the matching component of skills-based volunteering, organizations like Taproot Foundation or Catchafire connect skilled volunteers with nonprofit organizations seeking support.

 

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“Time has always been essential to our social impact framing, product offering, and desire to engage. Our Boxers really shine in this area — our employees are incredible, values-driven people who are passionate about giving back, and we create a culture rooted in community. We've seen a groundswell of interest from employees who started committees, discovered new ways to incorporate volunteering, and sought out opportunities to get involved.

 

Giving our time to nonprofit causes continues as a strategic priority across management. What began as an early grassroots effort is now a fully structured outreach program that supports and mobilizes our Boxers. Every employee gets 24 hours (three eight-hour days) of paid volunteer time off, and we're working to focus on the outcomes and impact of service, not just outputs like the number of hours volunteered. Community work is sometimes seen as an extracurricular activity, but here at Box, it lands among our four leadership mindsets. As such, it is integrated into our regular performance review processes and included in OKRs. Every Boxer is encouraged and empowered to bring "community mindset" to life from their role.

 

One area we’re focused on is child welfare. Given our Box product strengths in secure collaboration, our employees' interests, and some very compelling customer use-cases and stories, we saw opportunities in support of foster care organizations where we could really make a difference. We've aligned volunteering opportunities supporting child welfare organizations across our Community Impact themes of digital transformation, encouraging diverse interest in tech careers, and being a good neighbor. The activities range from pro-bono consulting projects to resume workshops, and the outcomes include efficiency gains that allow social workers to spend more time with the kids they serve and less on paperwork, and increases in confidence for foster youth preparing for job interviews. What's more, we didn't need to impose volunteer work on our employees; the cause simply resonated with them and developed over time.

 

conrad.jpegCorrie Conrad

Vice President Communities and Impact, Box

Executive Director of Box.org



 

 

Company-wide volunteer days and events

 

A company-wide volunteer day or week is a great way to connect employees across locations while also generating visibility and momentum for your program. These can be ongoing opportunities at a set rhythm and/or defined days or weeks of the year. Remember to envision your program based on the size and stage of your company. For instance, a larger company like Salesforce rallies their employees around Global Volunteer Month with employee activations and volunteer engagement activities all month. DocuSign hosts a Green Impact Week in March near the UN's International Day of Forests. And Box has an annual Impact Day. Any company, no matter its size, can host volunteer days and leverage

 

If you’re small and just getting started, it’s perfectly okay to have one or two volunteer events a year to build interest and early success. No matter your capacity in your early days and months, one of the best ways to jumpstart your impact and raise awareness for your program is to leverage existing Pledge 1% campaigns, activations, and opportunities to activate your team, including: Women Who Lead (March); Climate Action Month and Earth Day (April); and GivingTuesday (November or December) among others. 

 

Many companies that want to encourage volunteering tend to volunteer around the holidays or whenever an opportunity comes up.  This is a great first step! But to take it to the next level, we recommend being more proactive in your volunteering strategy by establishing a cadence. Ideally, you want to incorporate volunteering into the “rhythm” of your business. That way, volunteering isn’t something you have to think about every time, but rather something your company just does on a regular basis.

 

Here are some popular cadences that our members have used:

 

Cadence

Definition

Good Use Case

Quarterly

One day or half-day per quarter

Great for companies that report on a quarterly basis. 

Twice a Year

One day in the summer, one in the winter (can substitute any season)

Works well for companies who already plan culture events around the summer or winter holidays.

First Fridays

A few hours on the first Friday of the month

Popular with consultancies/agencies who have nonprofit clients that they meet regularly with

All at once

Multiple back-to-back days or half-days

Typical for larger companies who want team-building experiences (ex. “Do Good Week”) or that want to combine giving efforts with a corporate retreat.

 

The quarterly or twice-a-year rhythm can be a great place to start if your company already works on that type of schedule. First Fridays are popular for consultants and agencies who want to take on a nonprofit client(s), as they can meet regularly. Back-to-back days are usually applied by larger companies who want a team-building experiences (ex. “Do Good Week”), or companies who combine giving with a corporate retreat.

 

black_quote.pngEvery March, during Global Volunteer Month, we celebrate the impact of giving back.  Since the beginning, Salesforce employees have been giving back to communities around the world.” black_quote.pngAs each region begins Global Impact Day in their respective time zone, there’s incredible excitement and momentum that builds. It’s a powerful day and week as employees post photos and share what they’re working on. We see significant participation and high engagement at all levels of the company. Boxers look forward to this every year and carve out time in their schedules to join."
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Jamie Olsen

Senior Director of Employee Volunteerism

 

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laurencoberly.jpegLauren Coberly

Director & Head of Social Impact

 

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