How could it be that the world’s largest, most profitable companies give their employees paid time off to volunteer?
When you think of behemoth companies like Liberty Mutual or General Motors, volunteering probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But it turns out that they’re leaders when it comes to encouraging employees to volunteer—and compensating them for it.
We realize this may sound strange: it’s one thing to encourage volunteering on the weekend, but it’s another thing to pay employees to volunteer during work hours.
We’re here to help you understand why and how industry leaders implement paid volunteering as a pillar of their social impact strategies.
In this article, we’ll break down:
The case for paid volunteering
How to measure and share the results of paid volunteering
Five examples of companies that pay employees to volunteer
How paid volunteering time will skyrocket your employee engagement
Paid volunteering, also known as volunteer time off (VTO), has gone from niche to mainstream in recent years. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, over 26% of companies offer VTO today, up from 16% in 2014. What’s driving this momentous change?
There are three main trends that have made VTO popular over the last decade.
First, many companies are becoming more socially and environmentally responsible. They’re focusing on issues like social equity, supply chain transparency, and environmental sustainability. They may even choose to commit to a particular cause, like women’s rights, rainforest preservation, health education, or legal advocacy for refugees.
Second, customers are examining companies more closely before purchasing their products. Look no further than Patagonia, Seventh Generation, or Dr. Bronner’s, which have built cult-like followings around their environmental sustainability initiatives. On the other end of the spectrum, we can look at fossil fuel companies, which have received torrents of criticism for the harm they continue to inflict upon the planet.
Third, more workers expect their employers to demonstrate their commitment to doing good in the world. As Gen Z enters the workforce with great expectations, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is turning from an overused acronym into a real necessity. If Millennials prefer their employers to have strong CSR initiatives, Zoomers consider them mandatory.
Companies that offer VTO often select nonprofit partners in one of two ways.
If the company has only one office or several small offices spread across a large geographic area, it may choose to partner with local nonprofits. For example, Cadence, an electronics company, has employees in Silicon Valley, Florida, Scotland, Germany, Israel, and China, among other locations. They’ve chosen to partner with local nonprofits in each location.
Companies with huge amounts of employees often partner with global nonprofits. For example, Stryker, a medical devices company with 43,000 employees, is partnered with Operation Smile, which has provided more than 240,000 cleft surgeries for children across 30 countries.
If your company is searching for nonprofit partners, Vee is the place to find them. Nonprofits of every shape and size use our platform, from local animal shelters to global humanitarian organizations. No matter your company’s values or aspirations, Vee’s nonprofit network can make your social impact goals a reality.
VTO is paid time by definition. Employees earn the same wage while volunteering as they do while working.
In addition to this compensation, companies may offer the following benefits:
VTO requires companies to invest valuable resources—their employees’ time, energy, and skills—in social causes that don’t benefit their bottom line. They’re willing to invest these resources because it’s the right thing to do (and because it improves their brand image), but they expect measurable results in return.
Depending on a company’s size, culture, and digital maturity, it may choose to track VTO hours with anything from printed forms to enterprise software to messaging apps.
With Vee, tracking VTO is a breeze. Our dashboard allows you to view your company’s total VTO hours and break them down by department, team, social cause, and employee. You can view the split between remote and on-site volunteering, and that between individual and team activities. You can even identify your top volunteers with our leaderboard and view each employee’s volunteering history.
Companies share their social impact to generate a positive conversation about their brand. They want to demonstrate that their brand is committed to meaningful causes and improve the public opinion about their products.
Brands that make real impact and share it authentically stand out from the crowd. They boost their social media engagement, reach, and leads while making the world a better place.
In practice, this comes down to sharing photos, videos, quotes, and metrics about their volunteer activities across platforms like Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or TikTok. To learn more about sharing your impact online, check out our How-to Guide for Impact-Driven Social Media Managers.
With 45,000 employees and a spot on the Fortune 100 list, Liberty Mutual is one of the largest insurers in the USA. And when it comes to volunteering, there’s strength in numbers.
Through individual VTO, Liberty employees logged nearly 40,000 volunteer hours in 2020. Among them were 94 incredible people who logged over 100 hours each.
Liberty also supports more than 750 nonprofits, including Together We Rise, which supports children in foster care. During the pandemic, 4,500 Liberty employees decorated and donated 12,000 duffle bags—which Together We Rise calls Sweet Cases—for children entering foster homes. The bags were filled with heartwarming gifts like teddy bears and card games.
Liberty has also partnered with national nonprofits, like The Homeless Youth Handbook, which helps youth experiencing homelessness know their rights and access crucial resources. Through their pro bono program, 29 members of Liberty’s legal team gave hundreds of hours to draft over half of the Handbook.
Working across North America, South America, and Asia, GM Financial’s full-time employees get 8 VTO hours per quarter, for a total of 32 hours per year. Even part-time employees get 16 VTO hours per year, which is far above the standard.
In addition to individual volunteering opportunities, GM Financial offers American and Canadian employees annual days of service with nonprofits like March of Dimes, The Salvation Army, and Cystic Fibrosis Canada. The goal is to strengthen the communities in which GM Financial employees live by collaborating with local branches of nonprofits.
GM Financial also sponsors employees for 2 walking, running, or cycling events per year. These types of events are often organized to fundraise for good causes, like cancer research or housing for people experiencing homeless, and they provide employees with an opportunity to become more involved in their community.
VMware took its VTO policy to the next level in 2021. More than 27,000 of their employees, which the company calls Citizen Philanthropists, supported 14,000 nonprofits in 98 countries. Each employee was offered 40 VTO hours to use however they liked. This freedom of choice motivated employees to take advantage of their VTO.
Citizen Philanthropy at VMware rests on 3 pillars: empowering people to support causes they already care about, granting them the agency to choose when to volunteer, and racking up small wins to make a big collective impact. The company views volunteering both as an opportunity for social impact and for personal growth, which is why it calls volunteer work Service Learning.
Last Earth Day, VMware employees participated in activities including river cleanups in Costa Rica, recycling awareness campaigns in Dubai, biodegradable pad distribution for women in India, and fundraising for clean water organizations in Africa.
Snap Inc., commonly known as Snapchat, is at the cutting edge of VTO initiatives. Through Snap CAMP (Community, Arts, and Mentorship Projects), the company’s 6,000 employees volunteer thousands of hours per year with nonprofits including Afrika Tikkun, Codetalk, and Making the Leap.
Snap employees get 4 hours of VTO per month, for a total of 16 per quarter or 32 per year. Those that use all their hours in a given quarter are entered into a raffle and can potentially win a $1,000 donation to a charity of their choice.
CAMP is a direct result of Snap’s 3 giving pillars: youth, education, and the arts. In 2019, 61% of Snap’s employees volunteered for 10,500 hours across 28 cities through CAMP. They used their hard skills, gained through corporate careers, to make a difference in more than 15 countries.
It’s no surprise that the company that offers the most VTO in the world (to our knowledge) is based in Denmark, the gold standard for countries with strong social safety nets. Novo Nordisk offers its employees 80 hours per year of VTO, which amounts to 2 full work weeks.
The pharma giant has developed a robust approach to volunteering, based on its Triple Bottom Line model. This model balances social, environmental, and financial considerations to create value not only for the business, but also for patients and society at large.
Novo Nordisk established a Social Awareness Team years ago to orchestrate team volunteering initiatives, as well as an online portal called “Changing our Communities” for employees to explore volunteering opportunities.
Today, there’s no need to spend your employee’s precious time on scouting volunteering opportunities or developing an internal social impact platform—Vee can do it all. Our volunteering marketplace empowers you to discover tailored activities for your team, support meaningful causes, track your impact over time, and share your results with the world.
VTO will transform your company culture by boosting your employee engagement and retention. According to research published by Nonprofit Source, employees engaged in corporate giving tend to stay with their employers for 75% more time. Among younger employees, the effect is even stronger: 88% of Millennials report an increased sense of fulfillment when their job affords them opportunities to make a positive social and environmental impact (Nonprofit Source survey).
When you enable your employees to volunteer, you motivate them to take initiative, empower them to bring their best selves to work, and provide them with a meaningful break from routine. You can drive serious change in your employees’ attitudes by giving them the opportunity to do good in the world.
By implementing VTO, you also strengthen your brand’s reputation, cultivate loyalty among current and future customers, demonstrate your commitment to social responsibility, and drive real change in the communities you serve.
VTO is common practice among the world’s greatest companies. It’s the result of companies, customers, and employees waking up to the importance of giving back to their communities, and it’s here to stay.
You can either join industry leaders on this exciting journey of change, or stay bogged down by old-school corporate giving, packed with jargon but lacking in substance. The choice is yours.