To help their communities and to establish a reputation for social responsibility, many businesses have begun offering volunteer time off to their employees. While many businesses allow employees to volunteer “ad lib,” many also have relationships with local nonprofits to encourage employees to volunteer in the community. In this way, nonprofits and businesses are able to work together to create volunteer opportunities that make employees feel more fulfilled and that help both organizations meet their goals.
But for many employee volunteers, there is a desire to “go deeper” and to make a bigger difference – which can be difficult when you only have a few hours to give. To meet this demand, and to make a bigger impact, more and more businesses are considering the idea of “immersive” VTO, or increased volunteering hours.
What is immersive VTO?
While many people choose to volunteer for a few hours at a local food bank, or possibly once a month with their favorite charity, there are just as many volunteers who’d love to be of service for longer periods of time. This is where immersive VTO comes into play.
Offering immersive – or “long-term” – VTO, or increasing an employee’s volunteer hours to allow for more involvement, is a great way to support causes and make a difference. For some businesses, this may look like “missions trips,” such as extended volunteer trips in other countries. For others, this could ongoing volunteer projects, such as renovating storm-damaged houses in a poor neighborhood.
Nonprofits like the Red Cross also work with businesses to establish “working” relationships beforehand so that, in the event of a major disaster or volunteer need, businesses are ready and their corporate volunteers have the training they need to be of assistance. It also gives employees time to build a relationship with an organization so they can create immersive opportunities of their own. This is another great reason why building relationships between businesses and nonprofits is so important.
Longer term volunteering could also take the form of business sponsorships for programs in the community or in other countries that require extended stays (camps, construction, etc.). Companies like Patagonia allow employees to take up to two months a year to support programs all over the world. Volunteering abroad is a great way to encourage employees to give back — and to give them a great reason to continue working for your company.
But whatever “immersive” VTO looks like for a company, the idea is that volunteerism isn’t limited to the few hours an employee has shored up. However, many managers and human resources departments will like wonder: Doesn’t this just mean more paid time off for employees without much benefit to the business or nonprofits?
The case for more volunteer time off
Most businesses with a volunteer time off program only offer a handful of volunteering hours to their employees – usually a day’s worth of work each year (about 8 hours). This still encourages volunteering, but it can impede an employee’s desires to volunteer more. Thankfully, however, more businesses are wizening up to the workforce’s (and consumer population’s) desire for more corporate social responsibility. As a result, they’re getting more involved in their communities, in global issues, and many are increasing their employees’ volunteer hours.
Some of the world’s biggest companies offer great VTO programs, and some — like Salesforce — are even offering unlimited paid volunteer hours. The idea behind these campaigns is to attract great talent, but also to support employees’ desires to immerse themselves in a volunteer experience. After all, the more time a person can commit to volunteering, the bigger impact they can make.
Immersive VTO can also lead to:
- Better employee retention
- More productive employees
- More drive and creativity
- Strengthened skills
- Improved community, national and global reputation
While these are all benefits of VTO programs, the results could be even greater when businesses team up with nonprofits to create immersive experiences. That’s why more companies are evaluating their current VTO offerings and, in some cases, are moving towards extending volunteer hours and offering more “long-term” options.
What extended VTO means for nonprofits
Nonprofits, as well, are finding that these extended VTO programs are beneficial to their programs, as well as the causes they support. If a nonprofit is able to leverage a business connection properly, especially one that offers extended volunteer time off for its employees, it could make a huge difference for their programs. It can also make it easier to find and train volunteers, build programs to successful levels, and actually make a difference in communities and countries that need it most.
If your nonprofit offers programs that involve immersive volunteer experiences, such as time abroad or even summer camps in the area, it’s a great idea to reach out to your existing business partners to see if they’d be interested. If you don’t have business partners, it can help to make a list of companies that offer longer VTO hours in your area, or even on a national scale, so you can plan outreach. Even if you find a company that doesn’t offer VTO, but their corporate social responsibility policies really speak to your organization, make the connection. If companies start to see that there is an opportunity to make a measurable impact on a cause, while also encouraging and supporting their employees, many will begin to make the shift.
Business partnerships and ongoing outreach for companies that offer immersive or long-term VTO is also a huge benefit to your organization, should a massive need arise. Take the time to make those partnerships, train corporate volunteers, and then send out the call when you need help. As companies begin to offer more VTO hours, you’ll have a built-in volunteer force that you can call on when natural disaster, tragedy or a major need arise.
More volunteer time off means better business
It may be hard to believe that giving employees more volunteer time off could actually make them more productive, but the studies are showing just that. Experts are also evaluating how much “having a long-term impact” can improve productivity and engagement in the workplace. In 2017, Deloitte surveyed employees all over the US and found that 77% of respondents believe “volunteering is essential to employee well-being,” and 74% of respondents believe that volunteerism “provides a sense of purpose.”
As workforce dynamics change and focus on meaning and value in work becomes more important than pay, offering immersive VTO could be what your organization needs to retain your best employees — and continue to attract the best in the future. It can also mean a deeper impact and a stronger reputation that helps both nonprofits and businesses do the work they set out to do in the first place.
If your nonprofit works with businesses that offer VTO, or you work for a business that offers extensive VTO benefits, we’d love to hear from you!
Are you ready to make your mark volunteering? Let NobleHour help you find meaningful opportunities, track your service hours, and measure your impact!
Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. Our plug ‘n play software connects companies, schools and individuals with nonprofits. Volunteer, measure the good you’re doing, and share it with others. It’s that simple.
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By NobleHour Special Contributor:
Latasha Doyle is a writer and long term care volunteer living outside of Denver, Colorado. When she’s not writing or volunteering, she enjoys crocheting, Netflix marathons, and planning her next trip.