Why employers should consider adding volunteer time off benefits

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The strong job market is pushing employers to become more savvy about socially responsible causes. This is giving rise to volunteer time off benefits as one popular strategy for employers seeking unique ways to attract and retain talent.

Indeed, 65% of companies offered paid time volunteer programs in 2018, according to data from the organization Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose, which looks to help companies transform their social strategy. That figure represents a 4% rise from 2017.

Organizations that offer employees paid days off to volunteer their time and support the nonprofit causes they care about are going to be more attractive to job seekers.

“Offering VTO as a benefit for employees is one of the best ways to engage employees with their local communities through volunteering and donations,” says Jeff Fraley, vice president of corporate engagement at United Way of the National Capital Area, an organization that provides relief of social problems affecting the community. “It encourages employees to participate in social good and helps to foster meaningful relationships within a community and the company itself.”

About 75% of millennials expect their employer to participate in social good, either with donations or through volunteering, according to a Glassdoor survey. Additionally, 51% of workers expect their employers to allocate work time and resources for their employees to volunteer for social causes.

United Way took a look at VTO benefits across the country in an effort to better understand these programs from an employer/employee perspective. The survey looked at the demographics of 49 large U.S. companies that offer VTO in order to get a sense of the types of workplaces offering this benefit. What it found was that the majority of companies that offer VTO are headquartered in New York, and in or around Silicon Valley.

Additionally, of the 49 companies studied, 12 were in the professional services industry, 12 were in the information technology industry, and nine companies were in the financial services and insurance industries. The survey also uncovered that the maximum number of volunteer hours offered per year to each employee is 20 hours, which amounts to about two and a half days of volunteer time off.

If the company with the largest revenue headquartered in each state implemented one day of VTO, the projection of total volunteer hours in the U.S. would be over 75 million hours, or nine million days, according to United Way. It would cost companies, on average, $27.4 million to implement an annual eight hour VTO policy.

“VTO is just one option if you're looking to expand your impact in the community,” Fraley says. “An employer can also sponsor a nonprofit, match employee donations, or other philanthropic initiatives. What’s important is to think about some sort of incorporation of corporate social responsibility as we're seeing that it's an increasingly important criterion of employers for millennials.”

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