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Company Volunteer Time Off Programs Benefit Everyone

As many employers recognize the benefit of volunteerism, more and more companies are beginning to offer Volunteer Time Off (VTO) programs. VTO programs offer employees the opportunity take time off from work to volunteer for meaningful causes and dedicate time to giving back to their communities. From small businesses to large conglomerates, providing time for employees to make a positive impact in their local community is valuable to the company, the employee, and to the community.

Q & A with MDA’s Senior Director of Volunteer Programs

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Wendi Dressen, Senior Director of Volunteer Programs at MDA

Wendi Dressen, the Senior Director of Volunteer Programs at MDA, provides insight into the value and benefits of offering VTO programs.

Why are VTO programs beneficial to employees?  

Paid time off to volunteer creates community engagement opportunities for employees that are meaningful, purposeful, and help those in need.  VTO is an enriching way for employees to be exposed to charitable organizations and volunteer opportunities, or to support a charity or a cause in which they believe, without having to choose between collecting a paycheck or having an impact in the community. For many employees, VTO not only provides the opportunity to give back, but can offer the chance to learn new skills.

How are VTO programs beneficial to employers/companies?

VTO programs support volunteer activities and non-profit organizations and causes that enhance and serve the communities in which employees live and work. They also promote corporate social responsibility as companies invest in their local communities.  Done well, these programs can increase employee well-being and staff retention, which can both positively impact the financial bottom line.

What are some examples of ways that VTO can be implemented in companies?

Some companies designate a day of the year, such as MLK Day of Service, and encourage employees to donate their time to a non-profit.  Other companies provide a set number of hours, much like PTO or Sick Time, for employees to volunteer their time for a charity of their choice.  Others offer volunteer time off through company-identified opportunities and non-profits.  VTO can often be utilized as an individual or group, with some companies encouraging staff to volunteer together to make an even bigger impact to non-profits.

What advice would you give to a company/employer who is considering implementing a VTO program?

Volunteer Time Off is a win-win-win benefit and I highly encourage companies to implement this program.  In addition to supporting worthy causes, a successful VTO program can create workplace connections, foster philanthropy, and contribute toward happier employees.

Q & A with The Cigna Healthcare Insurance Group

Cigna is one of the many larger companies that offer VTO programs. The health insurance company employs over 74,000 people and serves more than 170 million customers around the world. With a self-proclaimed focus on promoting “whole person health, both in body and mind,” it is no surprise that The Cigna Group values volunteerism for their staff.

The Cigna Group shares why VTO programs are so important to their group and to their community.

Can you tell us about your volunteer time off program?

At The Cigna Group, we pride ourselves on our culture of volunteerism. In 2022, our colleagues in the United States logged approximately 57,000 hours for over 700 causes, which equals over $2.8 million in volunteer-engagement value.

Group of volunteers and Members of the Community Work Together to prepare food donations

VTO programs offer the opportunity for employees to give back to their communities.

We have two distinct benefit programs. Our volunteer time off program, which is called “Use Your 8,” provides employees eight hours of paid leave annually to volunteer with a nonprofit of their choice. Another way employees can volunteer is through our Community Ambassador Fellowship program. This unique program provides up to 15 employees each year with an opportunity to engage in a project or activity that positively impacts the health and vitality of the individuals in the communities where we live and work. Eligible employees can submit a project proposal and be selected for a Fellowship for up to three months, during which time they are on paid leave, and receive up to $20,000 to support the execution of the project. To date there have been 64 fellows that have participated in the program with over 31,000 hours spent in communities and over $1,150,000 donated to community organizations. We have offered this program since 2017.

Are there specific organizations whose volunteer opportunities are promoted to your employees?

We work with many different organizations, and employees are welcome to volunteer at any nonprofit of their choosing as part of the “Use Your 8.” We also work with larger non-profit organizations for team-based activities. Most of these team events can be done in one hour and include a guest speaker to introduce the mission and activity. We offer a guide to team volunteering on our employee website to help teams put together a meaningful event.

What skills and areas of personal growth do you believe individuals can gain by volunteering their time, talents, and energy to a cause?

Employees can learn so much about themselves, about each other, and about those who live in our local communities through volunteering. Depending on the activity, employees learn invaluable business competencies in project/budget management, communication, strategy mindset, and dealing with ambiguity along with skills in understanding different cultures and empathy. Many employees, including those who participate in our Community Ambassador Fellowship program, have learned skills that they brought back to enhance their work performance and develop their career path.

Why do you think that volunteering is valuable?

Our colleagues around the world are united in their focus to make a difference in the health and vitality of the millions we serve. We do this in the course of our day-to-day roles, but we are also able to make an impact through volunteering. We encourage all employees to give back and volunteer wherever possible, creating a wide variety of channels and methods to do so. Participating in volunteer programs is an impactful way to make a difference in people’s lives while supporting employees’ overall development.

VTOs benefit everyone

Companies encouraging employees to engage with their community and support meaningful causes benefits everyone – the community, the cause, the individual, and the company itself.  Volunteers are essential to the success of community programs and nonprofit organizations. By offering their time and talents, volunteers significantly impact progress towards the mission of charitable causes. Being part of something meaningful creates a sense of purpose, increases overall happiness and motivation, provides the opportunity to learn new skills, and improves cohesion and connectedness with others – all of which serve as benefits to both the employee and the company.

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