HR Tip of the Week

Posted on  |  Employee benefits, Policies

Why and How Employers Are Promoting Volunteer Service

Team of volunteers packing groceries in donation boxes at food bank

April is National Volunteer Month where employers can recognize the contributions of volunteers, and encourage more employees to get involved in their communities through volunteer work. Below, we address why an employer would want to promote volunteer service and how to do so.

Why do employers promote volunteer service?

Many employers consider being socially responsible as not only the right thing to do, but also as a way to help attract applicants, foster greater engagement and satisfaction among employees, promote teamwork, and generate good will in the community. 

How can an employer encourage volunteer service?

As an employer, there are several approaches you can take. Here are some options to consider.

Lead by example.

To foster an environment in which employees volunteer and give regularly, company leadership should promote their company’s commitment to the community. To do so, consider developing programs and policies that target community interests, and devote the appropriate resources to your programming efforts.

In addition, executives can encourage charitable efforts by participating themselves, championing volunteer and giving programs, and recognizing employees’ efforts. The encouragement of leadership is key, but employers should remember that participation in these programs should be strictly voluntary.

Help employees find nonprofit organizations that match their interests.

Keep in mind that employees are typically more likely to commit to organizations that match their interests. Employers can help employees find nonprofit organizations by pointing them to resources that post volunteer opportunities. Other options include hosting a volunteer fair or obtaining brochures from a variety of local nonprofits.

Provide paid time off for volunteer work.

A growing number of employers are providing employees with paid leave so they can volunteer during work hours. Some companies offer unpaid leave for volunteer work. Typically, volunteer leave programs offer at least eight hours of leave per year.

A volunteer leave program should be formalized through a written policy. Points that should be covered include which employees are eligible (e.g., the allotment of leave for full-time and part-time employees), the increments in which volunteer leave may be taken, and the approval process for volunteer leave, and any documentation and verification requirements. Give examples of the types of organizations and volunteer service that are and aren’t covered by the policy. For instance, many employers limit use of volunteer paid leave to bona fide 501(c)3 organizations. The policy may also state that the employer reserves the right to reject participation in any organization that they feel would be in conflict with its values and policies. However, this provision must be enforced consistently and in compliance with nondiscrimination laws.  

Promote team-based or companywide volunteering events.

When employees volunteer together, it can improve teamwork and other work outcomes. Employers are free to encourage such activities, but certain precautions should be taken to avoid implicating the pay requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act for non-exempt employees. For instance, the volunteer work must be truly voluntary and occur outside of normal work hours. Employers mustn’t take any type of adverse action against employees who don’t volunteer.

Recognize employees’ volunteer efforts.  

Employers can encourage volunteer service by recognizing employees who give their time to the community. Recognition can come in many forms, such as offering a volunteer of the month award, giving volunteers shirts they can wear while volunteering, or publicizing employees’ volunteer efforts both in the workplace (e.g., employee newsletter) and in the community (e.g., press release to the media).


There can be significant business benefits for a company that adopts an effective volunteer program. Employers should consider the company’s goals, employees’ interests, and the community’s needs in developing their program. 

While these programs come in all shapes and sizes, a common element among effective programs is that they have the support of employees, supervisors and senior leadership.





How to Develop a Volunteer Paid Leave Policy

Many employers consider being socially responsible as not only the right thing to do, but also as a way to help attract applicants and foster greater engagement and satisfaction among employees. To help promote social responsibility, a growing number of employers are adopting policies offering paid time off for employees so they can volunteer. Here are some guidelines for crafting such a policy.

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