While the definition of corporate volunteering is constantly evolving, it can generally be defined as the encouragement and facilitation of volunteering in the community through the organization by which an individual is employed. If a company simply encourages its employees to volunteer on the weekend without offering any support (like matching the hours with corporate dollars or providing transportation to the volunteer activity), this should not be counted as corporate volunteering. Time employees spend on their own – without a material contribution to the process from the company – should not be reported as time the company donated to the community.
There are divergent views, of course. The 2011 Alliance Policy Agenda for Volunteering in Europe specifically defines employee volunteering as taking place during work hours and not unpaid time. There’s also the angle of how companies are motivating or incentivizing employees to take part in volunteering. If you’re upping volunteer participation hours in the wrong way, you could end up de-motivating employees at work (if you want to read more about this phenomenon, check out this great blog from Chris Jarvis.)
Should employees be paid to volunteer?
When companies offer paid time off for volunteering, are they literally paying their employees to volunteer? Sure, in the same way they pay their employees to take a vacation. This is not corporate altruism. Companies offer paid time to volunteer and vacation because they believe those activities benefit the organization. Paid time off to volunteer demonstrates a forward-thinking belief in the bottom line value and social return on investment of volunteering.
Some companies don’t have the option to offer paid time off due to budget constraints or bureaucratic hoops. Other companies don’t believe in it (yet). For these companies, just remember: as long as your company is supporting the volunteering taking place through volunteer rewards or logistical resources, for example, you are free to claim the time employees give as corporate volunteer hours.
The 2017 CECP Giving in Numbers report includes the following graph showing percentages of companies in various fields that offer paid time off.
Does fundraising and event sponsorship count as volunteer time?
Yes and no.
Most companies count fundraising as volunteer time. The key, of course, is being able to connect it to a 501c3. This keeps most inappropriate fundraisers out of the system and usually serves to filter out unwanted activities. The actual time spent fundraising is impossible to verify, so most companies choose the honor system. If employees are lying about their volunteer hours, you have an entirely separate problem to deal with. Regarding event sponsorship, most companies count the time at the actual event and omit anything leading up to it. Training for a charity run, for example, would not be counted. The hours at the run itself would be counted.
CECP’s Giving in Numbers is again a great reference for information on best practices in giving and volunteering.