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Time To Refresh Your Nonprofit PTO Policies? Here’s the Info You Need



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Everywhere you turn, employees are being encouraged to value their personal time, take the rest they need, and focus on health and wellness. As nonprofits who focus on wellbeing at the community level, this is a trend we should all be glad to see!

As employers, it can be tricky to strike the right balance, though. How do we encourage the right amount of time off while serving our staff, organization, and community?

Whether you’re a new or experienced nonprofit, it’s a good idea to regularly revisit your policies. This can ensure you’ve got the best fit for your organization!

Nonprofit PTO policies ensure staff has the time to rest and relax! In this photo, a floating pink flamingo holds a frozen blue drink in a tropical pool.

Paid Time Off vs. PTO 

Both “paid time off” and PTO refer to the package of days an employee can be away from work and still be paid. 

You might hear these terms used interchangeably, but there is a difference: PTO refers to an uncategorized bucket of earned time off. 

Rather than allot separate time for sick days, vacation, and personal time, employers who offer PTO might provide a bank of twenty-five days. It doesn’t matter why an employee is taking time off, as long as they’ve got enough of those days available.

The way employees earn PTO varies by organization, but it’s usually based on the amount of hours worked. Time is then added to their bank of PTO. They can draw from this, and use it either immediately or after a probationary period.

PTO policies are set and adjusted at the employer level to fit the organization and its culture. 

The Deal with Unlimited PTO 

Unlimited PTO might seem like one of those high-end perks offered by Silicon Valley tech giants. But its popularity has increased in recent years. 

An unlimited PTO policy means an employee can take off as much time as they need or want to every year. Individual managers can approve or deny these requests. 

If your organizational culture is strong, an unlimited PTO policy can be a valuable and attractive piece of a compensation package, sure to attract talented candidates to your organization.

Choosing a PTO Policy

Choosing a PTO policy for your nonprofit is a big decision, and it will have a significant impact on your organizational culture. Don’t rush the selection process! 

Consider the following while choosing your PTO policy.

Do you feel strongly about how your employees use their time off? Workplace culture in general is trending toward employers saying “no” on this one. 

Technological advancements have made remote work easier. And the Covid-19 pandemic has shown how productive we really can be in flexible environments. 

So it’s becoming common for employees to demand autonomy—and for employers to grant it if they want to keep top talent. 

With that said, if you feel strongly about tracking sick days vs. vacation days, you’ll want to stick with a traditional paid time off policy and skip the PTO.

When can staff access their time off? Do they accrue it hourly, quarterly, or on another schedule? Can they use it beginning January first, on the anniversary of their hire date, or only as they accrue it? Do they lose unused time at the end of the annual period, or can they roll over all or a portion of their time off? 

Be sure to identify your preferences and be mindful of any state or federal regulations. 

What do you have the internal capacity to handle? Who tracks employee time off? Can you reasonably make the switch from traditional paid time off to PTO tracking, or vice versa? Maybe you’d really like to offer unlimited PTO but struggle to understand how you can accommodate an above-average amount of time off. 

Consult colleagues in your space, and think about any feedback you’ve already received from staff, interview candidates, or peers. 

Create a Strong Culture

Thoughtful and intentional paid time off or nonprofit PTO policies will allow you to create a strong organizational culture where staff and employees are encouraged to prioritize their own self-care and avoid burnout!

Want to learn more about the pros and cons of various time off policies? Need a supportive network of nonprofit leaders to share their experiences and help you decide? Join NPO Centric’s online membership program for all this and more great resources! >>