Putting a Dollar Value on Volunteer Time

August 15, 2011

How are you showing the value of volunteer time in your organization?  Here are a few of the tried and true formulas, plus some new thoughts on the subject:

The Estimated Dollar Value of Volunteer Time

The formula used by many in the field is based on information from IndependentSector.org.  The estimated dollar value of volunteer time in 2010 was $21.36 per hour as established by Independent Sector.  The value is based on the average hourly earnings of all production and nonsupervisory workers on private nonfarm payrolls (as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics).  Independent Sector takes this figure and increases it by 12% to estimate for fringe benefits.  This isn’t a bad way to show what you’d have to pay your volunteers were they paid staff.  But be careful how you share this information– are any of your paid staff paid an hourly $21.36?  Careful messaging and planning is needed when using this figure.  For more information visit Independent Sector’s website at: http://www.independentsector.org/volunteer_time

The Federal (or your state) Minimum Wage

Another way to calculate the value of volunteer time is to use the Federal (or your state’s) minimum wage.  The current Federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour (Minnesota uses this figured.). Although 1/3 of the figure used by Independent Sector, this figure may be more palatable to your staff and a figure that many people can relate to.  Some states have higher (and lower) minimum wages, so do some homework before using this figure.  For more information on the Federal Minimum wage and labor laws in your state, visit: http://www.minimum-wage.us/

Full-time Employee (FTE) Equivalency

If you were to work 40 hours per week, 52 weeks a year, you would have worked 2080 hours.  If you take the number of hours volunteers contributed throughout the year and divide that by 2080, you’ll have the number of employees it would have taken to complete those hours.  An example:  If volunteers contributed 12,000 hours to your organization in 2010, dividing that by 2080 would show it would have taken 5.77 full-time employees to complete that same work.  Sometimes the number of paid bodies it would have taken to complete a project speaks louder than their cost!

Tell Your Stories!

If you were lucky enough to hear Linda Graff (http://www.lindagraff.ca/) at the 2011 MN State Conference on Volunteerism, your world may have been rocked when she asked “What would happen if volunteers didn’t work for your organization (or the world for that matter) for one day?  How about a week?  What would happen after a month?”  Scary, isn’t it?  If you can put a value on that, and help others to understand that value, you’ve made a very strong case for your program.  Start collecting and sharing stories about how volunteers made a difference in your work.  Get quotes from stake-holders and the volunteers themselves.  Share your worth!

Terry Straub

Program Coordinator, University of MN Extension Master Gardeners in Hennepin County at University of Minnesota Extension


Placing Highly Skilled Volunteers in Highly Rewarding and Beneficial Roles

August 4, 2011

‘Betty’ indicated her interest in volunteering at the Science Museum just like everyone else, through an online application. But with Betty’s, in the notes section there was a cover letter and a day after we received her application we received her resume by email. No, she had not mistaken us for the HR department but was one of those young, highly skilled volunteer prospects we had heard about. She has an undergrad degree, a masters degree, years of experience in a science field, communication skills and a desire to stay busy and serve her community as she transitioned from raising kids back into the workforce. What on earth were we to do? Placing her as we usually do would not satisfy her but we have not had much experience with placing individuals who have such high expectations and abilities to give (not to mention, big repercussions if they don’t work out) before. We have many highly skilled volunteers with PHDs even, but many of them are from an older generation where interacting with the public, the social part that includes teaching, is why they like their role here. This new breed of volunteer seems to want to make an impact on the big picture, make a difference in our content, and interact with the movers and shakers, not just in our visitors’ experiences.

Our museum has a pretty innovative take on volunteer management but we have focused our time on many other projects and had not officially tackled the question of what to do with the skilled volunteer sector yet. We even have a grant volunteers are able to apply for that helps them influence our programming but, it happens on an annual schedule and is limited to working with one staff person and a budget of $1,000. Here was our chance to figure out how to integrate this type of volunteer into a project in progress instead of adding it outside of pre-planned programming.

Over the course of the last 6 months, from the day the volunteer started in one of our regular roles with the promise of more, two things had to be figured out: is this person reliable and everything her resume says she is and where can we put her where she will be well supported and satisfied? Luckily this particular volunteer was patient and we had a project in the works that was her specialty – a lead! A couple emails and phone calls later, I found a person who was on the project and wanted to support a volunteer who had this person’s background, what luck! A meeting was set to discuss support, project details and logistics that I sat in on to make sure the match was solidified. What luck, it went well!

This match, having given us insight into this very fruitful match has promoted us to act even more proactively to be able to implement more highly skilled matches but in as an efficient way as possible. How you ask? This month we will be hosting an hour-long workshop with staff to talk to them about how they can utilize volunteers behind the scenes and how we can support those efforts. This is our first step in figuring out who our internal partners will be so we can start to look for volunteers with specific skill and knowledge sets. Then it is a matter of promoting volunteers internally who match the requirements who have proven their reliability or recruiting externally using a HR/Volunteer Department hybrid interview and intake process. Sounds like a lot of work, but man am I excited!

Molly Kennedy Lageson

Volunteer Resources Specialist

Science Museum of Minnesota