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