When I speak of valuing volunteers, you can take that two ways.  The first would be that you can make them feel special.  You express appreciation for the time and effort they are providing.  The second is similar, but from an accounting perspective.  If you were to apply for a grant, they would ask how much you receive now.  As part of the computation, there is a standard dollar value for each hour of volunteer service.  This is based on how much the average charity would have to pay to get the tasks done if not for volunteers.

The Importance of Their Service

If you want people to come and stay, if you want people to remain involved in your organization, you will need to make them know that their service is needed and honored and valued. Why would someone give away their time and their energy in a minute in a day where we don’t have enough of either?

This section deals with how to structure your program so that volunteers know they are valued, that they are needed, and that their service ties directly to the mission and purpose of the organization.

The first task is to provide a clearly defined job description and a set of expectations for success at that job.

  • What is the job
  • what needs to be done
  • how often do I have to be there
  • do I have to be there early
  • do I need to stay late.

It’s also important to know how this particular position contributes to the overall mission of the organization.  Am I taking care of kids just for the fun of taking kids or am I taking care of children so the parents can do whatever the mission says.

  • If we are working with sports program we are not only teaching the fundamentals of that particular sport but also the value of teamwork and playing fair and getting along and following instructions and showing up on time.
  • If you are at church, you’re caring for the children and provide a foundational understanding of the church’s mission while the parents are free to concentrate on the advanced learning and worship.
  • If we’re doing Disaster Response child care means the children are not running around the danger of a damaged building and the parents are free to concentrate on getting the structure habitable again or dealing with insurance with a focused mind so they don’t forget something.
  • If we’re dealing with orphaned children we’re providing a sense of normalcy.
  • If we are dealing with foster care and adoption we are helping them reset their understanding of what is a normal life.

Each of these is a similar function but in each one I have tied it to the specific goals of the mission of the organization. And someone that they know what they’re getting into and how much they’re doing but once they’re in they need to be treated with respect as as if they were an employee because they are.

The In-kind Dollar Value of Their Service

In doing grant proposals, I find sometimes that the requesting organization is required to participate on a cost-sharing arrangement.  The grant agency is willing to pay 20% or half of a project, but not the full cost.  Normally, the charity will solicit individual or corporate donations for the other portion, or put together a package of grants which together provide the full funding.

On occasion, the grant agency will allow in-kind donations to be counted.  In-kind means goods and services provided by a donor or group of donors that provide a monetized value.  This might be providing rent-free space, or use of company copying machine, internet service or shuttle service.

You can also value the time of volunteers.  The thought is that if you were a regular organization doing the function, you would need to hire people with the grant money to fund the task.  For example, if yours includes a child-care portion, you would normally have to pay child-care workers or reimburse babysitting fees.  If instead you used child-care volunteers, you could accurately value their time in dollars saved.  This is an in-kind donation of services.

There is a standard rate for volunteer service. Generally, it is a minimum wage number, and rarely is it a professional rate unless the person is providing professional services. If it’s a dental clinic, providing free care to the community, or a medical clinic, or free legal services, the organization may be able to make a case that the volunteers time should be counted at their professional rate. However most volunteers need to be valued at the common standard rate which currently is $22.56 per hour.

And you think I’ve changed the rules.  how can $22 be minimum wage?  The answer is that is a loaded rate, the real cost of hiring someone. Consider that if they make $10 an hour, you’re paying them that $10, but you are also contributing 7% toward their social security and another 2% for unemployment insurance. You are providing medical and other benefits at a cost and generally there’s an employee’s portion of the employer portion. And they are being supervised, so a portion of the supervisor’s pay is factored into the cost of the employee.  (If a manager is hired to supervise 20 people, 1/20 of their pay goes into the cost of each person supervised).  The estimate also includes the cost of the workspace, if they have a desk they use at the work.  The total estimate is that you are providing $22.56 per hour of service and therefore when someone donates their time they are saving you tat expense.

Other costs of providing a desk in the supervisor at may still be in an organization cost but the times they provide can sometimes triple the income. I worked for an orphan support charity for a while and looked at their books. Their reported donations were about $400,000 per year. When I had them calculate the number of hours that we volunteered for mission service or for setting up fundraising banquets or providing mailings out of the office. Those calculated hours times the standard rate of that day ($16) was worth about a million dollars. This one accounting change did not get reported on their 990 donation form, but as they looked for grant donations and and supplemental funds,they could say that they were a one and a half million dollar charity because of the in kind donations.