Knowing the value of the work your volunteers do, as well as showing
gratitude for their efforts, go hand-in-hand when it comes to ensuring
your volunteers not only feel appreciated, but are appreciated.
How much your volunteers are worth
An exercise to think about when it comes to showing appreciation for
your volunteers' efforts is to cost them by the hour. ABS stats suggest
your volunteers are worth about $40-an-hour. And here's why:
- If one of your organisation's projects involves a
local professional or tradesperson completing some pro-bono work for
your community group, how much would your group have normally paid for
that work - $50 an hour? $100? $200? $500?
- What about if a group of 10 or 20 volunteers works to
revegetate around the local river - how much would each volunteer be
worth in monetary terms in that case? Their efforts would probably
total several thousand dollars.
Undertaking this sort of exercise suddenly puts into perspective the
true worth of volunteers' efforts.
Another way of looking at a volunteer's worth is the way
the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) does - by valuing them at
about what they would cost to replace.
Based on figures calculated in 2013 and reassessed in late
2015, volunteers are now worth
$39-an-hour if you calculate the value of the hour to the
volunteer - based on their salary, or $36-an-hour if you look
at what the not-for-profit would
have had to pay for the services if they hadn't got it from a
Allowing for 5% inflation in the years since, your
volunteers are now worth between $38-41 per hour.
These are the figures your organisation should plug in
when you're doing your project budgeting and applying for grants, and
assessing your contribution in volunteer time - that is "x"
at $38 or $41 per hour.
Crunching the numbers
In 2006-07 volunteers contributed 623 million hours to
not-for-profit groups, at an economic value of $14.6 billion (ABS media release, September 2009) - that's $23.50 per hour.
The latest assessment shows volunteer effort now equates to about 254,300 full time workers generating $18.1 billion dollars
worth of services (August
2015, ABS assessment). That's about $71,000-a-year, or $37 per hour.
Updating for inflation of since 2014-15, we arrive at the $38-$41 figure for 2016.
Keep in mind, It's not easy to directly compare the
value of philanthropic gifts or volunteer hours across time.
The £378,033 Felton Bequest that in 1904 turbo-charged
the National Gallery of Victoria's collection was roughly equivalent to
$56,999,576 in 2016, according to the Reserve Bank's online inflation
So, for example:
- If you have four volunteers working on a project for
one day a week over four weeks, that would result in the project having
a "volunteer value" of $5056. (Four volunteers x four days x eight
hours per day x $39.50).
Further to that, many groups will cost pro-bono support
professional volunteers at a rate closer to the market rate. For
example: If a public relations company was offering to volunteer it's
time, the value would be much higher than that calculated on the
general per hour rate.
This sort of exercise gives you an idea of what sort of
value these volunteers add to your organisation, and how it is worth
ensuring they feel valued.
Knowing your volunteers' value when applying for grants
Knowing the value of your volunteers and their work can
important when it comes to applying for grants, as many grantmakers
want to know what your level of volunteer commitment is.
- Use the updated ABS formula detailed above
to cost out how many volunteers and how many hours will it take to
complete the project and calculate that figure as your in-kind
contribution to the project. Not only does it show that there is a cost
for your organisation, but it also helps in the budgeting of how many
hours it really will take to achieve your objective. (You should
however check with any grant provider regarding this value as they may
already have factored an alternative value into their guidelines or
assessment, and calculating based on an incorrect value may lead to you
- Factor in any pro-bono advice you
may be receiving to assist with the project. Again it shows that the
grantmaker is contributing to a partnership - and that without both
sides of the equation, it will not work.
Importantly you need to be able to offer to funders a
quoting this updated figure, as well as an explanation of the logic and
data you used to determine it.
Your explanation could be as simple as a footnote next
to the figure, with an explanation as follows: "Figure based
on average hourly earnings estimate for volunteers from 2006 ABS data,
with increases reflective of rises in average weekly earnings
since then, determined with the ABS data from both
2006, 2013 and 2015."
Valuing your volunteers
An organisation that values its volunteers tends to attract more
volunteer help, meaning there are more people helping with every
activity - and getting more done. Valuing your volunteers can be done
in many ways - some simple, some requiring a little more thought.
Think about ways you can reward your volunteers,
recognise them and, importantly, respect them and the work that they
do. Some ideas include:
- Make sure that you put on a function at least once a
year involving volunteers. Provide a few drinks, nibblies, or a
barbecue. Invite volunteers to your end-of-year party and other
functions held during the year.
- Work at building team spirit - ways of doing this
could include providing volunteers with team t-shirts and helping them
to get to know their fellow volunteers. Hold social events a few times
a year - where the volunteers can relax, rather than work.
Respect volunteers and their work
- List volunteers' names where appropriate - in your
newsletter, annual report, and on your website, for example.
- Thank your volunteers publicly in speeches, or by
- Give your volunteers the training they need. Find out
their expectations for their contribution and help them learn new
- Supervise your volunteers properly and offer them
resources and support.
- Don't under-value your volunteers' contribution -
demand that they do a good job.
Consult your volunteers. Ask them to suggest other volunteers and seek
their opinion on things going on in the organisation. Brainstorm for
- Tell them about the complaints and grievance
resolution procedures in case they have a problem.
- Challenge your volunteers . Find them tasks that
produce results worth as much as what they have put in. Allocate their
time just as if they were paid staff.
- Work your volunteers' particular skills and abilities
- use them for your organisation's best benefit. It will also give them
confidence because they will know what they are doing.
- Survey your volunteers to find out whether or not
they are satisfied with the way your organisation uses them.