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Understanding impact: The current value of volunteer time

August 17, 2023
A volunteer stands in a forest with a clipboard while four other volunteers work to plant trees, demonstrating the value of volunteer time.

Independent Sector and the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute estimate the current national value of a volunteer’s time to be $31.80 per hour. This increase of over 6% from the previous year is a continuation of the steady two-decade-long rise in the value of a volunteer’s hour.

Let’s discuss how—and why—nonprofit organizations should use this information to power and manage their volunteer programs.

Why calculate the value of volunteer time?

It’s no secret that volunteers are essential to your nonprofit’s purpose, but why estimate the value of each hour they serve? Independent Sector, which has been measuring this number for over 20 years, explains:

“We know putting numbers to volunteer hours will never do them justice, but it is just one way for us to show the contributions individuals and organizations have made in our communities. The estimate helps acknowledge the millions of individuals who dedicate their time, talents, and energy to making a difference. Charitable organizations frequently use this estimate to quantify the enormous value volunteers provide.”

The methodology behind Independent Sector’s estimate is “based on the annual average hourly earnings (non-seasonally adjusted) for all production and non-supervisory workers on private non-farm payrolls. These annual earnings estimates come from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) database, which is available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.)”

In 2001, Independent Sector first found that the value of a volunteer hour was $16.27. In the following years, the increases were small but steady, ranging from 1.6% to 4%. However, in the last five years or so, the value of volunteer labor has grown more substantially.

Every volunteer coordinator knows how important each supporter is to fulfilling their nonprofit’s purpose. With data like this to back it up, you can make sure your organization is prioritizing its volunteers to make the most of their generous support.

Where is volunteer time most valuable?

Topping the list at $50 an hour, a volunteer’s time is currently most valuable in Washington, D.C. The states with the next highest volunteer value-per-hour estimates are five coastal states:

  • Massachusetts, at $39.19
  • Washington, at $37.63
  • California, at $37.32
  • New York, at $35.71
  • Connecticut, at $34.56

Understanding the value of a single volunteer hour is only the first step—if you’re managing a nonprofit volunteer program, one of your most important goals is making sure your volunteers keep contributing their time week after week. This means investing in a thoughtful volunteer management plan and the right technology to support that plan.

How to make the most of the value of volunteer time

As the value of a volunteer’s hour continues to increase, it’s more important than ever to develop a strategy for securing their lasting support. To retain your nonprofit’s volunteers, be sure to thank them often. There are a variety of ways you can accomplish this, so use your supporters’ preferences to decide on the best appreciation methods.

For instance, consider crafting thank-you templates for:

  • Emails
  • Text messages
  • Videos
  • Social media posts

Regardless of which method you choose, be sure to personalize each message with the volunteer’s preferred name and details of their contributions. This ensures that they feel individually recognized and valued by your nonprofit.

Furthermore, you don’t lose a volunteer’s support after their shift ends—that’s just the beginning. In fact, volunteers are twice as likely to donate to an organization as a non-volunteer. If they can’t take on a shift, they may be happy to make a gift instead. Or, if they’re invested in your purpose and want to take on an active fundraising role, they might be interested in creating their own distributed fundraising event on your behalf.

Your nonprofit can also leverage its technology toolkit to boost volunteer retention through automated communications. With Bonterra’s Mobilize solution, you can free up your staff’s time by setting up automatic registration confirmations, reminders, follow-up surveys, and more.

Recognizing the impact of a volunteer’s time

Metrics like the value of a volunteer hour allow nonprofits to understand and prioritize the impact that their supporters have on their purpose. Whether your focus is a fundraising initiative, a digital campaign, or a volunteer program, it’s important to know what to measure and how to capture that information to understand how to improve your results.

By putting more effort into appreciating your volunteers for all they do, you’ll ensure that they remain invested in your nonprofit’s work for years to come.

Request a Mobilize solution demo to learn how you can tap into our network of over five million supporters and increase your volunteer base.

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  • Volunteerism
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing
  • Employee volunteering