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Is Assigning a Financial Value to Volunteering a Good Idea?

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Andy Fryar, Australia (Convening Editor)

One of the most enduring and controversial questions within the field of volunteerism is the one that relates to the ‘value’ of volunteers and the hours they contribute.

Volunteer Program Managers, keen to demonstrate the worth of their volunteer team as well as their own value to an organisation, have been quick to apply the following simple formula.

Simple Formula

Number of volunteer hours contributed
X
Accepted $$$ rate per volunteer hour
=
Volunteer value

Agencies funding volunteer programs have at the same time demanded tangible and measurable results of success - and have seemingly been only too willing to accept this formula as being a sound one.

So successful has this approach been that, in the United States, one of the most anticipated ‘events’ in volunteerism is the annual announcement by the Independent Sector of the newly- calculated ‘accepted’ hourly dollar rate for volunteer time.

But does the use of this calculation tell the whole story?

Does it truly indicate the ‘value’ of volunteer time?

e-Volunteerism invited some of the world’s leading thinkers on this topic to contribute their thoughts to this discussion

The Participants

Laurie Mook joined the Roundtable discussion from the University of Toronto, and is a co-author of the newly-released book, What Counts: Social Accounting for Non Profits and Cooperatives

Arden Brummel also joined the Roundtable from Canada. Amongst many roles he has filled, Arden is a past Chair of Volunteer Calgary. He has a strong interest and viewpoint on the topic of assigning a financial value to volunteering.

Nadine Jalandoni is the Director of Research Services & Nonprofit Almanac Project at Independent Sector in the USA. This position includes responsibility for producing the annual dollar value of volunteer time already mentioned above.

Although, as Convening Editor, I normally act only as facilitator of the Keyboard Roundtable discussion, in this case I also contributed from my perspective as Chair of Volunteering Australia and manager of the OzVPM listserv.

Here’s what everyone had to say.

Laurie Mook (Canada)

Thanks for the welcome. It is a pleasure to be part of this Roundtable.

As Andy mentioned, I am the co-author (along with. Jack Quarter and B.J.Richmond) of the book What Counts: Social Accounting for Non-Profits and Cooperatives, which was just released by Prentice Hall.

My academic interest in social accounting began when I became exposed to the doctoral work of B.J. Richmond, who had developed a ‘Community Social Return on Investment Model’ for nonprofits. B.J. had applied it to a community-based training agency for people on social assistance who had various forms of disability and were on social assistance.

Then B.J. and I worked together on a research project looking at the social and economic impact of student-run housing cooperatives. It was in this project that I developed a model for showing the economic and social value added to an organization, which we call the Expanded Value Added Statement (EVAS).

After that project, along with Jack Quarter, who has written extensively on the social economy, we were fortunate to receive an International Year of Volunteers (IYV) grant from the Canadian Centre of Philanthropy and Human Resources Development Canada. The grant allowed us to apply this model to measuring the impact of volunteers. 1

As part of the IYV grant, we applied the EVAS to four non-profits in the Toronto area:

  • Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre
  • Canadian Crossroads International
  • The Red Cross, Toronto Region
  • The Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Ontario region

In addition, we did subsequent research with Junior Achievement of Rochester, New York. This work appears in chapter 7 of our book, What Counts.

As part of that work, we calculated a financial value for the hours that volunteers contributed to those organizations, as well as a value for the personal growth and development volunteers experienced as a result of their volunteering. The model also took into consideration volunteers' non-reimbursed out-of-pocket expenses as part of their contribution.

Of course, volunteers add value in many ways that are not quantifiable, and it's probably not a good idea to quantify everything. However, the EVAS brought attention to an area that has previously been invisible.

Behind all of this work was the realization that conventional accounting systems miss an important feature of the activities of non-profits – that they have a social mission and, as such, their social impact is a vital part of their performance story. Even more critical for non-profits that rely in varying degrees on volunteers, is that volunteer contributions are, for the most part, not recorded. Yet, in Canada and the US, volunteers contributed hours that were equivalent to almost ten million full-time jobs!

It seemed absurd that the value added by volunteers is not recorded at all just because their service does not involve a monetary transaction. In this sense there is a parallel between the 'invisible' unpaid work of volunteers and the 'invisible' unpaid work done in the household, which was not considered productive work in economic terms until just recently.

Interestingly, while a value for household work in Canada was first estimated in the early 1970s, voluntary work here is only just now being recognized, and will appear in a satellite account to the national accounts in 2003.

Back to the question raised in this Roundtable: "Is Assigning a Financial Value to Volunteering a Good Idea?" This is also an issue that we raise as a discussion question at the end of chapter 7 of our book:

  • What are the potential risks and benefits of putting a value on volunteer contributions?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the risks?

It is an important issue, and one I look forward to exploring further with you throughout this Roundtable discussion.

Arden Brummel (Canada)

I am keenly interested in supporting the voluntary sector and volunteering particularly. I am concerned that putting an economic value (i.e., $$) on volunteerism is not simply convenient but is harmful.

In my opinion it undermines the very values we are trying to support. Volunteering is not about "free labour." It is about giving and helping. Like the MasterCard commercial says, “some things in life are priceless.”

Laurie Mook (Canada)

I was intrigued by your use of the word “harmful.” Could you elaborate on that?

Arden Brummel (Canada)

I see assigning monetary amounts to volunteer activities as a slippery slope.

Firstly, volunteering is not about money. If it is about money, then it is not volunteering. So dollars are not measuring the key element or outcomes of volunteering and, at best, it is measuring a secondary output.

Second, by measuring volunteering in dollar terms, it focuses attention on the "economic" value and not on the "social" value. As you say, non-profits have a "social mission" and "their social impact is a vital part of their performance." To calculate a "financial value for the hours" trivializes the contribution and directs attention towards an output which is not the key reason for a non-profit's existence. We then begin to develop elaborate measures of "economic value" and apply for grants on the basis of monetary calculations. At what point do we lose sight of the mission of the organization? Pretty soon we are talking about "full time job equivalents," hurdle rates for investments and discounted cash flow analysis.

I am not opposed to concepts such as "return on investment" or, more generally, cost-benefit analysis when an organization is considering a major project. There needs to be some rigour in making decisions and the contribution of volunteers should not be treated as "free." But I believe it is dangerous to accept that the most important things in life are economic, and it is misdirected to accept economic approaches as the only way to get recognition.

If we were calculating the cost of a war, should we add a calculation on the number killed multiplied by some fixed amount? Should we vary that amount by whether the person killed was a soldier or a civilian? Do we differentiate by age?

I know this is particularly distasteful, but I hope the point is clear: We are measuring the wrong things for the wrong reasons. To fall into a discussion like this accepts the basic reasoning that war is just about money. And to debate how to measure economic value immediately gets us into the same way of thinking. So, measuring the "economic value" of volunteering, I believe, will be harmful to volunteering in the long run.

Since I don't fully understand how you calculate EVAS, perhaps you could share that. I would like to understand how economic calculations could be part of a larger valuation. And I would be interested in understanding how economic valuations could help volunteering and the voluntary sector.

Laurie Mook (Canada)

I think that what we have to look at are the benefits and risks of assigning a monetary value to volunteer activities.

One key issue for me is the “invisibility” of the value added by volunteers in terms of decision-making and policy formation. Volunteers are important, sometimes indispensable, in achieving the mission of the organization. In this sense, I would consider volunteer work not only as an output (as you suggest in your message), but also as an input. Related to this issue is the invisibility of volunteers in conventional accounting statements.

On assigning a monetary value to volunteer activities, I agree with you that translating everything to monetary values is probably not the best way to gauge the health of our societies. In fact, I strongly believe that a variety of indicators should be used.

However, money as a representation of value gets the attention of decision-makers and the public at large, and provides a more clear idea of the extent of volunteer contributions.

Regarding your question on how economic valuations could help volunteering and the voluntary sector, here is a sample of what volunteers and other members of non-profit organizations are saying on this:

  • Knowing the value of my work makes me feel more respected and valued. I don't expect to be paid, but it's nice to know that someone recognizes its value. (Volunteer)

  • Funders pay attention to this kind of information. If we can show how much more value we add to the community through our volunteers, it's worth it. (Executive Director)

  • It can show how much community support we have, which is important in getting funding. (Executive Director)

  • It's (EVAS) been useful for us as a volunteer recruitment tool - we can show how much value volunteers add to the community. (Volunteer Coordinator)

  • Putting a value on volunteer contributions should be organization-focused, not individual-focused. (Volunteer Working Group)

  • This should be one of several indicators. Not everything should be boiled down to money. (Volunteer Working Group)

  • It could create problems if the hourly rate for volunteers is higher than the hourly rate paid to employees for similar activities.(Volunteer Coordinator)

  • Volunteering is about caring and giving - how can you measure that? (Volunteer)

  • I volunteer because I want to. It is not about money. (Volunteer)

So, one of the practical questions that arises from this is the following: As social organizations have to prepare accounting statements, should they simply continue to ignore the contribution of their volunteers? In order to respond to this question, again, we need to weigh the risks and benefits.

One of the risks is that volunteer work is difficult to measure and perhaps valuation could be "harmful" because it distracts the attention from the "essence" of volunteering.

This raises the question of why people volunteer. According to the most recent Canadian National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating (2000), many volunteers volunteer for a combination of "utilitarian" and "humanitarian" reasons. For example, many volunteers look to their volunteer activities to help them in the job market (especially young people 15 to 24 - 55% of volunteers in this category indicated this as a reason for volunteering). Over 80% of volunteers reported one of the reasons they volunteer is to use their skills and experience; almost 60% reported one reason of volunteering as exploring their own strengths. Almost all (95%) agreed that one of the reasons they volunteer is because they believe in the cause supported by the organization they volunteer for.

Back to the question on the pros and cons of assigning a monetary value to volunteer work, I think it is important to keep listening to a broad range of voices within the non-profit sector. As we can see in the quotes above, there are different opinions on this and we need to continue the dialogue to explore the concerns and also the real impact of putting a monetary value on volunteer contributions as people start using it in their organizations.

Some people are worried about using economic measures while others think that it would be a good idea that would benefit the sector. Perhaps one of the best ways to explore this issue is to move beyond speculative hypotheses and find out what has been the real impact of putting an economic value on voluntary work.

In this regard, I am aware that in the U.S. the Independent Sector has been calculating an hourly rate for volunteer contributions for over two decades. Likewise several researchers (e.g., Lester Salamon and his team, and the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy) have put a value on the contributions of non-profits to the economy. Does anyone know about the impact of these initiatives on volunteering and the sector in general?

Arden Brummel (Canada)

You raise great points for debate.

Visibility and value added - I strongly agree that we need to raise the visibility and emphasize the value added (or just value) of volunteering. But is money the way to get visibility and measure value?

Consider a simple example. A painter spends 10 hours painting a fence. The 'input' is 10 hours of time. The 'activity' is painting. The 'output' is a freshly painted fence. The 'outcome' is a better-looking fence and property (aesthetics). We pay the painter $10 per hour. What is the value of the project? The cost is $100 but the value is the aesthetic quality of a better- looking fence. What should we be trying to measure - the outcome or the input?

Now suppose a trained volunteer does the work in 5 hours. What is the economic value now? $50 or $100? And what do we say when the painter comes along and says: “Your volunteer took work away from me. Volunteers are just ‘free’ labour taking food off my family's table.” Is volunteering just a poor substitute for not having enough money to pay someone?

I know this is not your intent. But this is an unintended consequence. I believe we need to focus on the hard task of measuring the value of outcomes and not the easy approach of measuring inputs. I agree with one of the statements you quote which says that we need to focus on organizations and not individuals. Surely there are other ways to raise visibility and demonstrate the value of volunteering.

One person said: "Funders pay attention to this kind of information." Foundations should know better and corporate donors need to be educated. It is ironic that businesses are being asked to provide triple bottom line accounting - financial, social and environmental. They don't usually put monetary values on their social and environmental activities. And they don't include estimates in their financial accounts. Yet we are asking the voluntary sector to do that. Do we really want voluntary organizations competing for funds on the basis of volunteer hours multiplied by $ per hour?

I agree that we should listen to non-profit voices. But I get the impression it is governments and corporations that are driving this issue, not non-profit organizations. The fact that the Independent Sector (wow - what a misnomer!) and the Canadian Centre for Philanthropy are doing these calculations doesn't make them right or meaningful. Have they had an impact on volunteering? Probably not…yet!

Let me offer some anecdotal evidence in rebuttal. In the 1950s hospitals in Ontario relied heavily on volunteers. Traditionally the volunteers were middle-aged women who had raised their children and had time to contribute. Then government (this is a Canadian example) began funding health care. The question for those volunteers became: “Why am I working for nothing? I want to be paid.” Only those who were paid were valued and volunteering in hospitals declined rapidly. If the only thing that is valued is money, then what is the value of volunteering?

I have been pretty negative in this discussion because I believe assigning economic value to volunteering is the wrong question. Let me offer a more fruitful question:

What is the value of volunteering for individuals and communities?

If we could answer that question first, we could then focus on measuring the value of volunteering. I believe volunteering is directly related to a strong and vibrant civil society. Focusing on measuring that relationship would, in my view, be a more fruitful and valuable effort than adding up volunteer time and multiplying it by a dollar amount and then claiming that we have a good measure of the (economic) value of volunteering.

Laurie Mook (Canada)

I agree that a focus is needed on measuring outcomes (and there are debates on this topic, too), but I believe one should not exclude the other. I don't think we should selectively recognize some inputs and ignore others when reporting on the activities of the non-profit sector. This is precisely what happens in non-profit conventional accounting.

At the organizational reporting level, most volunteer activities are not acknowledged as part of the socio-economic value that non-profits add to society.

Expressing the value of volunteer contributions in economic terms is one way of getting people's attention (as it has in this Roundtable!). There are/will be different impacts on different groups: volunteers proper, volunteer coordinators, executive directors, funders, policy makers, the general public, the media and others. Each of these groups may react differently to having or not having this information.

As I expressed in my previous message, I strongly believe that a wide variety of indicators (including economic) should be used in measuring societal 'health' in order to make informed decisions. Overarching all of this is the impact on quality of life, especially for the most marginalized members of society. If reporting the economic contribution of volunteers can have a positive impact on the quality of life of those who are marginalized, it is worth exploring ways of doing it. It is worth doing even in spite of the uncomfortable feelings we may have about putting monetary values on activities that are traditionally perceived as non-economic and altruistic in nature.

One more comment. On your point about the direct relationship between volunteering and a strong and vibrant civil society, I would also argue that a large volunteer base may also indicate the cutting of services and programs by governments, which is not necessarily an indication of a vibrant and healthy society.

Andy Fryar (Australia) – Convening Editor
The more I have thought about the issue of costing volunteer time the more intrigued I have become about how you can actually do it accurately. Reading some information here in Australia recently, I found that the calculations used to determine a dollar value to be very confusing to say the least.

As the figure determined by the Independent Sector is the most respected and well established, I’d like to invite Nadine to explain to us exactly how the Independent Sector reached their figure

Nadine Jalandoni (United States)

With regard to the query as to the accuracy of our dollar value for volunteer time, I will be the first to admit that the number is an "estimate" or guide rather than an absolute gospel truth number.

It has been referred to as an "assigned" value and is really most useful when multiplied by the number of volunteer hours rendered. Which is probably why volunteer managers, economists, grant managers, non-profit executive directors and government agencies find it useful. It quantifies volunteer services in a way that is uniform, understandable and comparable to other measures in a budget, in a grant proposal or even in the national income. It is difficult to argue that by saying that volunteers provide $240 billion worth of services to society, that it demeans the value of volunteers. Especially when it represents a value higher than the GNP of most of the countries in the world.

Together with our long time consultant Dr. Murray Weitzman, who has been in the non-profit area the past 20 years, my office releases the annual dollar value of volunteer time. The formula has been kept quite simple and is based on numbers released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the average hourly earnings of all "production and non-supervisory workers on private non-farm payrolls" increased for fringe benefits. I cannot take credit for this formula, but have been briefed as to how it came about. (Literature has shown other similar formulas in use since 1974.) As mentioned, it is far from perfect.

We are aware of the different types of work performed by volunteers, as well as the differences in their skills, educational background, geographic location and other factors that could affect the dollar value of their service. Precisely because of the diversity of issues involved, it was decided that, short of coming out with a detailed listing of every possible volunteer work that can be performed with its corresponding value, that an average rate might be the next most useful thing.

We have been consulting with the BLS on coming up with a geographic distribution since we are aware that earnings are greatly affected by location. We had experimented with a formula and may soon be sharing a geographic breakdown for the 2002 rates. We have also kept the percentage of fringe benefits relatively low at 12%, half of the prevailing rate of 25% used by most establishments, to keep our estimates conservative.

That being said, I fully agree, as Independent Sector does, that the value of volunteer service goes way beyond the "assigned" dollar value. It is only one aspect of the entire volunteering experience.

The value of the service to the recipient, the organization, the volunteer him/herself and society as a whole is indeed difficult to quantify. There are qualitative differences as well in all these aspects that make measurement tricky.

Independent Sector has also grappled with the issues of "impact assessment" as an outcome measurement and had found it difficult to document, measure or provide universally acceptable guidelines. The diverse nature of the non-profit sector serves as a major challenge. Beyond that, contribution to civic engagement and issues of social capital also come into the discussion.

I therefore think that it cannot be an “either/or” discussion. Both the quantitative as well as the qualitative, anecdotal, societal value of volunteering are important depending on what you need to use them for.

The annual dollar value of volunteer time continues to be one of the most requested pieces of data we get from the public, which leads us to believe that they have found it useful through all these years. Had it been “harmful” in providing volunteer recognition, obtaining grants, emphasizing the value that volunteers provide specific activities, or even in budget preparations, I don't think we would continue to receive so many calls. Incidentally, this is about the season that the calls begin.

Thanks for the opportunity to join the discussion.

Arden Brummel (Canada)

Nadine, you make it sound so reasonable.

Our society measures real value in terms of money so we should do the same. Is that true?

Let me be provocative.

The figure of $240 billion is interesting. It’s a great deal of "money" (of course there really wasn't any money but ...), and it represents about 2.5 % of US GDP or about 1/2 the US current account deficit.

So, is that really a great deal of money? Yes, probably about as much as the oil and gas industry contributes to GDP in the US.

Let’s think about it another way.

Suppose we could raise $240 billion in donations. We could pay every volunteer to do the work and this would be recorded in our "real GNP" numbers and people would pay taxes on the money they earned. That would help government revenues (of course we would have to subtract the donations tax credits...).

Is this nonsense? I think so.

Yes, it is quantifiable. Yes, it allows comparisons. Yes, it is understandable. But is it valuable and useful? Does it encourage volunteering? Does it support the value of volunteering? Does it encourage a more vibrant civil society?

The danger with measuring economic value is not that that is inherently wrong or inappropriate, but that it becomes the only measure of value used, and in that way erodes the true meaning and value of volunteering for individuals and communities. That, to me, is the slippery slope.

Andy Fryar (Australia) – Convening Editor

I’d like to venture into the fray here with three key thoughts that have occurred to me throughout this keyboard conversation.

Firstly, in determining the 'value' of volunteers, it seems that we just about always talk about the same type of formula that the Independent Sector sets each year - most useful where you multiply the figure by the number of hours worked by a volunteer to get the ‘magical’ figure.

If we are not doing that, we are talking about the social consequences that volunteers create and struggling with ways we might better 'measure' these.

It has occurred to me that a different ‘value’ that volunteers add to society (that I rarely hear about), is the contribution that the volunteer 'industry' makes to our communities. Let's face it, volunteer activity employs people and generates huge amounts of financial benefit to many in our community. Consider the petrol station where volunteers buy their gas, the company that supplies the volunteers with uniforms, the catering company that sells volunteers their lunch, the companies that supply volunteer organisations with recognition items. Volunteers and their activity put money in these people’s pockets and they, in turn, employ staff from within our communities. In short, volunteering creates industry.

Are these 'values' ever calculated into the 'worth' of volunteers?

Secondly, leisure time occurs outside of our regular 'commitments' (i.e., paid work, family duties, etc.). It is in our leisure time that we choose to do the things most precious to us - spend quality time with our family, play a sport, read a book – or, for those so inclined, volunteer.

If you agree with this theory (and you may not!), then is it not fair to say that leisure time is the most 'valuable' time that we possess, as that is when we get to 'choose' to do the really value-added lifestyle choices we make? If you are still with me in this example, the question arises of why would we not assign a value to volunteer work 'higher' than what is primarily based on workforce/labour figures?

Finally, the other thought that has occurred to me is how useful it may at times be to have an assigned dollar amount that tells CEOs and policy makers what is 'costs' to involve volunteers!

It seems to me that we are always trying to justify the dollars we are given with outcome data, but from my experiences there is often little knowledge about the realistic resource allocations needed to generate volunteer workers in the first place.

Arden Brummel (Canada)

Andy - interesting thoughts.

Your first idea focuses on multiplier effects. Volunteers do spend money participating in volunteer activities. Volunteers are, by definition, critical in supporting voluntary organizations that hire people and thereby create paying jobs. Multiplier effects, however, are difficult to measure because of the indirect effects. But this is an interesting question because it focuses on the economic activity generated by volunteering rather than the 'economic value' of volunteering.

Your second thought is also interesting. Is volunteering a conscious choice after other commitments? Or is volunteering a choice across all commitments? My sense is that people do not volunteer, per se. They want to coach a soccer team, solicit funds for cancer research, help people in a hospice or contribute to their local church by teaching Sunday school. It is the fulfillment of good work that motivates volunteers.

Some also want to gain contacts and experience and build a resume for other life/career goals. But good work is at the heart of it. I hope we don't start thinking of volunteering as higher value than family time or work, but as a conscious choice involving all of these. Certainly, I hope we don't think of volunteering either as taking away from family or involving less commitment.

Your third point is very important. There is a great effort in creating and managing successful volunteer activities. Critical to volunteering is providing a meaningful volunteer job. This takes time and effort, often by paid staff. I don't know of any specific research in this area, but it would be valuable to get some measure of the resources needed to support volunteer workers. This also gets back to the multiplier question: volunteers leverage voluntary organizations and jobs; and staff leverage volunteer contributions.

These synergies are vital in understanding the economic contribution of volunteering. Perhaps adding up the budgets (and jobs) of organizations in the voluntary/independent sector would be a better way of measuring the economic contribution of volunteering.

Andy Fryar (Australia) – Convening Editor

So there you have some compelling thoughts outlining the arguments both for and against valuing volunteer time with a calculation based wholly on monetary values.

  • Do you agree that valuing volunteer time in this way is useful?
  • Are there other issues our participants have not yet even raised?

Let us know what you think about this most controversial of topics.

______________________

1Laurie Mook offered the following links for more information:

Comments

Laurie Mook said, "Yet, in Canada and the US, volunteers contributed hours that were equivalent to almost ten million full-time jobs!" I cringed when I read this. It's these kind of statements that volunteer managers very much need to avoid. Funders can (and will) say, "Great, let's save some money by cutting staff in half and filling the positions with volunteers." Or lower paid staff can look at the monetary figure assigned to volunteer time and be upset that this hourly figure is more than they make -- does this mean that volunteers are more "valuable" than full-time staff? Or union representatives can say, "oh, so you look at volunteers as a way to not hire people?" Stressing these monetary values alone, or promoting them as the primary value of volunteers is, indeed, quite harmful. While I do think we need to include information that relates volunteer contributions to monetary values in some way, I think that "value" of volunteerism needs to be balanced with much more realistic and meaningful measurements.

I agree that giving a monetary value to volunteering is not the whole story. But my Executive looks at what the agency puts out in terms of supplies, meals, travel, etc. for our volunteers. She needs to weigh that against the added value of the work of the volunteers to the agency. We have used the Independent sector's figures, although they are actually higher than our staff's wages so we have decreased it to our staff levels for a comparison. The Volunteers ALWAYS give more than they "cost" the agency. The fact that they double the agency's service to the community is a fringe benefit that is difficult to express in monetary terms.

Your roundtable has done an excellent and thorough job of laying out the complexity of this issue. I read with interest as the University of Minnesota has a very active mentor program, matching about 1600 alumni and professionals with students annually. In response to demands for measurable outcomes from administration related to alumni relations, I recently found myself calculating the hours and monetary value of time donated by mentors. I must say, once those numbers were shared with administration, they finally began to take notice. Since then there has been more attention paid to the added values and significance of these volunteer relationships in terms of cultivating relationship capital and social capital, new ways to enhance the student experience that grow out of mentoring including corporate and organization relationships to more innovative learning practices. So far, this type of accounting has been beneficial but your dialogue will cause me to think with greater depth about this issue. For now, it seems that there may be a time and place for this practice. The trick is to not emphasize financial value of volunteers over the myriad of other positive, and significant outcomes related to volunteering. Thank you for an excellent and provocative discussion.

When a volunteer manager/coordinator considers measuring the value of volunteers, the first impulse is to measure the economic value to the organisation. Many managers (and I’m trying not to over generalise here) have backgrounds in finance, economics and commerce, and the training they receive concentrates on monetary impacts. The best way to get their attention is to talk $$$!! It can certainly be an eye opener when you show management the dollar value of what volunteers contribute to services each month. Comparing the contribution of volunteers to the cost to recruit them will often close mouths that once complained that no volunteer is free!! Following the monetary reports with social impact reporting helps to first get the attention of others, then to educate them in the other values (social, emotional) that volunteers have in the community as well as the individual organisations. In agreeance with L. Mollberg, managers and other social groups do take notice after being shown the dollar value of volunteer contribution. As they say, sometimes you need to talk the talk.