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Calculating an Organization’s Social Return on Investment in Volunteers

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This quarter’s Research to Practice reviews an article that presents a way to measure the social returns on investment in volunteer recruiting, training, and management. Called Social Return on Investment, or SROI, it is a type of cost-benefit analysis that compares the present value of social outcomes created by the organization to the value of monetary and in-kind resources (including volunteer contributions) required to generate those outcomes.

As reviewer Laurie Mook explains, funders and government agencies have expressed great interest in the idea of calculating SROIs for organizations. Mook looks specifically at a case study by Italian researchers who apply this process to the volunteer program of a summer camp that offers recreational therapy for children with serious illnesses. The researchers end up with a SROI calculated as a ratio between the total present value of impacts on volunteers as well as on services, and the total costs of inputs required to recruit, train, and manage volunteers. Mook also examines the methodology as a potential tool to focus attention on the socio-economic impact created by organizations, for volunteers themselves, and for society-at-large.