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John McMillin: A volunteer’s worth edges higher for nonprofits

John McMillin • Updated Apr 24, 2016 at 12:00 PM

What is a volunteer worth? Provided you’re in the nonprofit world, this question is more than philosophical. Independent Sector, the leading coalition of nonprofits, foundations, corporate giving programs committed to advancing the common good, has announced that the 2015 estimate for the value of a volunteer hour is $23.56 – a more than $1 increase from 2013 and up more than 2 percent from the previous year. 

This news comes as many nonprofits are trying to assess the dollar value of volunteers in their past year of service. The value of volunteer time provides a way to determine the impact that millions of people make with every hour dedicated to making a difference. The release of this important figure came during National Volunteer Week held in mid-April of this year. 

“Volunteers across the U.S. do incredibly important work – for their communities, their country, and the planet we share,” said Independent Sector spokesperson Candy Hill. “National Volunteer Week, as it has for more than 40 years, recognizes the scope of service in this country. And although we can’t fully quantify the impact of volunteerism, these figures allow us to showcase the immense value of the time, talent, and efforts that volunteers give each and every day.”

United Way Worldwide’s Mei Cobb details the study in a recent online report:  “Independent Sector also updated the state-level breakdown for the value of volunteer time in 2015. While a few states saw modest decreases – Mississippi fell 0.5 percent to $19.51, for example – the value of volunteer time increased for most states. Nevada for example, rose 5.9 percent to $20.98 and Virginia increased 4.8 percent to $26.09. Available on the Independent Sector website is an interactive map and table showing data for each state, where the value of a volunteer hour is highest and lowest, and how much the figure has risen or fallen since the previous year. Also included in the map is the complete dataset for the value of volunteer time for all 50 states and D.C. from 2001-2015.”

I realize that not everyone is excited by statistics, but I find it interesting that approximately 63 million Americans, or roughly 25 percent of the adult population, contributed nearly 8 billion hours of service in 2014 according the Corporation for National and Community Service. Breaking this down, religious organizations were cited as the type of organization that volunteers worked in the most followed by educational or youth service and social or community service organizations. Added to this, the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics reports show that nonprofits employ over 11 million workers--that is about 10 percent of the American private sector employment. In other words, this accounts for just over 5 percent of our gross domestic product.

For those of you not in the nonprofit world, volunteering doesn’t just make you feel good. Obviously it’s good for our communities and, as this report shows, volunteers are a vast resource for countless nonprofits. All considered, we can say it’s not too shabby for a group of volunteers.

John McMillin is president of United Way of Wilson County and the Upper Cumberland. Email him at john@givetouwwc.org.

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