Economic Value to Volunteering

Assigning an Economic Value to Volunteering

It’s no secret that Canada’s volunteers are valuable. But how do we measure the social and economic value of volunteering?

Volunteer Canada has researched the issue. We’ve written a discussion paper on the topic to give organizations an understanding of the issue. 

Many funders ask organizations to measure the economic value of volunteer time for the projects they fund. Often, organizations use a simple wage replacement calculation. Volunteer hours are multiplied by an hourly rate. And this estimates the economic value of volunteering.

There are practical and philosophical issues with this approach. Counting hours doesn’t show the impact of the volunteer work. And as a result, it gives an incomplete picture of the value of volunteers. For some, the idea of putting a dollar value on involvement belittles the volunteer’s efforts. Many feel the passion and commitment of volunteers is priceless.

Volunteers and the act of volunteering bring multiple benefits to organizations, comnities and people. Organizations receive enormous contributions of time, talents and skills. Communities are healthier and more cohesive through active citizen engagement. People receive important services from volunteers, and, through volunteering, people gain experience, improve their employment and educational options and have a greater sense of belonging and well-being.

In recogintion of National Volunteer Week 2018, the Conference Board of Canada produced The Value of Volunteering in Canada report. This briefing focuses on the multifaceted benefits to individuals, organisations, communities, and society when Canadians volunteer their time. 

In recognition of National Volunteer Week 2013, TD Economics produced a one-page perspective that puts the value of volunteerism in dollar terms, speaking to both the tangible economic benefits and the societal importance of volunteerism in Canada.

Volunteer Canada’s policy statement about the economic value of volunteering

We’ve done extensive research on the issue of calculating the value of volunteering. We’ve written discussion papers and provided organizations with background, terminology and models available to guide them in forging their own policies and practices. We’ve also written the following statement to summarize our views:

Volunteer Canada recognizes the need to demonstrate the value and impact of volunteering through a clear measurement of volunteer time and volunteer programs and that in doing so, valuing volunteerism will take many forms.

Determining the impact of the contribution of volunteerism is complex and multifaceted, as there are benefits to people served, organizations, the community, and to the volunteer themselves. Volunteer Canada believes that any measurement on the value of volunteer involvement must consider the resources needed to support volunteering and the social and economic development volunteering generates, integrating qualitative and quantitative measurements. Both aspects of measurement must be considered equally valid and compelling and each measurement presented in isolation of the other presents an incomplete picture of the true value of the contribution of volunteers.

Passed unanimously by the Board of Directors
October 27, 2010

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