What’s a volunteer worth?

LGBTQ performers

According to the Independent Sector, a membership organization of nonprofits, the value of volunteer time is “the average wage of non-management, non-agricultural workers.” So actually the stat is pretty meaningless and simply an average wage of an American worker.

Not every volunteer or volunteer task is equal.

I worked summers at my parents’ wood truss manufacturing plant swinging a hammer, pushing a broom, and cutting and stacking boards. But I am by no means a carpenter. When I built a bookshelf in shop class in high school, the cuts were rounded and it was a rocking bookshelf, which really isn’t a very desirable quality for a bookshelf. My father, on the other hand, can build anything. If Dad and I both showed up to volunteer at building a home for Habitat for Humanity, Dad’s skills would be put to much better use than mine. The Financial Accounting Standards Board calculated that the current value of a volunteer hour is $23.56. But a volunteer hour from Dad working on a construction site is much more valuable than one from me.

Volunteers should seek out opportunities where their specific skills and training could be put to use. Besides adding more value to your community, you’ll also find the experience more rewarding and it’s more likely you’ll keep at it. Often this is the thing that the world already pays us to do. A student approached me once after a talk at his university, and he said that he wasn’t sure how he could make a difference because he was studying accounting.

“Do you know how many nonprofits need a good accountant?” I told him. “Like, all of them!”

The Best Way to Volunteer

The best way to volunteer is making use of special skills, talents, or knowledge, or doing something an organization would have to pay someone else to do. If you are a body or a number volunteering to do a basic task, look at it as a social function or an opportunity to learn new skills yourself that may allow you to make a bigger impact as a volunteer later.

Back to The Facing Project…without volunteer writers, actors, storytellers, and organizers, there would be no Facing Project. So, to us, a volunteer isn’t worth $24, they are worth an unquantifiable amount that is nothing less than the entire existence of our organization.

How much is a volunteer worth? Everything.

Becky Vigus says:

Excellent blog!!! When I chose to volunteer it was for a program called Next Steps Johns Island. It was a Christian endeavor based on the teachings of Ruby Payne. Since I’d had two years of Ruby Payne training when I was a teacher, I thought I might be able to bring some experience to the table.

It was the most wonderful two and a half years of my life. I was helping those in poverty help themselves. We did not hand out money. We found people training classes, advanced education, jobs, helped navigate the VA and bankruptcy courts. We learned that all these payday loans, and one stop loans are nothing more than legalized loan sharks preying on the poor.

As a result of our work a second organization was formed. CHIPS…Cannot remember the exact acronym, but the guys who volunteered when into homes and made them livable for those who could not afford to fix them. Mission teams came into help. The Navy even sent out some sailors on shore leave to assist. It was a community effort with several churches involved. We did not do what other organizations did, we worked with the existing organizations, by referring people to them. Making people aware of the programs available in the community and finding ways to get them transported.

The area I lived in was in dire need of a regular bus route. It had a hap-hazard one, but it was not efficient as there were no bus stops. Just areas where they might stop once or twice a day.

The world needs volunteers. If I can find a place where my skills are needed, I will volunteer again. In the meantime, my friends at NSJI carry on. They have a skeleton crew who never quits.

Kelsey says:

Becky, Sounds like a great org and similar to one I write about in GIVING – TeamWork for Quality Living. I’ve learned that helping people who live in poverty is a better goal than helping people out of poverty. If you go in with the first as a goal the second is more likely, but if you go in the goal of getting people out of poverty you’ll grow frustrated when you don’t succeed.

Thanks for volunteering!

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