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.