How Much Are Volunteers Worth?

A week or so ago, I posted 5 of the Best Practices for building and keeping volunteer teams. I mentioned how I went to trainings about volunteer management, read books about volunteer management, watched videos about volunteer management…but I should tell you who taught me the most about leading volunteers.

It was the volunteers themselves.

My first real shot at managing big teams involved leading people with double and triple my life and work experience. Some of them were CEOs who’d run companies, some were PTO leaders, some were lawyers with thriving practices, some owned and operated their own businesses…and some were my age and rank and file but just had a knack for seeing things that weren’t on my radar.

What I learned from them–in both good and hard times–should’ve amounted to its own college degree.

Probably the most important thing they taught me, though, is something none of them set out to teach me.

Gratefulness.

Sometimes, you look across the table, and you see the caliber and heart of the people who are serving with you, week after week, FOR FREE…and you don’t know what else to do besides just be BLOWN AWAY.

I can’t tell you how many times I have thought, I don’t deserve these people.

It was these people’s generosity that inspired me, as a young person, to determine to learn every way possible to value volunteers. (Expressing the impact of volunteers is one of the best practices, by the way.)

Since many of my posts are about creativity and collaboration, I thought I’d share a few of these teaming-related discoveries along the way…starting with this one:

There are a million ways to verbalize your thanks to a team of people who work with you. But if you’re like me, you might get tired of hearing your own voice say thank you the same old way one more time.

Here’s a simple twist on verbal thanks that many volunteers have told me impacted them over the years.

Here is how it works:

1. Determine what kind of job the volunteer is performing. In other words, if you had to hire someone and pay them to do the job, what would his or her title be?

2. Determine the average salary or compensation rate for that type of job. One site where you can find information about this is Salary.com.

For example, if I had to hire “event assistants”–people who assist an event coordinator–in my region, Salary.com suggests that I would have to pay them about $20 an hour (figured by dividing salary by an average of 2000 work hours per year).

3. Multiply that pay rate by the number of volunteers who serve with you.

If you have 50 event assistants helping you pull off two eight-hour long days of a Classic Car Show or Hot Air Balloon Fest, then the value volunteers provided to the event was:

50 volunteers x 16 hours x $20 per hour = $16,000

4. Emphasize that total with your volunteers. It’s always best to put the most emphasis on expressing gratefulness for the people and our relationships with them. But couched with that, putting an actual dollar amount on what volunteers are giving can help frame what kind of amazing contribution these volunteers are making.

After sharing these kinds of numbers, I’ve had more than one person later tell me, “You never think about what a big dent you are making. You just think, ‘Oh, I gave a few hours of my time, no big deal.’ But when you hear that you helped give $16,000 worth of value to a community, it really underlines how events couldn’t happen without volunteers.”  

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Sarah Cunningham
Sarah is the author of "Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation," "Picking Dandelions" and her newest title, "The Well Balanced World Changer."

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