12 Apr Value Your Volunteers by AGS Staff
If your organization or program works with volunteers, you know firsthand that these individuals are often invaluable assets in delivering your mission. While volunteer management professionals know how to communicate the intrinsic value of these services to the community and the volunteers who provide them, we have to ask ourselves…. are we as grant professionals properly communicating their monetary value to current and potential grant funders? As we continue to celebrate National Volunteer Month, let’s explore ways to express the value of volunteer contributions. This will help you to present accurate and comprehensive grant budgets that fully express the extent of your organization’s in-kind commitment.
The most recent data on nationwide volunteering (2018 Volunteering in America report) shows that 77.4 million Americans volunteered 6.9 billion service hours, valued at an estimated $167 billion. So how does this translate to your grant budget? Consider whether any aspect of your program delivery will rely on volunteers. For example, a summer school program may rely on five volunteers to run craft stations for three hours a day, four days a week, over a ten-week program. Through some research, you find out that similarly qualified individuals in paid positions within your organization (e.g., art instructors) earn $15/hour. This would amount to an in-kind value of $9,000 (5 people x 3 hours x 4 days x 10 weeks x $15) that the organization has secured to help run the summer school program! If there is not a paid equivalent within the organization or it is difficult to estimate the value of volunteer time, you can use volunteer value averages. According to the Independent Sector, the current estimated national value of each volunteer hour is $27.20 (Independent Sector also calculates this information by state). For example, if the same summer program had six volunteer mentors of varying skillsets and backgrounds who spent four hours per week with participants, you’d have an in-kind value of $6,528 using the national volunteer hour average (6 people x 4 hours x 10 weeks x $27.20)
It is especially meaningful to represent the in-kind value of volunteers in organizations that have few or no paid staff. To determine the value of volunteer staff members, consider the full-time equivalent (FTE) that the individual provides, and then consider the fair market salary of a similar position within your region/market. While your organization or sector may have individualized salary surveys you can reference, Glassdoor offers a salary and compensation search engine that allows you to search by title and region. For example, a volunteer executive director/CEO that contributes 15 hours/week to their organization could be valued at $31,875 annually ($85,000 (arbitrary estimate) fair market salary x 0.375 FTE). Be sure to account for volunteer services in both the revenue and expense section of your grant budget! In the expense section, you should list the volunteer personnel much like you would paid staff. In the revenue section, you can add a single line item for in-kind service contribution. Also, be sure to discuss the role your volunteers play within the relevant narrative sections (e.g., project description, community involvement, staff and personnel).
Ultimately, taking time to consider and include the value of volunteer time in your grant budgets will better represent your organization’s resources and ability to solicit support within the community.
Competency #4: Knowledge of how to craft, construct, and submit an effective grant application
Skill 4.8: Identify effective practices for developing realistic, accurate line-item and narrative budgets and for expressing the relationship between line-items and project activities in the budget narrative
Skill 4.9: Identify sources of cash, in-kind, and/or leveraged matches for project budgets