Nonprofit Strategies

How nonprofits can determine the value of volunteers

Special to The TribuneMay 30, 2013 

Barry VanderKelen

Volunteers are an integral part of nonprofit work.

Tabulating the number of donated hours — and calculating their value — helps show the amount of community support a nonprofit organization receives, as well as its total economic impact.

Last year, the estimated value of volunteer time nationwide was $22.14 per hour, up 35 cents from the previous year, according to the Independent Sector, a coalition of nonprofits, foundations and corporate giving programs. The estimate in California, adjusted for cost of living, was $24.75.

But not all volunteer work has equal value. Points of Light has created an Economic Impact of Volunteers Calculator that gives the value of an hour of time by the type of job. This calculator uses national estimates that could be adjusted for California markets.

Some volunteer work is significant enough that it could be included on a nonprofit’s financial statements. For example, the free dental services a dentist provides at a health clinic could be reported at fair market value. If the dentist is volunteering at the clinic to process and file papers, however, that time would not be reported as specialized services.

By calculating the economic value of volunteer time, a nonprofit might determine that it would be more efficient or effective to hire staff rather than use volunteers to do some tasks.

Barry VanderKelen is executive director of the San Luis Obispo County Community Foundation. Reach him at

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