Volunteers and Your Partnership – Valuing Volunteers

If your community business partnership is based around or involves volunteering (including not only volunteering, but pro-bono work and in-kind support), then showing how much you value the efforts of those volunteers becomes an important consideration.

Knowing the value of the work your volunteers do, as well as showing gratitude for their efforts, go hand-in-hand when it comes to ensuring your volunteers not only feel appreciated, but are appreciated.

How Much Your Volunteers are Worth

An exercise to think about when it comes to showing appreciation for your volunteers' efforts is to cost them by the hour.
  • Think about it: if your partnership involves a local professional or tradesman completing some pro-bono work for your community group, how much would your group have normally paid for that work - $50 an hour? $100? $200? $500?
  • What about if a group of 10 or 20 volunteers from your partnership partner helps your group revegetate around the local river – how much would each volunteer be worth in monetary terms in that case? Their efforts would probably total several thousand dollars.
This sort of exercise suddenly puts into perspective the true worth of volunteers' efforts.

Another way of looking at a volunteer's worth is the way the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) does: by valuing them at about what they would cost to replace.
  • Through a process of firstly matching volunteer activities to occupations, working out a weighted average earnings estimate for these occupations using average earnings data, and then having the number of persons engaged in each of the volunteer activities used as "weights", the ABS worked out the average earnings estimate for volunteers as $15.90 per hour in 1999/2000.
  • This figure is still used by many volunteering organisations – including Volunteering Australia.
So for example:
  • If you have four volunteers working on a project two days a week for four weeks, that would result in the project having a "volunteer value" of just over $4070. (Four volunteers  X  eight days  X  eight hours per day X  $15.90).
Further to that, many groups will cost pro-bono support from professional volunteers at a rate closer to the market rate. For example:
  • If a public relations company was offering two hours a week for four weeks, the value might be closer to $1600-1800 than $127.
This sort of exercise gives you an idea of what sort of value these volunteers add to the partnership, and how it is worth it to ensure they feel valued.

Knowing Your Volunteers' Value When Applying for Grants

Knowing the value of your volunteers and their work can also be important when it comes to applying for grants for your partnership, as many grant makers want to know what your level of volunteer commitment is when you are applying for a grant.

You should:
  • Not put down zero as your volunteers' contribution.
    • While you may not be contributing cash, you are contributing in other ways and even the administration expense of running a particular project or program should be included as part of what your partnership is doing, as well as, of course, the hard work and expertise the volunteers will contribute to actually make the project happen.
  • Use the ABS figure to cost out how many volunteers and how many hours will it take to complete the project and calculate that figure as your in-kind contribution to make the project happen.
    • Not only does it show that there is a cost for your partnership, but it also helps in the budgeting of how many hours it really will take to achieve your objective.
  • Factor in any pro-bono advice you may be receiving to assist with the project.
    • Again it shows that the grantmaker is not just giving money but that you are both contributing to a partnership – and that without both sides of the equation, it will not work.
Don't forget that in every application for funding, you should include in your budget the cost of your volunteers. It strengthens your argument but also lets the grant maker know that for every dollar they are putting in, your partnership is also making a very important matching contribution.

For more information on grant applications and your partnership, refer to the Help Sheets Gaining Grants for your Partnership – Finding the Right Grant Program for Your Partnership and Gaining Grants for your Partnership - The Basic Components of Writing a Grant Proposal, both available at the partnerships Brokerage Service section of the Our Community website.

Valuing your Volunteers

Valuing your volunteers can be done in many ways – some simple, some requiring a little more thought.

Think about ways you can reward your volunteers, recognise them and, importantly, respect them and the work that they do. Some ideas on valuing your volunteers include:
Rewarding volunteers.
  • Make sure there are a few drinks, nibblies, barbecue or a winding-down party planned after the volunteer-based partnership event.
  • Try and build team spirit - ways of doing this could include providing them with team T-shirts for their event, or complimentary gloves for an outdoor exercise.
  • Help them to get to know their fellow volunteers. Have social meetings a few times a year – where the volunteers can relax rather than work – even a video night.
Recognising volunteers.
  • List their names where appropriate – be it in a newsletter, annual report, on your website.
  • Thank them publicly in speeches for example, or by name dropping. For more information on name dropping, refer to theName Dropping Help Sheet at the Our Community website.
Respect volunteers and their work.
  • Give them the training they need.  Help them learn new things.
  • Talk to them.
  • Supervise them properly and offer them resources and support.
  • Demand that they do a good job.
  • Consult them. Ask them to suggest other volunteers, for example.  Ask their opinion on the experience. Brainstorm for their ideas.
  • Tell them about the complaints and grievance resolution procedures in case they have a complaint.
  • Challenge them. Take them seriously and find them tasks that produce results worth as much as what they put in. You have to allocate volunteers' time just as if they were paid staff.
  • Work their skills and abilities. If volunteers have certain skills and abilities, use them for the partnership project's best benefit. It will also give them confidence because they will know what they are doing.

Surveying your Volunteers

Do you survey your volunteers? 
Do you ask them whether they're satisfied with the way you use them?
Again, why is this important in a fundraising sense?

The reason is that an organisation or partnership that values its volunteers tends to attract more volunteer help, meaning there are more people helping with every activity and more getting done at each partnership activity.

For a sample of a volunteers' satisfaction survey, refer to the Help Sheet Volunteers and Your Partnership – Volunteers' Satisfaction Survey, available at the partnerships Brokerage Service section of the Our Community website.

This survey should be handed out to volunteers when appropriate after they have finished a task, working bee or volunteer activity – although it should not be handed out every single time they complete something, as that may get quite tedious and actually have the effect of dissuading volunteers from helping out!

A good survey can provide you with helpful feedback on what went right – or wrong – with your partnership's volunteer activity so you can improve next time, or remedy problems that may have cropped up.