The Cost of a Volunteer

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Org: Grantmaker Forum on Community & National Service
Date: 2003

This report by the US Grantmaker Forum on Community and National Service offers a review of current research on the cost and value of volunteering. While the report has an explicitly American perspective, it has useful general information for volunteer management from any location.

This report seeks to answer the question: What does it cost to mount an effective and high quality volunteer program?

The information presented does not attempt to calculate a ratio of return on investment. Instead, it is intended as an exploratory examination of the costs?many of which are hidden?associated with operating a high quality volunteer program. By this work the authors hope to raise up for further consideration the financial implications for the nonprofit sector of a significant national increase in volunteerism.

Volunteers are not free, and there are challenges to quantifying the costs of a volunteer. Assigning dollar values to volunteer work often overlooks the dollar inputs for managing and sustaining volunteer efforts. Identifying program costs are often difficult because the real costs of managing the program are subsumed within the larger organizational budget. The study focuses on the importance of infrastructure for sustainable volunteer programs. Many volunteer mangers may not find new information in this report, but it effectively presents the importance of building internal capacity and finding effective methods for identifying true costs.

This report is available for download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (262 KB, 28 pages).