Calculating the Social Value of Volunteerism

Many companies recognize the value of offering employee volunteer opportunities as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. Internally, volunteering increases employee engagement, offers paths for professional development, and is a valuable recruitment tool. Externally, it strengthens ties with the community. 

Often, however, CSR professionals often overlook volunteering when they’re measuring their companies’ overall social impact. They track the impact of their grants but not employee volunteer efforts. By omitting volunteering, they’re undercounting the social good their companies are doing, sometimes by a significant amount.

There are two ways to quantify the social good of your employee volunteer program:

  1. Financial value
  2. Social impact

Read on to learn how to calculate both measurements.


Financial Value

Calculating the financial value of volunteering can be completed in four easy steps:

  1. Collect the total hours your employees volunteered. 
  2. Determine the type of work they did. 
  3. Define the appropriate hourly value using the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) wage rates page (be sure to add an additional 15.7 percent for overhead costs).
  4. Multiply the number of hours volunteered by the hourly value of that work.

And that’s it! Note that you’ll need to group different kinds of work separately because wage rates in the BLS tables vary by type of work. So even if everyone volunteered at the same nonprofit, you’ll need to separate administrative support from sorting canned goods, giving tours from doing research, shelving books from reading at children’s story hour, and so on. 

Consider the following example of volunteering at a local food bank.

  1. Total hours volunteered: 3,000
  2. Type of work: sorting food donations, preparing meal kits
  3. Hourly value: $13.30 per hour (BLS average wage for food preparation and serving) + 15.7% overhead = $15.39 total hourly value
  4. Total value: 3,000 hours volunteered  x $15.39/hour = $46,170 in financial value delivered

In addition to using this figure to help demonstrate the value of your volunteer program, you can add it to your grantmaking totals to show your full investment. 

Going back to the example above, say the company gave $100,000 in grants to hunger organizations. Their volunteer program increases their investment almost by half:

$100,000 + $46,164 = $146,170 total investment

Including volunteering makes a difference, doesn’t it? 


Social Impact

You can go beyond financial value to determine your volunteer activities’ social impact, by calculating a contribution claim (i.e., where you claim a percentage of a program’s social outcomes equivalent to the percentage of the program’s cost you donated). This involves two more simple steps:

  1. Calculate the proportion of the nonprofits’ total program costs that your employee volunteer efforts represent
  2. Multiply the program’s total outcomes by this figure to define your “contribution claim”

In addition to the monetary value of the volunteerism you provided (calculated above), you’ll need the following data to calculate these figures:

  1. The total amount the nonprofit spent on the programs in which your employees volunteered
  2. The total outcomes of those programs

Note again that you’ll need to calculate the social impact of different types of outcomes separately. For simplicity, we’re going to limit the example below to one outcome and use the monetary value of volunteering at the food bank from the first part of this post. 

  1. Total program cost for the nonprofit in this example: $200,000
  2. Outcome: 300 people no longer living with food insecurity
  3. Monetary value of the volunteer activity: $46,170 

Determine the proportion of the nonprofit’s program cost the volunteer activity represents by dividing the monetary value of the volunteer activity by the nonprofit’s total program cost: 

$46,170 volunteer program monetary value ÷ $200,000 nonprofit program cost = 0.23 (In other words, your volunteering program accounted for 23% of the nonprofit program's efforts.)

Determine the outcomes due to the volunteer activity by multiplying the total outcome by this figure:

300 people no longer living with food insecurity x 0.23 = 69 people no longer living with food insecurity because of your company’s volunteering program. 

Your company’s volunteers are creating positive change that you should be including in the overall difference your company is making in your community. 


Bonus: Track to SDGs, Too 

Many CSR programs are aligning their grantmaking with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). You can do the same thing with your employee volunteer program. The hypothetical case above maps to SDG 2, “No hunger.”

To see which SDGs apply to your program, download the Impact2030 Volunteerism Measurement Framework for volunteerism managers (a practitioner’s toolkit).


Final Thoughts 

If you aren’t yet tracking the social value of your volunteering, that’s ok—you aren’t alone. But what we are seeing from our clients who have begun to track not just the internal monetary value of volunteering but also the social value, is that they were leaving sizable amounts of impact out and not getting full credit for their companies' hard work. 

If you’d like to learn more about measuring the impact of your volunteering, sign up for a consultation with one of our measurement and evaluation experts. They’ll be delighted to talk to you.

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