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Visit this page for ideas, suggestions and hints to build volunteer recruitment capacity.

~ September 2006 ~ Topics

Volunteer Satisfaction
$ Value for Volunteers
Leading Questions

Volunteer Satisfaction

It is the rare volunteer who tells why he/she is leaving the organization. Having satisfied volunteers can lead to retention. So understanding what keeps them is important. Here are some questions, whose answers help the manager of volunteers understand what is working and what is not in the volunteer corps.

  1. Do you like the tasks you have been assigned? Why?

  2. Does the work give you a sense of accomplishment? Why?

  3. How do you feel about working at ______________________?

  4. How do the physical working conditions impact your attitude toward the work you are doing?

  5. How does the way you are treated by other volunteers influence your attitude toward the work?

  6. How does the way you are treated by paid staff influence your attitude toward the work?

  7. Do you see a connection between the work you do and the mission of our organization? If yes, what is it?

Form a small “Volunteer Satisfaction” team of volunteers and one paid staff besides the manager of volunteers. Charge the group with the responsibility of surveying volunteers. Work with the team to design the method that will bring the most responses. Interviews using the above questions might give you a start.

Find someone to tabulate and put the information into a database. The information collected should be examined and analyzed by the team. Have them make a short written report of findings. Act on suggestions to enhance the “satisfaction” climate for volunteers.

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$ Value for Volunteers

Managers of volunteer programs are urged to log hours for volunteers and calculate the donation of time in terms of hours worked times a wage rate. The rub occurs when deciding what “wage rate” to use. What system most accurately reflects the monetary contribution of volunteer time? The qualitative contribution of volunteers can also be calculated and will be discussed in the next issue of Volunteer Today

There are three methods for calculating the monetary value of a volunteer. Here is a brief explanation of each method.

Average Wage

The easiest and most often used method is to assign a dollar amount to hours donated. This is most often done by using the average wage paid to all workers (usually excluding agricultural workers). The organization can use national statistics, state or province, city or county. In the United States and Canada, a governmental entity provides information on average wage and that is then multiplied by the number of hours. For example, in 2004 the average wage in the US was $19.94. That number would be multiplied by the number of hours served by a volunteer.

While this is a simple and straightforward system, it has some flaws. The biggest weakness is that it does not distinguish between work performed, and skills needed. It can grossly underestimate or overestimate the value of volunteer time, if the organization had to pay for the service.

Replacement Wage

This method differs from the “Average Wage” system by taking into account what the volunteer does. The Financial Accounting Standards Board also endorses it.

With replacement wage, the dollar value of volunteer service is calculated by determining what it would cost the organization to have a paid staff person doing the same task. For example, in the US the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated the mean hourly wage of a school tutor around $20.91 per hour.

This system can more accurately reflect the time/dollar amount, but it requires much research, especially in large volunteer programs. And it must be up-dated on a regular basis. It also assumes that the organization would have hired someone had the volunteer not been present. That is often an incorrect assumption.

Opportunity Cost

In this method of assessing the value of volunteer time, it is the volunteer’s occupation that drives the determination of value. The actual wage rate in paid employment for the volunteer is multiplied times the number of hours to determine the value. Hence, if a firefighter volunteers to tutor in a local school, his/her wage rate would be multiplied by the number of hours served. Likewise a retiree living on a fixed income, and serving as a tutor, would have their average hourly wage multiplied by the hours served.

The rationale behind this method is that every hour the person donates is worth something and every hour served is an hour’s worth of income. It works exceedingly well where highly skilled volunteers are needed for the work.

It is more difficult to use this method when the jobs are of a more general nature—tutoring, working at a soup kitchen, or walking dogs at a shelter.

It is possible to use all three depending on what volunteers are doing, but reports on the hours served and their monetary value need to be clear about which system is being used.

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Leadership Questions

A good manager, whether of volunteers or paid staff, has questions that should be asked daily. The answer to those questions provides information from volunteers and paid staff that can result in improvements and chances to grow and improve the program for everyone. Here are a few to get you started. Feel free to add your own.

    1. What made you mad today?
    2. What involved too many volunteers?
    3. What seemed too complicated?
    4. What seemed like more trouble than it was worth?
    5. What took too long?
    6. What was misunderstood today?

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Interested in more information? Check out our online bookstore for: Episodic Volunteering: Organizing and Managing the Short-Term Volunteer Program, by Nancy Macduff and The One Minute Answer to Volunteer Management Questions, by Mary Kay Hood.

Details for Episodic Volunteering Book Details for One Miinue Answer Book


The Points of Light Foundation has forms available to nominate volunteers and volunteer organizations for the Daily Points of Light Award. It is designed recognize individuals and groups that demonstrate unique and innovative approaches to community volunteering and citizen action, with a strong emphasis on service focused on the goals for children and young people set by the Presidents Summit for American's Future. The award is given five days a week, excluding holidays. If you would like nomination forms, call 202-729-8000.


By calling 1-800-VOLUNTEER in the U.S., individuals can be connected to their local volunteer center. This is a national interactive call routing system designed to get volunteers connected to people who can help them volunteer.

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