Valuing Volunteerism: A Cost Perspective

Valuing volunteerism is a two-sided coin. It’s always nice to be appreciated by the nonprofit we serve, but we also need to understand the cost. Volunteerism isn’t without a cost or a value. So in our effort to not just recruit but retain and manage volunteers, how can we have a proper respect?

It really starts with ourselves. We need to understand our personal costs and values.

Do is the new give.

“Do something great.”
“Do something.”
“Do.”

Many of us believe in nonprofits and we donate both time and money to support the causes closest to our hearts.

I believe in supporting nonprofits financially and with my time and I’m public with this donation that appears in my sidebar. As a business, I want my clients to know that I also use funds to make this world a better place.

I am a recurring donor to 4OceanOxfam, and freeCodeCamp. I also support Aspen Camp with Amazon Smile purchases.

I also volunteer with Make WordPressWordCamp Orange CountyWordCamp Los Angeles, and Women Who WP.

It’s good for our souls to give back to the world, to the things that gave us a start, as it gives us a healthy perspective and stimulates gratitude.

Why do we volunteer?

Volunteering is good for our souls. Volunteering is a way to align our values with the world.

I’ve volunteered for all of my adult life with many kinds of nonprofits. I’ve gone through burnout, elation, and everything in between.

As a freelancer, business owner, or even employee, it’s important to understand both the cost and value of volunteerism.

What is the cost of volunteering?

One of the costs of volunteering besides our time is burnout. It’s a real thing.

Why do we burnout?

There are many reasons but one is that we don’t understand how much time we spend.

We burn out from volunteering because we don't understand the value of our time. Click To Tweet

(This is partly why I rant so much about job costing and sample time tracking if you’ve ever spoken to me in person.)

If we don’t understand how we spend our time, it’s too easy to say yes to everything. But at some point, there will be a cost. That could be suffering client work, personal relationships, or health.

Another very easily solved reason is a lack of appreciation. But that’s on the “managing volunteers” side of this conversation.

So, what if our volunteerism had an invoice?

Time is one of the only unsustainable resources we truly have. Our time has both a cost and a value.

Sometimes to gain perspective is to tie our time to a dollar amount. Though it doesn’t speak to all of the value, it’s one way to show others and ourselves that our work, though unpaid, matters.

Maybe if we treated our volunteer work like it was a client, it would give other people a perspective of the worth. To gain a perspective for myself, I ran the numbers on just one of my volunteer efforts.

What if WordCamp Orange County was my client? This would be the invoice based upon my current pricing.

  • Five months of weekly 1/2 hour meeting:
    • 20 meetings at 1/2 of my rate $75 = $1500
  • Social media management:
    • Facebook: $350/mo x 5 = $1750
    • Twitter basic: $350 x 5 = $1750
  • Total in kind donation $5,000

Volunteerism Matters

Besides all of the people I’ve met, relationships I’ve formed, valuable conversations that changed my life, clients I’ve gained, and people I’ve encouraged, there is a monetary value on your time.

Spend it well. Remember your why.

As I told a friend this past weekend at WordCamp Europe,

“If we ever forget that this is about the people, we’ve completely lost our way.”

Go serve, do it for others, but take care of your self.

Clark Tibbs