Every year Americans volunteer their time and skills to help communities across the nation. Roughly 77.4 million people in the United States volunteered about 6.9 billion hours, according to 2018 estimates from the Corporation for National and Community Service. In 2019, volunteer efforts contributed $187.7 billion to the United States.
Independent Sector, with the Do Good Institute, recently released a new value of volunteer time for 2019, $27.20 per hour. This hourly value increased 7 percent from the previous year. Independent Sector has estimated on the hourly value of volunteer time since 2002.
Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was used to calculate the new figure. The value of volunteer time is based on the average earnings of private sector workers, more specifically the annual average hourly earnings for workers in private non-farm and non-managerial positions. Sector-wide average earnings are used because it is assumed that volunteers provide a wide range of services, and average earnings represent the cost of hiring workers rather than volunteers. This year the fringe-benefit rate was increased, from the 12 percent used in previous years to 15.7 percent. State-specific estimates are calculated by multiplying the national value of volunteer time by each state’s “hourly earnings index,” an average estimate of hourly earnings for private non-farm workers.
The value of volunteer time has increased considerably in recent years. In 2002, the value of volunteer time was $16.27 per hour. By 2010 the hourly value had increased to $21.36. Between 2018 and 2019, the increase in the hourly value of volunteer time was significant, up to $27.20 from $25.43. On average, the hourly value has increased by about 54 cents each year, a marked difference from the $1.77 increase in 2019. The significant growth in the value of volunteer time from 2018 to 2019 is in part due to an increase in the fringe-benefit rate.
Across the U.S., the value of volunteer time varies by location. Puerto Rico has the lowest value of volunteer time at $13.16 per hour, followed by Mississippi at $20.95 per hour. Other states with the lowest hourly value of volunteer time include South Dakota, Idaho, New Mexico, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and West Virginia. The highest rate, $44.14 per hour, is found in Washington, D.C. States along the East and West Coasts, including Washington, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, and Virginia, and isolated states in the Midwest, had higher than average hourly values. Hawaii and Alaska also had higher than average hourly values of volunteer time.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, volunteers have played an important role. They have continued to give time and skills to help communities locally and across the U.S.
“We know intuitively and through the Value of Volunteer Time that volunteers’ selfless work is a valuable asset that enables nonprofits to extend even further critical services they provide in communities nationwide,” said Independent Sector president and CEO Dan Cardinali. “But during this extraordinary time of challenge caused by COVID-19, when many organizations are struggling economically to maintain mission-critical operations, the contributions of volunteers are more important than ever, and often a critical linchpin that enables nonprofit organizations to continue to provide needed services to help communities endure and survive the pandemic.”
Independent Sector estimates the value of volunteer time in part to help organizations quantify the value volunteers contribute. It is a way to recognize the time and energy volunteers across the nation provide.