Reviving the Debate: The Economic Value of Volunteering

19 Feb

While I recall models I have worked with in the past quantifying volunteer service outputs I want to revive the debate about the pursuit of models that measure the economic value of volunteering. Several months ago Volunteer Canada released a discussion paper about this topic because there is growing interest in the public to “know the quantifiable economic value of the work volunteers do” The discussion paper lead to a presentation of the pros and cons of this pursuit because:

The “ability to demonstrate the full social and economic value of volunteer contributions – to the individuals who are directly served, to the organizations they work with, to the community at large, and to the volunteers themselves – is fraught with many practical and conceptual challenges.”

While communities, organizations, and volunteers themselves would benefit from evidence of volunteer work expressed as expenses from the organization, articulated social capital, and tangible service outputs, there is a real fear that standardized models capturing the economic value of volunteer contributions would “devalue the generosity of volunteers” and omit the value that each volunteer individually assigns to the volunteer experience themselves. The same can be said for the value that organizations and community members served assign to each and every volunteer experience.

So, considering the arguments above, my question is this. Can a model be developed capturing the economic value of volunteering without omitting the “values” that are unique to every volunteer experience?  

The discussion paper from Volunteer Canada can be found here.

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