Converting good intentions in to greater impact

Resource Guide on Volunteer Management Funding

Resource Guide on Volunteer Management Funding

Part I: Making the Case for Volunteer Management Funding

Nonprofits have often struggled to quantitatively make the case that funding volunteers and volunteer managers is a smart investment. The term return on investment (ROI) seeks to capture the idea of how much value results per unit of output. In the private sector, the term is used to evaluate product lines and new investments. The concept has not yet been applied extensively to nonprofits, although there is some recent research on the quantitative case for funding for volunteer management and capacity building.

A. Tools for calculating return on investment (ROI) for nonprofits

Three basic tools for calculating ROI are available for nonprofits that are willing to do their own analysis. Nonprofits can also consider doing their own detailed analysis, use a basic rough dollar value for an hour of volunteering, or pay a small fee to one of several companies that will calculate ROI for you.

  • 2010 Employee Volunteer Reporting Standards from Hands on Institute. Description of how to calculate return on investment (ROI) for a corporation's volunteer program: definitions of volunteers, how to track data, and how to quantify the value of volunteers via the benefit and cost of volunteer work. Benefit to nonprofit: explains the return on investment concept that funders are searching for.
  • The Value of Volunteer Time. State-by-state average estimates of the value of volunteer labor from Independent Sector, an association of nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. This is the current basic standard dollar figures for valuing volunteer time.
  • Employee Volunteer Program ROI Measurement Study. Summary: Powerpoint deck showing how to calculate return on investment and three-page question and answer section on how to request an analysis of your nonprofit's return on investment. Benefit to nonprofit: if ROI intimidates you, you may want to turn to the second part of this item: pages 1-3 in the ROI Measurement Study Frequently Asked Questions to find out how little it may cost to receive an ROI analysis. Published by Points of Light Institute in conjunction with True Impact, January 2010.
  • New York Cares Valuation: New York Cares conducts an annual program valuation review to monetize the impact of the organization's work in the community and its value per dollar raised. They use the following protocol:
    • New York Cares calculates the value of the hours served by their volunteers across all programs during the 12-month period in question, using Independent Sector's standard hourly rate as a baseline. In the case of volunteer projects requiring specific skills which demand a higher market value, they research this value and assign it accordingly. The time spent by volunteer leaders who train volunteers and prepare for/follow-up on projects is also included in grand total of hours served.
    • Simultaneously, New York Cares calculates the worth of the in-kind goods and services generated during the year, assigning market value to each.
    • New York Cares then adds the value of the hours served and the value of the in-kind goods and services generated to compute the total annual value to the community.
    • Having done this, New York Cares then divides the total by their cash budget during the 12-month period in question to determine their value per dollar raised. For example, if New York Cares generates $30 million in value with a $5 million cash budget, they have generated $6 of value for every dollar donated. See for more.

B. Connecting Volunteer Management to Organizational Effectiveness

One powerful way to build the case for support around funding volunteer management is to demonstrate that volunteers help your organization increase its impact in the community.

C. Valuing Volunteering for Corporate Partners

There is quite a bit of research available about the value of volunteer programs from the corporate perspective, and how they measure return on investment internally in the company and externally in the community. These resources are helpful if your organization is a nonprofit and are making the case for support to a corporation and can also provide a helpful measurement framework that might support your organization's efforts to measure ROI for volunteers. The data is also useful for corporate volunteer managers seeking internal support for program expenses.

D. Costs and Benefits of Volunteers of Select Nonprofits

This group of resources outlines the costs and benefits of volunteers from a variety of different perspectives. While the costs of volunteers and volunteer managers are likely to translate across organizations, the benefits differ depending on the mission and activities of the nonprofit organization. For example, some of the sample proposals are written by intermediary programs, and therefore focus more on the operational aspects of volunteers than a direct service organization proposal.

  • The Leadership Ladder: Fostering Volunteer Engagement and Leadership at New York Cares. Analysis of the impact of strategic investment in volunteer capacity building on number of volunteers remaining engaged from 2004 to 2008. Makes case for volunteer orientation, personalized communications to volunteers, advancement opportunities for volunteers and effective on-line volunteer sign up. Written by Cynthia Gibson, 2009 .
  • All Volunteer Force: From Military to Civilian Service: The central message of this report is that a new generation of veterans is returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan without sufficient connections to communities, is enthusiastic to serve again, and points the way forward for how our nation can better integrate them into civilian life. The findings show that 1.8 million OIF/OEF veterans are underutilized assets in our communities, and their continued service is likely to improve their transition home. Written by Mary McNaught Yonkman and John Bridgeland, 2009.

E. National Landscape of Service, Volunteer Management, and Volunteerism

By incorporating language about service, volunteering, and volunteer management at the national level, you can connect your own actions and activity to a larger movement. This will enhance your case for support, and educate and encourage prospective funders.

  • Watch short videos that describe the national call to service:
  • Read a one page summary of the 2009 Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act:
  • If We Build It, They Will Come: the Imperative for Strengthening the Nation's Volunteer Infrastructure. Summary: Three-page overview on the objectives of the Volunteer Generation Fund, which was funded at $4 million for fiscal years 2010 and 2011. Published by Points of Light Institute.
  • Visit for additional resource materials - domestic and international - related to the volunteer management field.

Part 2: Sample Proposals for Funding for Volunteer Management

Part 3: Best Practices for Identifying Funders