Value of volunteering: Acts small and large priceless

“Not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.” — Albert Einstein

What is a volunteer? What is the value of volunteering? Volunteering is about giving, contributing and helping other individuals and the community. Volunteering means working with others to make a meaningful contribution to a better community.

One estimated dollar value of volunteer time is $21.36 per hour. That estimate helps acknowledge the millions of individuals who dedicate their time, talents and energy to making a difference. Charitable organizations use this estimate to quantify the enormous value volunteers provide.  According to one estimate from the Corporation for National and Community Service, about 63.4 million Americans — nearly 27 percent of the adult population — contribute a collective 8.1 billion hours of volunteer service worth $169 billion a year.

The value of volunteering is much deeper, much more fulfilling and much more important in contributing to a healthy and vibrant community than money can ever measure.

People volunteer for an endless variety of reasons. Many people want to gain experience, acquire new skills, meet new people or expand their network of contacts as a way to get a new job or start a career. Others just want to give back to their community, help a friend or promote a worthwhile activity. They do it because it makes them feel good.

This is the intrinsic value of volunteering. It is not about money. And volunteering should not be measured that way. We can add up the hours, but not a dollar value. Others would like to do so. The danger is that it infers that if work isn’t paid for, it isn’t valuable. It reduces volunteerism to hours worked instead of contributions made. 

Volunteering is rich and diverse. Volunteering is not just about organizing hundreds of volunteers for large events. It is thousands of volunteers in minor league sports, shelters for the homeless, giving aid to seniors, holding hands in a hospice or cleaning up a local stream bed. It is spontaneous acts of kindness like helping neighbors shovel their walks, coming to the aid of a stranded motorist or helping an elderly person cross a busy street. These large and small acts, given freely, are what bind communities together. Volunteering is helping, not hiring; giving, not taking; contributing, not counting.

In the end, we cannot and should not put a dollar value on volunteering. How can we put a monetary value on ordinary people doing extraordinary things? The value of volunteerism is priceless!