Maybe it’s more useful to turn the equation round

Maybe it’s more useful to turn the equation round and treat volunteering as money-equivalents donated into the system instead of “work we didn’t have to pay for”?

Take the current controversy over funds raised by charity shops versus funds raised by using commercial companies to collect clothes donations and give charities a percentage of the profits.

In a sense the charity shop volunteers could be seen as displacing some of the commercial company staff, but by using the original donations of goods more efficiently the work they do is generating funds which the charity will later use to pay people (doctors, researchers, teachers or whatever).

I too prefer the social return type of model as I think it is important to recognize this when assessing the value of any volunteer involvement (if you want to measure it, which I think is a good and useful exercise to do). It would, I’m sure have a much greater figure than the usual minimum wage approach, which I find a very peculiar and frankly insulting measure because there are such a massive range of volunteer roles.

And the fact that it shouldn’t be seen as how much is “saved” by an organization or a country’s economy but rather what the extra value is of involving volunteers, which could also include savings in the way that Rob described for meals on wheels but more importantly, the impact on a local community and even a country and the world as a whole.

The question that needs to be answered here is can we develop this kind of tool to support organizations to do this in as easy a way as possible (as if it’s too complicated and too much research is needed the old method will sadly remain)? Of course there would always be factors that are relevant to add in/adapt depending on your group/organizations goals. And how would we then get funders and the government to see the value of this model and the impact that is measured. Interesting thoughts for a Friday afternoon!

This is a debate between measuring what volunteers do (which the sector is great at) aka ‘the numbers game’ and the difference volunteers make (which the sector is generally hopeless at). I’m not sure anybody on here disagrees with the view that we should be focussing on the latter. However to do it requires the investment of time and resources, can be incredibly complex and often requires longitudinal studies. As I understand the manual produced by John Hopkins, it is to provide some form of international comparative analysis through a survey.

Bearing in mind how difficult measuring impact is, is it practical to think something can be produced that measures impact that is a) systematic and comparable b) straightforward and c) would be taken up by countries? I really don’t think so Therefore the question is whether internationally the measurement of the simple financial value is better than not doing anything? I disagree with Jayne and say actually it is – with the caveat that it’s done properly with the context explained. It’s pretty simple to do, easy to understand and can produce eye-grabbing headlines. That’s important because it’s easy to forget in our cocoon how little volunteering is understood (actually I would add in our cocoon come to that).

Using the financial figures can be used as the gateway to introducing the debates about investigating the impact of volunteering. It’s not perfect by a long way and runs the risk, if not done properly, that it does just come down to the supposed saving on employee costs but better that than not measuring anything.

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