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Viral Volunteerism: 171 Billion Reasons to Give Back

The following article was originally posted on the GuideStar Trust blog. Click here to read the original post.

Have you ever stopped to think aboutVolunteer Hours Dollar Value the value of your volunteers? Every nonprofit certainly appreciates its volunteers, but I’m talking hard dollars and cents here. If you added up all the volunteer hours over the last year, how much would that actually be worth? For most nonprofits, the total sum might be staggering. Here’s why.

According to a report by, each volunteer hour is worth $22.14 per hour. If you consider that over 7.9 billion hours were donated in 2011 (according to The Federal Agency for Service & Volunteering), the total “value” of volunteer hours in the US exceeds $171 billion annually.

Corporate America’s Impact on Volunteerism

Simply stated, volunteers can be the greatest asset a nonprofit has. As I discussed in a previous article, corporate sponsors have started to realize this fact. These days, most major for-profits have some type of corporate volunteer program. If you’re not familiar with such programs, corporations typically partner with nonprofits by sending a steady stream of employees as volunteers. Some companies even offer paid time off for employees to volunteer. These arrangements can be especially beneficial for the nonprofit, as corporate employees tend to be highly skilled volunteers with expertise in areas such as marketing, accounting, technology, and other professional services.

Going Beyond Employee Volunteer Programs

Lately, we’ve been noticing a desire (by both nonprofits and corporate partners) to move “beyond” a traditional employee volunteer program. The natural progression is often for the corporation to make a financial contribution to further support the nonprofit’s mission. Sure, corporate financial donations are always appreciated, but such endowments can be quickly eaten up by the nonprofit’s operating budget. Such donations, though certainly helpful, rarely offer any lasting or ongoing value to the nonprofit. If this sounds familiar, perhaps it’s time I introduce you to a new concept: viral volunteerism.

What is Viral Volunteerism?

In today’s culture, it’s quite common to hear the word “viral” used to describe some silly YouTube video that managed to get millions of views. How could this concept ever apply to your volunteer programs and other services? Simply put, our research shows that every corporate sponsorship dollar assigned to new technology (specifically value-added software applications) has an obvious “viral” effect on the nonprofit’s mission and vision. Keep in mind that software donations aren’t a particularly new concept. For example, Microsoft has been leading the charge on this for years. However, I would argue that engaging corporate sponsors to help pay for new applications has an added “viral” effect (versus traditional software donation programs). Let’s take a closer look at a real-world example.

Why “Viral” is Better than “Free”

A food bank realizes it desperately needs a volunteer management tool like VolunteerHub. Instead of paying for it, the food bank sends a letter (click here for a free template) to its favorite corporate donor asking for the gift of technology. The corporate sponsor agrees and purchases the VolunteerHub subscription for the food bank. Instantly, the food bank sees a 40% improvement in volunteer operations and is able to re-allocate some of its volunteer hours to recruiting new volunteers. After one year of this arrangement, the food bank is able to increase total volunteer hours by 15% and reduce volunteer turnover by 5%. Simultaneously, the corporate sponsor sees the value that the food bank is getting from the software and decides to make a similar donation to 10 other nonprofits in the community.

So let’s take a deeper look at the value being created in this example. Keep in mind, each improvement is valued at $22.14 per volunteer hour used by a nonprofit.

  • Value for the food bank:
    • Free volunteer management tool, sponsored by the corporate partner
    • 40% improvement in operations, allowing for a re-allocation of volunteer hours to more value-added activities
    • 15% increase in total volunteer hours
    • 5% decrease in volunteer turnover
  • Value for the corporate sponsor:
    • Measurable value for each philanthropic dollar invested
    • Reinforced relationship with the food bank
    • Scalable philanthropic program, which can be offered to other charitable organizations
  • Value for the community:
    • Simply multiply the value experienced by the food bank times the number of software sponsorships offered by the corporate partner

Go Viral & Start Benefitting

I’d personally like to offer myself as a resource in helping nonprofits connect their operational needs to corporate philanthropy. Since 1996, VolunteerHub has been used by nonprofits to track over 5 billion hours (yes, billion with a “b”). We’ve established a strong record of helping nonprofits get connected with corporate sponsors. Feel free to reach out to me, and I’ll be glad to help.

Headshot of Corbit Harrison

About Corbit Harrison

Corbit Harrison is VolunteerHub's Chief Operating Officer and has been actively helping nonprofit organizations engage constituents for over 10 years.

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