Value of a Volunteer in Mass. still Highest among the 50 States

April 13, 2019 — The value of an hour of a volunteer's time in Massachusetts rose 3.1% last year to $32.15, making it the highest among the 50 states, according to a newly released analysis.

According to Independent Sector, a national leadership forum that represents thousands of nonprofits, foundations, and corporate giving programs, the value of volunteer time is higher only in Washington, D.C. ($41.72 an hour), an increase of 5.8% from the year before.

Nationally, volunteer time in 2018 was pegged at $25.43 an hour, up 3% from the year before.

The value of a volunteer's time in Massachusetts in 2017 was also the highest among the 50 states, second only to Washington, D.C.

Among the other New England states, volunteer time in 2018 was highest in Connecticut, at $31.05 per hour, and lowest in Maine, at $23.12 per hour.

The numbers were released in connection with National Volunteer Week, which ends today.

“Volunteerism has been a driving force in the strength and power of our civil society since this country’s founding,” said Dan Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector. “We know that giving of our time, talent, and effort transforms organizations, communities, and our nation, and also has profound effects on the individuals giving their time. The Value of Volunteer Time gives us just one concrete measure to illustrate the power of individuals to transform communities.”

Cardinali noted that the percentage of people who volunteer has declined, citing figures from the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute, which indicate that the volunteer rate nationally dropped from about 29% to roughly 25%. Based on an adult population of 252 million, that translates into a decrease of more than 10 million American volunteers.

He added that the giving rate is dropping at the same time ”“ down from 67% in 2000 to 56% in 2014.

"Total dollars are up, which is a good thing, but only because the most affluent Americans are giving more and not because more Americans are giving, and that’s not a good thing," he said. "Whether it’s giving or volunteering, you want to see everyone participating in civil society ”“ you want to see everyone saying, “I have a stake in my community and I’m committed to doing what I can to make this a better place.

"When increasingly the richest people are participating in that way, we have a less healthy civil society and, as a result, democracy."

Nonprofits tend to pay employees less than businesses do, and are at a further disadvantage when it comes to reimbursement for driving, according to Cardinali, who said businesses can reimburse their employees at a rate of 54.5 cents per mile, "but volunteer mileage has been fixed at a mere 14 cents per mile for over two decades."

He asked, "What does that say about the way we value volunteers? If you’re driving for business, every mile is 4 times more valuable than if you’re driving to make life better for another human being?

The value of volunteer time is based on the hourly earnings (approximated from yearly values) of all production and non-supervisory workers on private non-farm payrolls average (based on yearly earnings provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) for the national average. The national average is increased by 12 percent to estimate for fringe benefits. Independent Sector, in partnership with IMPLAN, indexes this figure to determine state values.

Independent Sector notes that the value of a volunteer's work is based on his or her volunteer work, not his or her earning power. If a doctor is painting a fence or a lawyer is sorting groceries, he or she is not performing his or her specialized skill for the nonprofit, and their volunteer hour value would not be higher.