Assigning value to your volunteer labour

Many grantmakers allow or even encourage you to stipulate how much volunteer labour your organisation will be contributing to a project within a grant application. Make sure you show them how you've figured out your figures.

Your organisation may not have much money to contribute to a project, but it may have lots of other things it can chip in – staff time, volunteer labour and pro bono support, to name a few.

Many grantmakers allow or even encourage you to include the value of volunteer labour. Often, they even have a field for this on a grant application form budget.

Staff time and pro bono support are relatively easy to quantify; volunteer labour less so. The grantmaker may itself tell you what dollar figure to apply to volunteer labour, but if it doesn't you're usually free to supply your own figures.

Arriving at a figure

Based on NSW peak volunteering body, Centre for Volunteering's Cost of Volunteering Calculator, volunteers are now worth $43.27 per hour (if you look at what you probably would’ve had to pay for the services if you hadn't got it from a volunteer). You can estimate the average cost per hour by entering in ‘1’ in the ‘All ages’ field and selecting ‘Per Year’ in the ‘How are you estimating volunteer hours?’ field.

These are the figures your organisation should plug in when you're doing your project budgeting and applying for grants, that is "x" hours at $43.27 per hour.

Accounting for professional labour

If your project calls on the voluntary labour of someone whose professional or trade skills makes them more valuable than $43.27 an hour, you should bump your figures up (it could be as high as $150-$500 an hour, depending on the volunteer's usual rate).

If you don't know what an hour of your volunteer's time is worth (and don't want to ask), search for the latest ABS statistics on average wages for that profession, or check the PayScale website.

Tips for beginners:

  • If the grantmaker stipulates a per-hour figure for pro bono labour, use that instead of the ones above.
  • Whatever figures you use in your grant application, ensure you take note of how you have arrived at them in case you have to justify them within the application form or acquittal. Your explanation could be as simple as a footnote next to the figure, with an explanation as follows: "Figure based on Centre for Volunteering's Cost of Volunteering Calculator for volunteers, published on the Funding Centre." (
  • Don't inflate your figures – grantmakers can sniff out an exaggeration and may mark you down for it.
  • If the grantmaker doesn't explicitly say whether or not they allow volunteer labour to be included as part of a budget, give them a call to ask. (If they're hard to contact, include your estimation anyway but make sure it's clearly marked as a pro bono contribution.)

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