What is the Value of a Volunteer?

Volunteers are gold

My apologies to my usual readers in the hospitality industry as it’s a bit off topic, but in many ways may still be relevant if you volunteer for something, or you perhaps have volunteers that help run your lodging organization.

Volunteers are the backbone of most non-profit organizations. Many go unrecognized and underappreciated sadly.

Back in 2008 I wrote a rather ranty blog post about Why people don’t volunteer much anymore and why the ones that do deserve medals! And while a rant, it still holds true, volunteers don’t get thanked enough amongst other things. I find it interesting that that post still garners a lot of traffic, which sadly means it’s still an issue.

Aside from the actual time that volunteers spend, I don’t think organizations really understand the monetary and marketing value of a volunteer.

One of the organizations that my husband and I have volunteered with for the last three plus years, this morning gave me a wake up call, and not in a good way. And it made me take a step back and really evaluate, what is the value of a volunteer? Why have I, and my husband, spent so many donated hours as well as money volunteering for this organization? And do they really realize the value of a volunteer? It made me wonder. I don’t think that many organizations do.

While I realize not all volunteers may have equal “net” worth, they all have equal value. But I’m going to over analyze the actual “net” worth value of someone who “spreads the word” about an organization.

If you have people like that in your organization and most do. A word of advice, it’s not wise to piss them off, it can have some very public repercussions. I am not going to go there, but you can feel free to use your imagination.(insert snarky comment of your choice here.)

I’ll talk about the value instead:

What marketing and branding value does a volunteer give an organization? Especially one that’s a “broadcaster.”?

Has your organization every actually thought about it?

Put a dollar value to it?

I am going to use myself as an example for this one, because I think it’s somewhat applicable. My husband and myself tell everyone about the organization we have been volunteering for, we both talk to, and try to educate several dozen people per week, each, in the course of a normal week, we have exposure to a lot of people. So on average we spread the word to about a thousand people+ each year.

In addition I do webinars and seminars across the country, I end up speaking about, or having discussions about a topic that ties into the lodging industry, and what we volunteer for ties into that, and in the course of the seminars and discussions more brand awareness is passed along. Add another several thousand people who were just made aware of the organization.

I am in Toastmasters and I’ve lost count of the number of speeches I’ve done, both at my two home clubs and at other clubs promoting, educating and talking about the organization. Add another say 500+ people per year added to the mix.

Add in the fact we talk about it frequently on our private social media pages to friends and connections from around the world, we mention it publicly on social media channels, Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Linkedin, Pinterest, etc. While I am a small fry as influencers go, I am an influencer within my industry and within my communities. I have a lot of connections that are big influencers, and they have passed posts along about the organization. I can’t even put a number to the reach of that, but I’ll just say it’s a lot, an awful lot.

How much are your volunteers worth when they promote you for free?

How much would it cost you in monetary value to promote, if you had to spend actual money on it?

Add in that most volunteers donate to an organization they volunteer with, for fundraisers, for events and more, and so do their families. So it’s actual money as well that most volunteers bring to the table.

I’d suggest every organization out there that has volunteers put, an actual dollar value on their volunteers. Guess what, you would probably be a tad surprised and probably flabbergasted at the value. Appreciate them ALL a bit more and thank them more often. Volunteers are priceless.

I’ll ask again. What is the Value of a Volunteer?