By Richard H. Levey
The estimated national value of a volunteer hour during 2021 was $29.95, according to calculations by the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute, which is part of the university’s School of Public Policy. The Do Good Institute based the figure on data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The U.S. average of an hour value of volunteer labor has increased every year since 2001 – the first year for which data is available – when it was $16.27. During 2020, the hourly rate was estimated at $28.54. The 4.9% increase between 2020 and 2021 mirrors the growth between 2019 and 2020, and has only been exceeded during the last 20 years by the 7% increase seen between 2018 and 2019. Between 2001 and 2018, growth rates fluctuated between 1.6% and 4%.
The estimated hourly valuation was provided by Washington, D.C.-based Independent Sector, a national membership organization that brings together representatives from nonprofits, foundation and corporate giving programs in an effort to strengthen civil society. The figure was released as part of National Volunteer Week, a commemoration confirmed by presidential proclamation to be April 17 through April 23, 2022.
“The essential contributions made by our nation’s volunteers to lift up, strengthen, and restore communities to make them healthy and equitable for people are always deeply appreciated, but never more so than during the pandemic,” Dan Cardinali, president and CEO of Independent Sector, said via a statement. “Despite COVID-19’s devastating impact, which began in 2020 and continues through today, our country’s volunteers continued to show up, virtually and in person, with their compassion, skills, and abilities. They often put their own lives at risk. They are the threads that connect us as a nation, constantly reinforcing the foundation of civil society and helping build pathways so we all can thrive.”
An hour of volunteer time was valued highest within the District of Colombia, where in 2021 it was pegged at $50.48. An hour within U.S. territory Puerto Rico was valued at $14.11. Among the 50 states, an hour within Washington state was valued at $34.87, while Mississippi had the dubious honor of having an hour of volunteer time valued at $22.57, the lowest among the states.
The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 per hour since 2009, although many states have mandated higher wages. Washington state tops the list with a minimum of $14.49 per hour, with SeaTac, Wash. setting the highest municipality minimum wage at $17.54 per hour. Neighboring city Seattle allows companies with more than 500 employees to start wages at $17.27 per hour.
In contrast, Georgia and Wyoming allow a $5.15 per hour exception in very limited cases in which employers are not covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, but for the most part the federal minimum wage applies.
“The formidable challenges presented by the pandemic that persisted throughout 2021 only served to redouble the resolve of our country’s volunteers to be a source of comfort and strength for neighbors in communities nationwide,” Nathan Dietz, senior researcher, Do Good Institute, said via a statement.
“While the immensity of the value of their contributions can never truly be calculated, the value of Value of Volunteer Time serves to provide a measure of the significance of the support and services they provide when our communities and neighbors are in need,” according to Dietz, led the research.