Economic Value of Volunteering in Scotland

17 August 2014

There’s no doubt that Scotland’s volunteers are valuable. But how can we measure the social and economic value of volunteering?

The results of the 2014 Scottish Household Survey allow us to calculate volunteering effort in Scotland. We estimate, that formal volunteers contribute:

£2 BILLION to Scotland's economy


That certainly sounds impressive! This figure represents a simple financial calculation of the time (hours) volunteers have given to organisations or groups multiplied by the average (median) wage (feel free to download our economic calculation).

But there are practical and philosophical issues with using this approach. Counting hours provides a partial picture of the value of volunteers. For some, putting a £ sign on volunteering is distasteful and belittles the ideas, enthusiasm and experience volunteers bring. This passion and commitment is viewed as priceless. Also, there is the personal, social, community and environmental benefits to consider, although many of these are less tangible and/or difficult to measure.

To others, it’s a helpful indicator of the contribution that volunteers make. Assigning numbers can help to demonstrate in some way its societal and economic importance. A £ sign is certainly something that most people can relate to which is why an economic value can become a useful communication tool with the public and decision makers. So, perhaps the simplicity of this approach is its strength!

For organisations, being able to demonstrate the value of volunteering to a funder is a helpful way to attract funding, particularly where it can be demonstrated that each £X invested in volunteering generates a value of £Y. That’s why we’ve developed this simple step by step guide to help:

When using this measure, we would also advise that you take account of the other types of value that volunteering brings. Any publication of financial value should be put in the context of the societal value of the outputs of volunteering, and the inherent value of giving time freely. We particularly like this example from Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s impact report:

Example reporting: CAB Volunteering - how everyone benefits (2014)

"Based on evidence from almost 1,500 CAB volunteers, this report aims to tell the full story of the value of volunteering with the Citizens Advice service: for us as a service, for our volunteers, and our impact on communities and society as a result.

In 2012/13 we helped 2.1 million people to solve 6.6 million problems. To do so our 22,000 volunteers donated nearly 7 million hours to our service – that amounts to a contribution of £109 million worth of volunteering hours. Without this we would simply not be able to help as many people as we currently do.

But the value to society of CAB volunteering is even greater than this.

Our continual investment in our volunteers’ development ensures our clients receive quality advice and support. It also has tangible benefits for volunteers and society, through happier, healthier and more productive citizens. These benefits are wide-ranging and interlinked, but we have explored four key broad areas in this report. They are skill development and employability; soft skills and resilience; health and wellbeing; and community cohesion and engagement."


Further Resources

You may find the following resources helpful:


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