Economic Value of Volunteering

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 2018 Scottish Household Survey allow us to calculate volunteering effort in Scotland. We estimate that in total volunteers contribute:

£5.5 BILLION to Scotland's economy

*£2.3bn from formal volunteering and £3.2bn from informal volunteering (numbers have been rounded to the nearest million or 1,000,000).

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 for Scotland.

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 are the personal, social, community and environmental benefits to consider, although many of these are less tangible and/or difficult to measure.

To others, the economic value of volunteering is 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.

It also provides a helpful way for organisations to both attract funding and demonstrate to funders the value of volunteering. So, perhaps the simplicity of this approach is its strength! 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 the Citizen’s Advice Bureau’s (CAB) impact report:

"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." (CAB Volunteering - how everyone benefits, 2014)


Further Resources

You may find the following resource helpful: