Value: It’s a head-scratching concept, right? Like, what is the value of friendship, or the value of sitting next to a waterfall, letting the sound soothe you?
I just finished reading the book, “The Worth of a Volunteer; And You Thought Physics was Super Complicated, Volume 2.” Some experts say we should use a set dollar amount for volunteer time spent and other folks think we should attach an amount equivalent to the job being done by each volunteer. No matter how you approach it, (for something completely different, see The Value of a Volunteer: $I#.@S) a monetary amount is routinely attributed to volunteer hours, because announcing at the annual luncheon “our volunteers contributed the equivalent of 87,632 hugs” just doesn’t have the same oomph.
But hey, what about volunteer managers? What is our time worth beyond volunteer management? You know for all the extra stuff we do. Just for comparison sake, let’s try using a dollar amount and look at average salaries for all the added jobs we do. You know, the ones that never make it into the help wanted ads for: “Volunteer Coordinator. Lots of fun times. Must love working with people and Earl Grey Tea. Super-duper positive attitude is required. Must be good at multi-tasking and blowing up balloons.”
Mediator, including arbitration and conciliation: $65000 yearly or $31.25 hourly. Don’t scoff just yet. We are continuously arbitrating. We mediate volunteers and staff misunderstandings, we conciliate with volunteers who want to quit because they were not treated well, or recognized or engaged in a timely manner. Heck, we are mediating from the moment a volunteer sets foot in the door. Gone are the days when we just slot a volunteer into a handy dandy role. We arbitrate everything from how the volunteer will utilize their skills to the flexibility of their assignment (pssst, it’s called volunteer engagement for a reason).
CEO small business: $158000 yearly or $75 hourly. Bear with me here. Let’s be honest. We, volunteer managers run our own human capital company. It may not state that on our job description, but it’s the truth. We are HR, marketing, legal, mediation, financial, visionaries all rolled into one. We run the operation.
Marketing: $64000 yearly or $30.75 hourly. So yeah, I know I included marketing in the above description. I’m talking about another marketing here, marketing our organizations to our communities above and beyond what is done by the marketing department (no disrespect guys, you do a fine job). Our volunteers, (like an additional huge team of town criers that just fell from the heavens) through WOMM (word of mouth marketing) are out there, day in and day out, promoting our organizations because we, volunteer managers equip them with facts, stories, inspiration and a call to action.
Babysitter: $15 hourly or $31,000 yearly if they worked 40 hours a week. Oh heck yeah, we babysit. We babysit staff’s kids when they bring them in on a day that school is out and the staff member trots them down to our office saying, “oh, my son Pax and his sister Serenity are so mature for their age and would love to volunteer for the next 8 hours.” Then Pax and Serenity proceed to run up and down the hallways screaming at each other, tossing the airplanes they made out of the client files and you get in trouble. Or how about the time the CEO brings in their distant cousin’s niece who was kicked out of summer camp and now her family thinks “volunteering for some poor guy” will straighten her out?
Psychologist: $72000 yearly or $34.50 hourly. Ok, I wanted to use psychiatrist at $200,000 yearly, but we can’t prescribe medication although we may very well recommend a person go get some chemical help so there’s that. Yup, we are known for our empathetic listening and not only do we listen to volunteers, we listen to staff too. They seek us out to vent, empty their guts and bend our ears because we’re so darned good at understanding. Organizations would have to pay buckets of money that was probably earmarked for a senior manager retreat to counsel overworked staff and we do it routinely. You’re welcome.
Actor: $50 hourly or $104,000 yearly. Stop laughing because we regularly have to employ acting skills. Uh huh, how about that time when out of nowhere, the rules concerning what volunteers are allowed to do become restricted and we have to “sell” it to the volunteers although we vehemently disagree with the new rules? That’s when we could honestly win an Academy Award for our performance. I can see it now: “Best performance by an actor in the “Oh Boy, This is Some Great News and We Don’t Care If You’ll Love It or Not” category, goes to volunteer manager Betsy! Yay! Come on up and get your golden two-faced statue, Betsy!”
Volunteer coordinator: $15.99 hour or $33,250 yearly. Hey wait, that’s most of us! Jeesh, we make just a little over a babysitter (and let me just say, I am not putting down babysitters; you guys have a really tough job and we respect you because we have done your job (see above) and we get it!)
Project manager: $75000 yearly or $36 hourly. We manage complicated projects and engage people. It’s that simple.
Cheerleader: Not going to include salary; it’s convoluted but somewhere in the $100 range per game for pro sports. Clearly it’s not a living wage. I guess cheerleaders are kinda like us volunteer managers-it’s a privilege to have the job so don’t think about the money. Anyway, we are the ultimate cheerleaders! Rah!
Animal control: All right, I just threw that in because my office was at the front of the building and I was always the one to shoo out the invading species. This one time, there was a baby rattlesnake…well, I won’t bore you with the whole jacket and rake details and I’m still here, so it turned out fine (animal control people don’t make nearly enough money for what they do!).
Ok, if we now do complicated math and add all these salaries up and then divide by 100, no wait that’s decimal, hmmm, maybe the number of entries, yes, I think that’s right, then our average salary should be about $36 hourly or (drum roll) $75,000 a year on average, meaning that with any experience, we are up in the $100,000 range (£82,000 or $145,000 Australian or $131,000 Canadian or $151,000 New Zealand). That’s more like it.
But then we have to throw in all the hours we work off the clock, like when volunteers call us after hours, or when we recruit new volunteers while at the store. Or how about when we go to a volunteer’s granddaughter’s soccer game, or when we spend our Wednesday evening at a volunteer funeral? Or how about Saturday afternoon when we attend that sewing circle meeting to thank the ladies that made a pillow cover embroidered with the phrase “you’re never given more than you can handle” for the pillow on the lobby bench? Or what about when we patiently listen to a staff member who comes up to us at a restaurant on a Friday night to complain that a volunteer was late and then we educate them on how to treat a volunteer while we chew our now cold Fettuccine Alfredo?
I guess we have to say we work 70 hours a week, so hmmm. No wonder we only make $15.99 an hour.