Greg Baldwin, founder of VolunteerMatch, opened his article "Is Volunteering Worth It? The Economics of Generosity" as published in the Huffington Post with the following:
"Yesterday, Independent Sector released its 2011 estimate for the value of an hour of volunteering -- $21.79. It is a number used widely in the field to estimate the scope and impact of volunteering in our communities, but not everyone agrees we should be reducing the hope, inspiration and goodwill of volunteering into dollar and cents."
The conclusion he came to is that, "It is not whether the number is right or wrong, or too big or too small. It is about visibility. It is about bringing into focus a thousand acts of kindness to recalibrate our understanding of our economy and ourselves."
After some thought, I came to the same conclusion as Mr. Baldwin -- putting a monetary value on volunteering is a telling way to demonstrate the productivity of volunteerism, but it does not and cannot ever reflect the true spirit and beneficial outcomes of volunteerism. Regardless of the number anyone assigns to it, volunteerism is generosity from within, the desire to help because it is the right thing to do, and it's impact transcends economic outcomes. And at the end of the day, the number doesn't really matter. It is simply a way to show service from an economical standpoint and to get some attention and recognition from the sectors that don't typically give it much thought.