Wednesday, December 17, 2008

# 68: The match: How should a grant writer value volunteers hours?

Volunteers fit new windows at The Sumac Centre...Image via Wikipedia

When a grant application requires a match, most organizations will find it "in-kind." And, often much of the in-kind comes from volunteer hours. After all, where would non-profits be without volunteer hours? Many programs just couldn't fly.

So, how much are volunteer hours worth?

Independent Sector makes a rate available each year that's accepted by the Feds— currently $19.51/hour. They also list the value of a volunteer hour by state -- in NY state, where I am, the 2006 value was $26.18.

In addition, if a professional volunteers their professional services you can value them at their standard billing rates. Make sure you have documentation from them about their rate.

Points of Light Institute now has a calculator that uses Department of Labor rates to assign acceptable values for different kinds of volunteer labor. Careful, though. The rate is for the work, not the person, so, using the example from the Independent Sector, a doctor volunteering to paint a fence is worth a painters rate, not an MD's.

My clients use these different rates without any problem for both the grant application match and for valuing the documented in-kind hours for reporting purposes.

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Amelia said...

Hello Ruth,
Thank you for providing such a helpful blog. I am currently an educational writer, but I'm very interested in learning more about grant writing. I have an English degree, and I've seriously considered returning to school for an MSW, but with three children who will be going off to college in the near future, I don't think it's financially realistic. It seems that grant writing may be a nice combination of my past experience and present desire to help. Do you have any recommendations for someone in my situation? I've been reading about online courses with The Foundation Center and University of Illinois. Are you familiar with either of these courses or others? I would greatly appreciate any advice you or others may have.
Thank you!
Tammy Staats

Ruth Wahtera said...

Hi, Tammy,
Sounds like you're entering an exciting new stage in your life. Grant writing might be a very good choice for you, given your interest in social work. You can get a good overview of what social workers do as you work with them on grant applications. Then, you'll know whether that's something you want to do when you're financially able.

I have never take a grant writing course, so I can't recommend one to you. The Foundation Center has an excellent reputation, and if you like structured learning, it can't hurt. If money is an issue, or you are self-motivated, there's plenty of information on the web. Just keep reading, following links, subscribing to blogs.

The best way to get started is to volunteer with an agency doing work that you care about. Everyone needs grants written. If they have a grant writer on staff, that person can coach you. If they have no one, consider finding a coach. Then you can talk about the process and product as you work on a real grant application.

[Here's an advertisement from me. I've recently started doing some coaching. If you're interested, drop me an email.]

Keep me posted on your progress, Tammy.
All the best,