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Casey Thomas

Article Abstract Week 9

Handy, Femida and Laurie Mook. Volunteering and Volunteers: Benefit-Cost Analysis, Research on
Social Work Practice, Vol.21, No.4 (2011): 412-420.

In this article, Handy, Femida and Mook examine the implications for organizations and
individuals of using a cost-benefit analysis for volunteer work (p. 412). They argue that it is important
for organizations using volunteer labor to understand and keep track of the costs that come with it (p.
412). Because many non-profits see volunteer labor as free labor, they dont always allocate the
necessary managerial resources to maximize its utility in the way they would for a resource they
purchased (p. 412). Also contributing to the tendency for organizations not to examine the costs and
benefits of volunteering is the idea that because the volunteer is a do-gooder it would not be
appropriate to evaluate their labor like other common transactions (p. 412). However, Handy, Femida
and Mook argue that in order to recruit the best volunteers for an organization, it is necessary to
understand what benefits the volunteers are receiving from giving their labor to the organization, and
what it costs them to do so. They operate under the assumption that for volunteering to be a win-win
situation, the volunteers and the organization must have more benefit than cost (p. 412). In this way,
the article examines the costs and benefits of volunteering for both organizations and individuals.
A consumption model, or private benefits model, assumes that volunteers get a warm glow or
personal fulfillment from volunteering at agencies (p.412). An investment-focused model assumes that
volunteers view the time they spend volunteering as an investment in themselves (p. 412). The returns
on this investment can come in the form of learning new skills and increasing their human capital,

mental and physical health, and expanding their social networks to increase their social capital (p.
413). Under another model, the public-goods, or altruistic model, people volunteer because they
believe their contribution will benefit others in society in a way to which the volunteer attaches
importance (p. 413). Most scholars categorize volunteers as impure altruists, people who care about
both the private and public benefits of volunteering (p. 413). Handy, Femida and Mook also
differentiate between volunteers involved in board governance and front-line human service providers,
and the types of benefits each receive; the former enhancing their social status, and the latter getting to
help more people (p. 413).
Individuals incur costs through volunteering as well (p. 413). They might wind up having to pay for
childcare, transportation, or supplies, and they also incur opportunity costs by volunteering when
theoretically they could have been working for a profit.
A study in the United Kingdom showed that organizations that use volunteer labor see a
significant return on the funds they invest in volunteers. For every pound invested in a volunteer, they
saw 1.3- 13.5 pounds returned in the value of the volunteers work (p. 415). Although, volunteers often
produce significant returns on investment, there can come a point at which the benefits of volunteers
are outweighed by their costs. To illustrate, one study showed that as the cost of volunteers increased,
organizations chose to use fewer volunteers (p.415). Some costs associated with using volunteers
include conflicts with labor unions, conflict with paid staff members who worry that they will be
replaced by volunteers, and liability issues. Additionally, high turnover in volunteers can mean
increased management costs (p. 415).
Handy, Femida and Mook also discuss how volunteer labor can be delineated and evaluated in
terms of costs and benefits to organizations, through using an Expanded Value Added Statement. To
determine an hourly rate for volunteer work, they used the North American Industry Classification
system (p 416). A challenge this presents is difficulty determining which valuation method to use. Even
using the current market value, it can be difficult to determine the current market value for many of the
types of labor that volunteers provide. The article discusses using the replacement cost method, a
surrogate, survey techniques, and restoration avoidance costs as methods for valuation (p.416). The

authors assert that it is important for non-profits to look at the monetary and non monetary value of
volunteers, encouraging them to consider volunteer contributions when contextualizing ratios such as
administrative costs to program costs (p. 418).