The Charity Sleuths

What the Intelligent Giving researchers are uncovering, and whose turn it is to make the tea

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

It could all be so simple...

One of the recommendations made in the Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) 2005 - the accounting guidelines issued by the Charity Commission - is that charities disclose the economic value of the contribution of volunteers. Of the 300 or so charities that we have reviewed so far, perhaps four have done so.

We have come across at least two different protocols for calculating how much volunteer contribution is worth, so why don't charities make use of them? Does anyone know?

Neill

3 Comments:

Anonymous Simon said...

Come on now, it's simply incorrect to call it a requirement. In fact, it's very specifically not required. To quote from the Charity Commission's website:

"SORP 2005 confirms that the valuation and inclusion of volunteers’ contribution to charity activities is not required within the SoFA [Statement of Financial Activities]; however the SORP encourages trustees to provide readers with sufficient information to understand the role and contribution of volunteers."

How many of the 300 meet that wider definition? Allowing an understanding of the "role and contribution" of volunteers is very different to disclosing their "economic value". As the Charity Commission recognises, not everything can be put into monetary terms.

10:36 am  
Blogger The Intelligent Giving Team said...

Simon,

Your point has been taken and the blog has been altered to reflect the fact the disclosure of the economic value of volunteers is not required.

The question still remains as to why charities do not make more of an effort to do this when there are protocols in place that make it relatively easy.

11:18 am  
Anonymous Simon said...

I think there are probably two reasons.

Firstly, though you say that the protocols make it easy, there is still a cost. To make the figures in any way meaningful, there needs to be an accurate record not only of the time but the type of work done by volunteers. In many charities, this simply isn't recorded, and to change that would require an investment of time or in new technology. That's particularly the case with charities that are volunteer-led, where paid staff are vastly outnumbered by volunteers; in charities with multiple local branches (for example, Help the Aged); and in charities where there is a large base of fundraising volunteers who may be only loosely connected to the organisation (e.g., their only contact with the charity is when they hand over the cheque from their annual coffee morning - nobody knows how long they spent baking cakes and chivvying all their friends to come along).

For the second reason, I can do no better than quote from The Dollar Value of Volunteer Time by Susan J. Ellis:

"Apart from any consideration of the difficulties of collecting data or of finding appropriate dollar amounts, the arguments against measuring volunteer contributions against a monetary standard boil down to: it doesn't feel right. There is a sense that the value of volunteering is intrinsic and that any attempts to measure it - particularly with as crass a tool as money - will, in fact, de-value the activity."

Whether you agree with that is a matter of opinion, of course, but I think it's probably what discourages many charities from trying.

2:35 pm  

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