The Value of Training Volunteer Staff

In recent months, we’ve had several conversations with our clients on how to properly quantify the value and return on investment for training their volunteer staff. You have a person in your organization who receives zero monetary compensation and yet, you are preparing to provide a dollarized service or benefit for this person. How do you calculate the value of that training?

The value of the training is not necessarily a function of the dollarized compensation of the individual. Instead, it is based on the increased value that is acquired by the organization. Here’s a simple analogy: I have staff member A who is responsible for accomplishing task B. By providing additional training, staff member A can now complete task B in 50% of the time with 50% of the defects. So, therefore, my productivity rate rises from from 1.0 to 4. I’m now getting four times the end value from that same person. The fact that they are volunteer staff is irrelevant.

Although quantitative measures are valuable, there is a much broader perspective that should be taken into account. As Peter Drucker wrote, “organizational volunteers should not be seen as just simply volunteers, but more appropriately as unpaid professionals.” By providing training, the organization recoups a win in terms of increased productivity and efficiency. However, the organization is also compensating its unpaid professionals with additional skills in addition to other non-monetary compensation (e.g. good feelings for helping out the community, for giving back, for supporting a cause in which they believe, et cetera). So training for volunteers makes sense from a dollar standpoint, as well as from an organizational standpoint.

Lastly, there is always the concept of organizational bonding and “stickiness.” When we provide this additional training to our unpaid professionals we are also taking a step in increasing that person’s fealty, loyalty, and connectedness to our organization, and thereby simultaneously attacking some of the other long-term issues of organizational management, such as retention and turnover. Not only do we become a more efficient and effective organization, but we move closer to being able to sustain that level of performance for the long-term.

And who would have thought that teaching someone how to use Microsoft Excel could be so valuable?