Handbook of Research on Nonprofit Economics and Management
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Handbook of Research on Nonprofit Economics and Management

Second Edition

Edited by Bruce A. Seaman and Dennis R. Young

Building on the success of the first edition, this thoroughly revised and expanded edition explores (1) areas of general agreement from previous research; (2) areas of conflicting results and unexplored questions; (3) the relative roles of theory, data availability and empirical analysis in explaining gaps in our knowledge; and (4) what must be done to improve our knowledge and extend the literature. Selected original chapters addressing especially challenging topics include the value of risk management to nonprofit decision-making; nonprofit wages theory and evidence; the valuation of volunteer labor; property tax exemption for nonprofits; when is competition good for the third sector; and product diversification and social enterprise; international perspectives; the application of experimental research and the macroeconomic effects of the nonprofit sector.
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Chapter 16: The valuation of volunteer labor

Neil Bania and Laura Leete


Considerable theoretical and empirical progress has advanced our understanding of the role and value of the volunteer, resulting in improved estimates of volunteer labor valuation. Yet this task still involves conceptual and methodological challenges. Conceptually, costs and benefits accrue to the organization, the volunteer, and to society. Depending on one’s purpose, the focus may be on one or more of these concepts. To date, researchers have pursued three approaches: opportunity cost, replacement cost, and organizational value. Methodological challenges result from a lack of consensus on how to define volunteerism. There is still no comprehensive assessment of methodological differences for counting volunteer hours and researchers have not clearly documented which approaches yield the most accurate estimates. More generally, on-going analysis of volunteer hours in national datasets is largely missing and research that directly measures either the replacement value or the organizational value of volunteers is in its infancy.

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