John McMillan: Value of volunteering not always so simple

I’m under no illusion that I can change the world, but I can make it better in small increments.
Jun 15, 2014

I’m under no illusion that I can change the world, but I can make it better in small increments. 

Albert Einstein said “…not everything that counts can be counted. And not everything that can be counted, counts.” 

I’ll let you consider that one in your spare time.

Provided you read these columns, you know by now that I love a volunteer. The nonprofit world couldn’t get by without them and, seriously, our world is a better place because people care enough to make a difference in their community, their nation and in their world.

Still, what’s the value of a volunteer? Economically, it’s fairly straightforward. 

In 2013, the estimated value of a volunteer, for tax purposes at least, is $21.36 per hour. This estimate helps the bean counters of the world keep track of how much their company donations are worth; it helps the IRS determine a host of tax issues and it makes non-profits feel a little better at the end of the year when they add all the hours volunteers logged in helping their agency. 

According to an estimate from the Corporation for National and Community Service, just over 63 million Americans contribute 8.1 billion hours, collectively, of volunteer service worth $169 billion a year. For those of you with an eye on statistics, that’s 27 percent of the adult population of the U.S.

Last year we utilized just more than 40 volunteers to help with community projects. Put another way, that’s more than $6,000 added in one day of hard work. 

This year one of the projects we’re hoping to tackle is a walking path for Cumberland Mental Health. One of our long-standing partner agencies, Cumberland Mental Health staff hopes to use the path to better reach patients. Mental health care is a hot topic in America these days, not because it’s controversial, but because there is a desperate need for more programs to reach more patients. 

We can count ourselves lucky as a county that we have such a resource available in our own backyard.

United Way of Wilson County, as part of the national Day of Action, plans to enlist close to 40 or more local volunteers to give a day to clear foliage, scrape loose dirt and replace it with a packed trail that winds through a natural wooded area to allow clients of the agency to feel more at ease. We all know the advantage of a good walk in the woods.

It’s a creative solution utilizing a community’s creative volunteers willing to give a day’s work to improve their home and help their neighbors. Such acts are the glue of communities. It’s always been the signpost of thriving and giving community and always will be. 

Volunteering is giving, put very simply, not taking. For us, the coordination of such feats is taxing at minimum, but that’s what we have a volunteer coordinator for, who, by the way, works voluntarily.

John McMillin is president of the United Way of Wilson County. United Way of Wilson County helps support more than 30 local agencies, which help Wilson County residents. Email him at jmunitedway@bellsouth.net

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