Volunteering worth £324bn a year taking into account ‘true value’ of trustees

The total value of volunteering in England and Wales is worth £324bn to the UK economy, research is estimating based on updated analysis of the value of charity trustees.

This is 14.7% of the UK’s gross domestic product (GDP), which in 2022 was £2.2 trillion. In comparison manufacturing is worth 19.5% of GDP.

The analysis by employee volunteering organisation Works4U also compares the value of volunteering to NHS spending in 2021/22 of £190bn.

The research seeks to update previous analysis of the value of trustees, which was last carried out in 2017 and estimated their total value was £3.5bn, based on each trustee working just under five hours a week at the national average wage of £26,500 a year for 35 hours a week job.

But Works4U said: “Using the national average wage rate is clearly not an accurate or representative comparator to a charity trustee. It has nothing to do with the actual role and responsibilities.”

It warns that “the average wage comparator is seriously under-estimating the value of trustees”.

“An accurate or authentic comparator needs to take into account the actual work and responsibility that a charity trustee has, along with the skills and experience that are required”.

Value of trustees

Its analysis instead puts the average value of a chair of trustees at £60,000 a year based on their experience, responsibilities and analysis of pension scheme data for the chairs of companies' boards.

A treasurer’s average value is more likely to be £35,100, while around four ordinary trustees would be worth £105,300.

This brings the total average value of a charity’s board to just over £200,000, according to Works4U’s research.

As a local snapshot the monetary value of trustees in Hammersmith and Fulham is estimated to be £86m and the total value of volunteering in the area is £751m. This is based on the London Borough having 431 charities and 2,543 trustees.

Researchers recommend that greater clarity is given on the value of trustees, to understand the skills needed for the role and how much of their time they are giving to their charity.

“We need to acknowledge that a charity trustee is usually a highly skilled volunteer role” and therefore “any monetary value calculation” of their value to the running of charities “needs to reflect this”.

Works4U points out that there is a lack of analysis of the value of trustees and “no single accepted formula or assumption” to calculate their value.

Higher profile among politicians

It adds that its analysis shows that volunteering should be seen by politicians “as important as manufacturing and the NHS”.

However, while there are “whole dedicated” departments to business and trade and health and social care, the charity sector is only one aspect of a junior ministerial brief within the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

As the charity sector’s role within the economy is not given as much weight as other areas “there is no real or regular economic data about volunteering”. In addition, it is not included in traditional GDP calculations, said Works4U.

“There is a general perception across the country that volunteering is a good and positive thing in the UK, but with the absence of economic data about its importance, decision-makers are mostly in the dark about whether to support its development,” said report author Dominic Pinkney, who is chief executive of Works4U, Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Centre and Volunteer Centre Camden.

He added: “If government treated volunteering as it does manufacturing, it would devote resources to work with local volunteering infrastructure charities and have national coordinated campaigns to help develop volunteering.’

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