Volunteer Measurement FAQs

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What is the Volunteer Measurement Project (VMP)?
The Volunteer Measurement Project is a coalition of volunteer promotion organizations, the authors of the ILO Manual on the Measurement of Volunteering, and statistical agencies which aims to disseminate this Manual and promote its implementation around the world.

Why do we need to measure volunteering?
Volunteering is a crucial renewable resource for social, economic, and environmental problem-solving.
However, despite its enormous contributions, volunteering has long been marginalized in policy circles and public debates. One reason for this has been the lack of solid and reliable information on the scope, scale, distribution, and economic value of volunteer work. Solid data will demonstrate the value of volunteer effort, allow countries to make better use of volunteer energies, and put volunteering on the policy map of countries.

What is the ILO Manual on the Measurement of Volunteering?
The ILO Manual offers the first official, permanent system for the collection of data on volunteering.
Issued by the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2011, it provides national statistical agencies with a common definition and methodology for measuring the amount and economic value of volunteer work through regular labour force or other household surveys.

Some surveys have already been done on volunteering. Why do we need a new approach?
While a significant amount of data has been gathered on volunteering in some countries, there has been no common definition, methodology or approach used.
Most existing data have been assembled through one-time surveys utilizing diverse definitions, or through large general purpose surveys that often use small samples and only one or two questions about volunteering. As a result, findings are inconsistent, no systematic comparisons are possible either across countries or over time, and opportunities to assess approaches to volunteer management and promotion are being lost.

What is the advantage of using the ILO Manual?
The ILO Manual represents the first-ever internationally sanctioned approach for gathering official data on the amount, character, and value of volunteering.
It is cost-effective, efficient, reliable, and feasible in a wide variety of countries. It will generate cross-nationally comparable data on the number of volunteers, the volunteering rate, the demographic characteristics of volunteers, the work that volunteers do, and the contribution that volunteers make to local, national, regional, and global economies.

How will implementing the ILO Manual help our country?
Measuring volunteering in a systematic and comparable way will boost the visibility
of volunteer work, encourage more volunteer involvement, provide a basis to gauge the effectiveness of volunteer promotion efforts, and create a more enabling policy environment for volunteer activity, all of which will allow volunteers to expand the already notable contributions they make to improving health, expanding educational opportunities, promoting economic growth, and responding to disasters.

Who recommends the ILO Manual?
The Council of the European Union, the European Commission, the 18th and 19th International Conference of Labour Statisticians, the Statistics Department of the International Labour Organization, the International Association of Volunteer Effort (IAVE), and the European Volunteer Centre (CEV) have endorsed the ILO Manual. In addition, the statistics offices of Argentina, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Italy, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, and South Africa have already agreed to implement it.

How was the ILO Manual prepared?
The ILO Manual was prepared under the auspices of the International Labour Organization by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies in cooperation with an international Technical Experts Group
of volunteering researchers and statisticians from 13 countries. It was field tested in five countries, approved in concept by the 18th International Conference of Labour Statisticians in November 2008, and accepted in final form by the ILO in March 2011.

How does the ILOManual define volunteer work?
“Unpaid non-compulsory work; that is, time individuals give without pay to activities performed either through an organization or directly for others outside the household of the volunteer worker or of related family members.”
Volunteering is thus:

  • A form of work; i.e., it produces something of value.
  • Non-compulsory; i.e., it is undertaken willingly.
  • Not paid, though some forms of expense reimbursement may be permitted.
  • Conducted either through organizations or directly for other individuals, as long as they are not part of the volunteer’s household or of related family members.


Is the survey module going to gather as much information as we need?
The ILO Manual is very efficient.
It will generate an enormous amount of data on who volunteers, what work they do, what organizations they work through, and how all of this varies among countries and over time. If funding is available, the GVMP plans to develop additional model questions that countries can use to tap other facets of volunteer work, such as motivations, impact on volunteers, and factors associated with successful engagements.

What is the cost of implementing the ILO Manual?
The ILO Manual was designed to minimize costs.
It does not require a new survey. Instead, it makes use of existing labour force or other household surveys, and takes advantage of existing national classification systems and structures. The volunteering module is only two pages long. This should not add substantially to costs and can be handled with existing, trained staff.

How can we help get the ILO Manual implemented in our country?
Implementation of this new Manual is not automatic.
Government agencies must be persuaded to direct their national statistics offices to adopt the Manual and follow its guidelines. We need the help of volunteer promotion agencies, policy makers, and civil society organizations to bring this Manual to the attention of statistical authorities, to encourage them to implement it, to monitor the implementation process, and to help disseminate the resulting information. Here’s how you can help:

Join. As a next step, we are asking those of who are ready to throw their weight behind this effort to contact us and let us know about your organization and about what you are able to do to help get the Manual implemented in your country and across your region.
Communicate. Get the word out about the ILO Manual. Bring this new tool to the attention of your networks and to the statistical agency in your country through newsletters, blogs, social media, emails, conferences, and personal visits to the labour force survey personnel in your country’s statistical office.
Mobilize allies. Get friends, contacts, and colleagues involved. Convene meetings of key stakeholders. Engage key foundation leaders, senior government leaders or legislators, nonprofit association leaders, and any others who can attract the key officials within the labour statistics department and other government agencies. Help generate financial support for training and dissemination efforts. Email ccss@jhu.edu to coordinate actions.
Contact statistical officials. Begin a conversation with labour force statisticians with key decision-makers.
Partner with your governments. Work in partnership with labour statistics officials. Statistics offices are often short on staff and funds — offer your statistics office expertise and technical assistance from the Center.
Disseminate the results. Once the data are available, it is important to disseminate them widely so that they can be used — the more feedback they receive, the more likely it is that statistical agencies will update the data in future years.