Departmental Papers (SPP)

Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version



The use of volunteers in hospitals has been an age-old practice. This nonmarket community involvement is a distinctive aspect of North American life. Hospitals may be attracted to increase the use of volunteers, both to provide increased quality of care and to contain costs. Hospitals rely on the use of professional administrators to use the donated time of volunteers efficiently. This study examines the benefits and costs of volunteer programs and derives an estimate of the net value of volunteer programs that accrue to the hospitals and volunteers. In particular, the costs and benefits to hospitals are detailed. Using 31 hospitals in and around Toronto and surveying hospital volunteer administrators, hospital clinical staff members, and volunteers themselves, a striking pay-off for hospitals was found: an average of $6.84 in value from volunteers for every dollar spent—a return on investment of 684%. Civic and community participation is indeed valuable.


Copyright Sage Publications. Postprint version. Published in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Volume 33, Issue 1, March 2004, pages 28-54.

NOTE: At the time of publication, author Femida Handy was affiliated with York University. Currently, January 2007, she is a faculty member in the School of Social Policy and Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.


volunteers, economic valuation, costs and benefits, hospital

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Econometrics Commons



Date Posted: 04 January 2007

This document has been peer reviewed.