Don’t Have Cash for a Grant Match? Discover the Best Kept Secret for In-Kind Matching

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Your nonprofit likely utilizes volunteers to further its mission. Apart from the good these dedicated folks do for your service recipients, volunteers can also help your organization’s grant pursuits.

Many grants require “matching funds.” That means your organization will need to find a percentage of the grant funding. For example, if the grant requires a 10 percent match for a $100,000 grant, you’ll need to contribute $10,000 to the project.

Coming up with matching funding can be difficult for small nonprofits. But if the grant allows for “in-kind” contributions, you’re in luck. Volunteer hours can usually meet this match requirement.

That makes it vitally important to accurately track your volunteers’ hours and the type of work your volunteers are performing.


First, how much is a volunteer hour worth?

In 2021, a volunteer hour was worth $28.54. That value was calculated by the Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland and is based on hourly earnings Current Employment Statistics (CES) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A good deal of math went into the estimate, but suffice to say, the value of your volunteer hours can open the door to grants that require an in-kind match.

Do volunteer hours count as matching funds? 

Yes. You can use volunteer hours as long as the grant allows an in-kind match and the work is something you would have paid for had it not been provided by volunteers. Your organization’s accrued volunteer hours can easily help you offset required matching funds. For example, if volunteers contribute a total of 25 hours each week at your agency, it equates to:

  • $713.50 per week
  • $2,854 per month
  • $34,248 per year

 If a grant requires a $10,000 in-kind match, you’ve already got it covered by your volunteer hours. You won’t need to have real dollars on hand to cover the requirement.

How else do volunteer hours help get grants?

While the dollar figure is undoubtedly important, evidence of volunteer support goes further on your grant applications. Here’s how to use volunteer data to showcase your organization’s merits:

  • Total volunteer hours over a specific period shows the funder that people are dedicated to your mission. It gives your organization credibility and displays evidence of community support.
  • The number of volunteer hours that went towards a particular activity shows your organization is organized and well managed. This data also identify the area(s) where volunteer support is the most significant.
  • The monetary value of volunteers shows that your program will continue to be impactful over time. It’s also a good idea to show growth in volunteer hours, especially if you’re a newer nonprofit.

Ways to track volunteer hours

You know it’s essential to track volunteer hours. But what’s the best way to do it? Ideally, you would use an app or software that makes data management easier for your staff. These systems allow volunteers to input their hours and job duties. Then, you receive a tidy little report that provides all the details you need.

However, you may need to resort to the old-fashioned pen and paper. Just create a sign-in form where volunteers can manually log their hours and document the work they did. It’s better than nothing and will probably work better for some volunteers.

Regardless of how you track the hours, you need a master spreadsheet or database where you will log the information. The information will come in handy for more than grant applications. You can also use the data for volunteer recognition and financial reporting purposes.

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