much larger than those based on the CPS data. Both of these estimates rely on answers to retrospective questions about activity over a 12-month period. The figures from the two sources have not been reconciled. When they become available, data on volunteer activity from the new American Time Use Survey (ATUS) should be more reliable than any that currently exist, but the ATUS data surely will not alter the conclusion that volunteer activity is significant in scope and magnitude.
According to the CPS data for the 2002-2003 period, the major types of organizations for which individuals volunteered were religious (34.6 percent), educational or youth-service related (27.4 percent), social or community service (11.8 percent), and hospitals or other health related (8.2 percent). The major activities performed included fundraising (28.8 percent), coaching, refereeing, tutoring, or teaching (28.6 percent), collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food (24.9 percent), providing information such as by serving as an usher, greeter, or minister (22.0 percent), and general labor (21.8 percent).
Other more specialized examples of volunteer employment include accountants who help low-income people prepare their income tax returns and Earned Income Tax Credit applications, lawyers who provide pro bono legal services, and corporate executives who serve on the boards of directors of nonprofit organizations. In contrast to their counterparts on for-profit organization boards, even in the same industry, nonprofit board members often receive a negative wage in the sense that they are typically expected to give donations to the organization in return for the honor of board membership.
While survey data disclose important information on hours of volunteering and about the industries to which it is supplied, the meaning of the data is subject to interpretation. Even when asked specifically about volunteering in connection with an organization, for example, some respondents may perceive their participation in informal activities, such as a private quilting group or a poker club, as a volunteer activity. Examples of informal, nonmarket groups abound, some providing external benefits that may be of sizable consequence—e.g., “neighborhood watch” and community youth literacy groups—and others, such as local garden and investment clubs, providing benefits that are limited to members. These different cases suggest that multiple options exist for defining the “value” of organizations and for establishing the boundary of what is considered the output produced by volunteer labor. Furthermore, in some surveys, a great amount of what people report as “volunteering” may not be connected with an organization at all. In all of these cases, observed transaction prices of zero often mask a complex set of barter arrangements that yield explicit monetary prices of zero but that understate the private and social values being created (see below).
These definitional issues highlight the question of what should be covered in a nonprofit satellite account. Focusing attention in a satellite account on information about volunteering through or for an organization is defensible on practical grounds for initial forays into nonmarket accounting, both because of the interest