Do you track ‘volunteers’? It’s a good idea to track the number of volunteers and descriptions of what activities they participated in.


Marathon Bible College (MBC) is a public charity and a school under I.R.C. sections 501(c)(3) and 170(b)(1)(A)(ii). As we are working with MBC to complete their Form 990, their Controller asks us about Form 990, Part I, Line 6, which asks, “Total number of volunteers (estimate if necessary)”.
“How do we know what to answer – or estimate – on that line?” The Controller asks.

“Do you have a tracking system for volunteers?” We respond.

“No, what might that look like?”

“Well, we know you have a 5k run and a fundraising banquet each year. Do you collect volunteer data sheets for those?”

“Yes, and we also have about 25 alumni and people from the community the volunteer to help with administrative functions on a regular basis.  Also, our students have adopted a mile of a nearby state highway where they clean up trash.”

“Okay,” we say, “and don’t forget about your ‘independent board members’ – they are technically volunteers.”

The Controller thinks about this. “Hmm. I guess we have about 100 or so volunteers, but I don’t know that exact number.”

“That’s okay. The instructions say you can provide a reasonable estimate. However, you should look into a more formal tracking system in the future, because the foundation grant proposals that the Development Team is writing will likely ask for information about your volunteers.”


From Form 990, Part I Instructions:
Line 6. Enter the number of volunteers, full-time and part-time, including volunteer members of the organization’s governing body, who provided volunteer services to the organization during the reporting year. Organizations that don’t keep track of this information in their books and records or report this information elsewhere (such as in annual reports or grant proposals) can provide a reasonable estimate and can use any reasonable basis for determining this estimate. Organizations can, but aren’t required to, provide an explanation on Schedule O (Form 990 or 990-EZ) of how this number was determined, the number of hours those volunteers served during the tax year, and the types of services or benefits provided by the organization’s volunteers.

Bottom Line

• For Form 990 filers, Part I, Line 6 asks you to report your “Total number of volunteers”.
• If you are writing grant proposals to private foundations, it is likely that they will want to know about the number and types of your volunteers.
• It is a good idea to track not only the number of volunteers but what they did and a description of the events or activities in which they participated.

Specific questions? Email Dave Moja.

The information provided herein presents general information and should not be relied on as accounting, tax, or legal advice when analyzing and resolving a specific tax issue. If you have specific questions regarding a particular fact situation, please consult with competent accounting, tax, and/or legal counsel about the facts and laws that apply.