How do you measure volunteer impact?

How do you measure volunteer impact?

12 January 2015 by Joe Jones

More than half (55%) of non-profits collect volunteer impact data. This data is used to optimise programs, to adapt recruitment strategies and to ensure they’re delivering services effectively. They’re the same reasons why corporations would also collect CSR data, but I think the fact that non-profits see the value in this data really demonstrates how important this information can be. VolunteerMatch and SoftwareAdvice surveyed more than 3,000 non-profits to find out just how they collected impact data and what they did with that information.

Lynette Whiteman, executive director for Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey, which engages 1,000 volunteers each year.

“We collect monthly-hours reports; have personal phone calls with volunteers; collect testimonials from clients; and share volunteer stories on social media, in newsletters, appeal letters, newspapers and press releases. This information helps us fulfil grant requirements [and] recruit new volunteers, and shows supporters the impact our agency has achieved.”

Even amongst those non-profits who don’t collect data, its value is recognised. Of the 2,700 respondents, only 6% said they didn’t see the data as being useful (lack of resource and knowledge being the primary reasons why data wasn’t collected). In comparison, more than a third of respondents believed that the data collected was either somewhat or very useful, helping with recruitment, funding and with improving outcomes.

Teresa Dale, volunteer manager for Feeding America San Diego, which engages over 9,000 volunteers each year.

“Volunteer background and hour-related information is collected primarily through [volunteer management software]. We also collect feedback through in-person surveys and annual surveys emailed to volunteers. With this data, we calculate productivity rates and [other insights] to better schedule volunteer groups and forecast how many volunteers need to be recruited for programs. This has helped us recognize volunteer successes and improve engagement and retention.”

The most effective metrics were based on project outputs – the number of meals served, the number of book distributed, the number of children who found stable homes etc. Indicators of the actual results should always be the highest priority, as they demonstrate real change and real impact. I think this is for me the most important consideration, and the one that I know we talk about a lot with our clients – make sure that the data you’re recording allows you to talk about the real changes that sustainability can empower.

The full report is available on the SoftwareAdvice website here.

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