Your volunteers are a great group of people who do a lot for your organization. How do they know what impact they have? How do you know what impact they have? What could you do with that knowledge?
According to nonprofit software management research firm Software Advice, “55% of nonprofits collect data to measure the impact volunteers have on goals and outcomes.” Partnering with VolunteerMatch, the Software Advice report surveyed 2735 nonprofit professionals across the planet. Their insights are illuminating.
Benefits of Measuring Volunteer Impact
Increased Funding—The survey indicated that one of the biggest benefits of quantifying volunteer impact was an increase in funding—both grants and donations. In some cases this data allowed the organization to fulfill grant requirements. In other cases, having concrete measures of impact motivated funders to give. In a 2014 study, Software Advice found that “60% of individual donors want proof that a nonprofit is making a positive impact before making a second donation.”
Better Volunteer Engagement and Retention—By measuring the work performed by volunteers, many nonprofits were able to better recruit new volunteers, be more accurate in evaluating their skills and assign more relevant tasks. With concrete data, nonprofits were better able to recognize volunteer accomplishments and success. Seeing the impact you have on an organization is a great motivator to stay and continue volunteering.
Program Optimization—Many nonprofits used volunteer impact data to improve their programs and the delivery of services to clients. Some organizations used the information to make adjustments to the volunteer program itself: improving the quality, reach and outcomes of the program; forecasting how many volunteers are needed; and improving their recruitment strategies.
Methods of Collecting Data
Nonprofits used a variety of means for collecting volunteer impact data, including:
- Monthly-hours reports
- Personal phone calls with volunteers
- Testimonials from clients
- In-person surveys
- Emailed surveys sent to volunteers
- Direct observation: asking staff to evaluate volunteers’ work
- Beneficiary surveys
Of these methods, direct observation was the most popular and the most effective, according to the nonprofit professionals who participated in the Software Advice survey. Volunteer surveys were the second most popular method of collecting data and beneficiary surveys came in third. Many nonprofits used software tools to automate data collection and analysis. Some used a Constituent Relationship Management (CRM) system. Others used volunteer management systems, like Greater Giving’s Event Software.
Finding the right indicators for measuring volunteer impact was a little more complex. Calculating the “dollar value” of a volunteer’s time was the most popular metric, but only the fourth most effective, according to respondents in the survey. The most effective indicators were project outputs (meals served, etc.) and beneficiary testimonials. Another key metric was “proof of progress towards mission goals” (amount of water saved in a conservation program, etc.)
Knowledge is power. Knowledge about the work your volunteers are doing is particularly powerful. Your volunteers are great people who make wonderful things happen. The more you know about the impact they have, the more you have to share—with your constituents, with your funders and with your volunteers themselves. Everyone wins.