If you surveyed every person who volunteered time in 2014, or was involved with a nonprofit group, and asked them why they do what they do, the vast majority of them would highlight that they want to make a difference. Individuals want to see social change – or more importantly, be that change. However, following a survey of close to 3,000 nonprofit professionals conducted by software advisory group Software Advice, in partnership with VolunteerMatch, only 55 % of organizations actually measure their impact.

Perhaps that’s set to change. After all, in our blog post from last week, we mentioned that one of the 5 major trends for nonprofits to watch out for or get involved with in 2015 is outcomes and impact measurement. 

Why should you care about measuring impact?
The reach of any nonprofit organization is hindered by exactly one thing: money. As a Volunteer Manager or someone that’s involved with volunteer programs, you know how difficult it can be to make a convincing case for a larger budget. Without these funds, it can be difficult to:

 

Effective data that measures the impact of your organization’s program will better position you to secure more funding for the line items that matter most to you.

Who’s measuring impact?
The Volunteer Impact Report, which surveyed nearly 3,000 nonprofit professionals, was recently released. The report turned out some interesting findings regarding who’s measuring impact and why or why not. 55% of organizations are currently measuring volunteer impact and 77% of organizations consider volunteer impact data to be useful. The data indicators they rely on most?

  • Value of hours worked (90%)
  • Project output (89%)
  • Progress toward goals (84%)
  • Amount of funds raised (83%)

 

So why are those other 45% of respondents not measuring volunteer impact? Of those 45%, 63% cited a lack of support, including the lack of tools and resources to measure impact (34%) and the lack of knowledge and skills (29%).

Here’s what your colleagues are saying:
Since numbers can be difficult to interpret, first hand testimonials might be more effective in highlighting the importance of measuring impact, giving you ideas on just how to do it, and using this information to assist with grant applications and outreach for support.

“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 fulfill grant requirements [and] recruit new volunteers, and shows supporters the impact our agency has achieved.”

- Lynette Whiteman, Executive Director, Caregiver Volunteers of Central Jersey

“We 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.”

- Teresa Dale, Volunteer Manager, Feeding America San Diego

So if you’re not measuring your impact, how can you get started?
Creating a method or process for measuring impact is not a complex process. Like creating a volunteer screening program, the steps just need to be laid out and implemented. Here are some ways you can start measuring volunteer impact today:

  • Direct Observation — Ask staff to evaluate the impact of volunteers and share their thoughts. This is valuable insight for both your organization and for volunteers as it helps them understand the impact their time is having on your organization’s goals.
  • Conduct Volunteer Surveys — Gather feedback from volunteers regarding their experiences and the activities they feel are impacting the community around them.
  • Conduct Beneficiary Surveys — Collect data from the recipients of the nonprofit’s services about their experience interacting with volunteers.
  • Track Project Outputs — Tracking items like the number of meals served or children who were aided in finding stable homes can be effective tools for making impact more visual and tangible.
  • Highlight Each Step Towards Achieving Mission Goals — Each action taken can impact the overall goal your organization has set.  For example, the amount of water saved due to conservation programs in which volunteers played a key role, or an increase in the number of residents using parks that were improved by volunteers are great impacts to share and be proud of.

 

The key to measuring impact is to start small and build. If you’re a smaller organization, you might not have the bandwidth to implement a variety of tracking programs. Still, it’s important to show that your volunteer program is having an impact. In turn, your leadership will want to invest in the program, help you to grow (recruit!) and strengthen its policies (background screening policies, engagement and retention programs).
 
Combine your impact findings with data on how screening and risk management actually saves money for your organization, and you’ll have an airtight case for a greater budget in 2015!

Are you measuring your impact? How? And how has it helped your organization? Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn and share your comments below.

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