Demonstrating the overall impact and value of your volunteer program can be one of the more difficult aspects of volunteer management. It is also extremely important. Demonstrating impact helps to:
- Build support and recognition in your community
- Recruit capable volunteers and staff members
- Attract the attention of potential funders
- Maintain strong relationships with current funders
Evaluating and reporting are essential to maintaining and improving a program and demonstrating overall impact - and to attracting funding to support volunteer programs.
The UPS Foundation provides this Guide to Investing in Volunteer Resource Management which can help you think through what funders might be interested in supporting and what information they would want about program effectiveness. The more you can demonstrate that your program is making an impact, the more likely funders are to support your organization in its mission.
So, How Do You Demonstrate Impact of Your Volunteer Program?
Start with the basics. Keep organized records of volunteer activity. This starts with the simple task of keeping track of volunteer hours. Use an easy-to-understand, easy-to-fill time sheet, and make sure your volunteers are using it. Here is another sample time sheet.
Did you know that the estimated value of volunteer time in 2020 was $27.20 per hour? Having the dollar value of your volunteers’ work handy can go a long way toward demonstrating your program’s value and impact. Read more about how the dollar amount of volunteer time is calculated in this article Independent Sector's Value of Volunteer Time, from Independent Sector’s website. IS also provides a breakdown of the value of a volunteer hour by state.
For a more specific calculation of the value of your volunteer's time, visit the US Bureau of Labor Statistics' curated Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates for similar roles.
Keeping accurate records can provide you with other metrics as well. Here are some examples of things you can cite as evidence of your volunteers’ overall impact:
- The number of families housed through your shelter program
- The number of hot meals served by your volunteers
- The number of children tutored in your after school program
To determine what your organization should specifically be tracking, start with answering the question, "so what?" What is the change that you would like to see as a result of your volunteers' efforts? And what can you track to measure your progress toward that end? By consistently capturing and evaluating this data, your volunteer impact will become more clear.
If defining and/or collecting metrics proves to be too challenging, one strategy is to use anecdotal evidence such as quotes and great stories about the work your volunteers are doing. Here is an example of a results sheet that demonstrates the impact of United Way's Volunteer Impact Partnership. Notice its use of stories and quotes, as well as numbers-based data.
To get valuable information about how your volunteer programs are working and what impact they are making, simply ask! Create an evaluation survey to distribute to your clients after projects have been completed. Ask them to rate the quality of the service they received and leave room for additional comments. The results can be eye-opening. For example “90% of clients rated their experience as excellent.” Take a look at these examples:
- 501 Common's uses this survey to collect client feedback
- Here’s another example of a client feedback survey about a volunteer’s consulting project
- The Rainier Valley Food Bank created this volunteer feedback survey