Impact of Evaluating Volunteering
9 December 2013
I’ve been speaking to a number of organisations recently who have raised some interesting points around evaluating volunteering. One volunteer manager mentioned that they’re good at asking people to complete evaluation forms at the end of everything they deliver, but they’re not really sure about what to do with the information. Another commented that they think they gather the right information, but they’ve never been told by their board what information they want to see.
I think this highlights a couple of interesting questions:what are we trying to measure when we evaluate volunteering, and importantly who are we doing this measuring for?
There are two main areas that we might want to measure related to volunteering. Firstly, there is the impact our volunteer management practices have on the volunteer and their experience. And secondly, there is the impact of the volunteers themselves on the service delivered to beneficiaries.
Evaluating the impact on volunteers is important to ensure that you’re implementing good volunteer management practices. It also gives you the opportunity to find out from volunteers if they think there’s anything you could be doing differently that will improve their experience. After all, they are out there doing their roles and are best placed to see any room for improvement.
The second area is the impact of volunteers on the beneficiaries. You’ll need to know this to demonstrate the added value that involving volunteers brings to your organisation. Susan Ellis wrote an interesting article about carrying out volunteer satisfaction surveys. Simply showing that volunteers are having a nice time doesn’t really tell us enough; you also need to be able to show that your volunteers are having an impact.
This brings us to the second question: who are we evaluating this impact for? When planning any process for evaluating volunteering it’s worth considering who your stakeholders are. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to carry out your evaluation and give the same report to everyone, as each stakeholder will have different priorities.
You might want to send an update to your volunteers focusing on the areas they’ve suggested for development. Letting your volunteers know what they’ve achieved is also a great motivator. Your line manager might be more interested to know what the volunteers thought of their experience and your volunteer management practices. The board might want quantitative information on how many volunteers there are and what they’ve delivered. Finally your funders might need different information again, such as frequency of volunteering or length of engagement.
A recent Thoughtful Thursday blog asked what does success look like and no matter what it looks like for your organisation, it’s clear that evaluating volunteering is important. Getting evaluation right can have a positive impact for the volunteers and your service.
It would be great to hear from you: what do you do and what have you found works best? Please comment below.