It's worth taking the time to measure impact

3 December 2014

In my earlier blog, ‘The impact of evaluating volunteering’ I asked two questions; What are we trying to measure? And who are we doing this measuring for? 

ZOE blog 2Since then I’ve read ‘Volunteer Impact Report, Industry View 2014’ and some of the findings relate to my first question. This review was carried out online with 2735 not for profit professionals by Software Advice and Volunteer Match.  I’ve also just received the nfpSynergy report ‘Getting the message across’ which gives an interesting perspective on who we’re doing this measuring for.

The findings in the Volunteer Impact Report reflect the conversations I’ve had about impact.  Of all responses, 45% said that they don’t measure impact. 

Within this,

  • 34% of respondents don’t measure impact because they have a lack of resources/tools.
  • A further 29% said they had a lack of knowledge and skills.  
  • For those that do measure impact, 77% of respondents found the data that they collected either very or somewhat useful.

The report highlights a diverse range of benefits that come from measuring impact.  I previously asked whether we’re trying to measure the impact of volunteers on beneficiaries or also the impact of volunteering on volunteers.  The top response was that it increased recruitment/retention, an impact on the volunteer.  The second highest response was that it improved outcomes, an impact of the volunteer.  And if you don’t think you have time to do this it might be worth reconsidering as 6% of respondents said that they created paid positions as a result of measuring the impact of volunteers.  Organisations also benefited by creating more volunteer roles.  Maybe one of them was to help with measuring the impact of volunteers! 

Zoe graph 

Image: Software Advice

The new nfpSynergy report is actually about ‘practical strategies to tackle public concerns about donating to charity’.  One of the main conclusions is that there are 6 ways that you can communicate your organisations effectiveness.  These are; “pledges, tangible successes, testimonials, surveys, wordbites and confiding in stakeholders”.  I would argue that 4 of these are dependent on organisations evaluating their impact.  And of course, included in this evaluation will be the impact of your volunteers. 

When we’re thinking about who we’re measuring the impact of our volunteers for - I talked previously about stakeholders such as funders, Board members, other colleagues and the volunteers themselves.  What this report highlights is that knowing the impact can also be a powerful tool when communicating externally to the wider public.  Imagine if you were able to say, “Each year we respond to over 1 million calls from people who need our help” or “90% of our clients said that our counselling service has made a big or very big impact on their lives”.  These statements will reassure a potential donor that their contribution is going to have a positive impact.  And that donor could even be a volunteer making a gift of their time.

For those of you that already evaluate your volunteer programme, why not share some of the benefits you’ve gained from doing it?  And for the significant proportion of organisations who don’t evaluate impact I would suggest that both of these reports give even more reasons why it’s a valuable thing to do.  You never know, you might just gain some more time!

- Written by Zoe McGregor

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