Friday, 14 December 2012

What impact have your volunteers had in 2012?

As 2012 draws to a close, our colleague and good friend Martin J Cowling of People First - Total Solutions provides some food for thought to help us all evaluate the year gone as we start to look to what 2013 may hold in store.

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The end of the years gives us a chance to reflect on a lot of things. For those who involve volunteers in delivery of services, I strongly encourage people to consider what has been the impact of this voluntary effort over the year.

I want to suggest that volunteering has three impacts:


  1. It impacts the wider community
  2. It impacts your organisation
  3. It impacts your volunteers


So how has that manifested for you this year?

Firstly, how is your community better off as a result of your volunteers' service. Can you measure the impact?

Too often we measure the impact in hours worked or money saved. These are poor measures.

What is more meaningful is the lives impacted, the environmental improvement, the people supported, educated, encouraged, or rescued. How do you measure that? For example, in the last year our service has provided meals to 5,000 people worth £60,000. Then get personal testimonies of the impact of those meals by recipients of your service. The factual and the story help to underscore your success.

Martin J Cowling, CEO People First-Total SolutionsThe second impact of volunteering is on the organisation the volunteers serve. People often suggest that volunteers save their agency money. Let's be clear - volunteers do not save anyone money. They allow an organisation to expand services beyond funding base. Notice the difference in language?
Volunteers also bring ideas and contacts to an organisation, They contribute financially through their donations and gifts. Have you considered measuring these impacts on your organisation?

Finally, volunteering impacts volunteers themselves. Have you asked your volunteers what volunteering has done for them? Many will describe the impact of the services they have given, the people they have touched and the difference they feel they have made. How do you celebrate these with them? How do you reassure those who have found volunteering to be not so rewarding this time around.

These questions are not too late to be considered for 2012. You may also want to start considering how you ask them for the end of 2013.

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Thank you Martin.

So, over to you.  Have you asked these questions during 2012? If so, what answers did you come up with? Did those answers help you in your work, for example in giving volunteers more meaningful recognition or perhaps arguing for better support for the volunteer programme?

You may also be interested in Susan Ellis' December 2012 Hot Topic which also looks at how volunteer managers can measure and report on the contribution volunteers make to an organisation.

If all this has got you thinking about how to evaluate your volunteer programme then might we be able to help so please do get in touch to discuss your needs.

2 comments:

  1. I agree with much of what Martin says but there’s one area where I don’t think we’ve got it right.

    The distinction between saving money and expanding services beyond the funding base is extremely nuanced at best, and meaningless to most people. I was at a conference where this came up and a delegate said ‘So basically it’s cheaper, yeah?’. Whilst the volunteering specialist was muddling around it was clear the audience (who were mostly front-line service-deliverers) just thought she was avoiding the simple answer.

    If we don’t address the issue heads-on I fear we’ll lose credibility. Does volunteering save money, is it cheaper? – in most circumstances, yes. To most people it really is as clear-cut as that. Address it on those terms, and we can then talk more about the wider value, impact and implications of involving volunteers, and whether a volunteer model is most appropriate. Fudge that, and our metaphorical feet won’t get in the doorway.

    We often say the difference between volunteers and paid staff is simply a pay grade. If that’s the case then logically the main difference between delivering services with volunteers and paid staff is the cost of that pay.

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