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:
- It impacts the wider community
- It impacts your organisation
- 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.
The 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.
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.