VII. Measuring Impact
As your volunteer program becomes more sophisticated, consider different strategies for measuring what is working or not. Program evaluation will help you identify opportunities for improvement, while also building a base of concrete data to use in reporting and grant applications. This section outlines the importance of program evaluation, methods of assessment, and tools to get started.
Qualitative Evaluation Measures
Gathering qualitative data is an excellent way to gauge aspects of a program that cannot be easily measured. Qualitative data could include personal narratives of volunteers, client experiences, and volunteer integration into your organization.
- Surveys: You can perform these in-person, via mail or through a website like SurveyMonkey to allow your volunteers to complete surveys anonymously. You can also conduct short in-person conversations or conversations over the phone as a less anonymous method.
- Entrance and exit interviews or written reports: These will help you get more information from volunteers than a survey can elicit. Not only does an interview help you establish a personal relationship with your volunteer at the beginning of his or her service, it allows you to set personal goals with each individual, which can then be used in program management.
- Focus groups: Use focus groups in your evaluation process to explore a topic in-depth through group discussion. These are beneficial because they allow for a collaborative processing of experiences among volunteers and can bring out trends in your volunteers’ emotions.
- Informal conversations: Anyone in your organization can gather data for evaluation through casual conversations with volunteers throughout their time of service.xli
Quantitative Evaluation Measures
To quantify the real impact of volunteers, it is important not only to keep track of the hours worked, but also to measure the activities occurring within these hours and the impact the work has on your clients. While quantitative measures comprise an important part of the evaluation process, they work best when observed in conjunction with qualitative measures.
- Use a database to keep track of volunteers’ work. A database can be used to monitor hours logged, work performed, and other outcomes. Factors to consider measuring include:
- Additional contributions of volunteers such as donations, event attendance, and membership
- Volunteer retention, including the number of return volunteers and the average length of time volunteers stay with the organization
- Number of clients served and services provided with volunteer help
- Matching cash contributions
- Individual volunteers’ progress: Are they adding new skills or progressing from short-term/occasional volunteers to long-term volunteers?xlii
- Calculate the value of volunteers’ time. Listed below are two different ways to do this:
- Average Wage Method uses the average wage from the Bureau of Labor Statistics employment surveys ($24.53 in September 2014xliii) and adds 12% to account for fringe benefits to calculate the value of volunteer work. This method is the most straightforward, but it distinguishes neither different work performed nor varying skill levels.xliv
- Replacement Wage Method takes into account the different work that each volunteer is doing. The link below will take you to a list of hourly wages of specific jobs. Multiply the number of hours each volunteer works by these wages to determine the cost of the work if it had been completed by a hired employee.
- Hourly wages of specific professions
- Calculate return on investment (ROI).
- Revisit program goals.
- Identify and implement quantitative evaluation measures.
- Identify and implement qualitative evaluation measures.
- Analyze results and develop a strategy for improvement.