Guest Post by Joan Herbert
When you have volunteers working toward a collective cause, it’s often not enough just to know how many hours they’ve contributed. Rather than seeing how much time you’ve spent volunteering, it’s much more rewarding to know what you’ve achieved during that time.
Understanding the value of your volunteers’ work is great for them because they can see what they’ve achieved, and the real, hands-on impact of their contributions. It’s equally as important for your program and organization because it helps you understand what kind of work is most effective, and who amongst your team is pulling the most weight.
Let’s take a look at some program evaluation methods so that you can properly measure and analyze the results of your volunteers’ work.
Quantitative data is information based around numbers. For example, tracking the amount of hours worked is important. This is a great number that adds credibility to a resume and logs the hours of work done, but it doesn’t really give you a sense of the impact of that work. So what kind of data can you leverage to assess the value of your volunteers’ work?
Here are some ideas:
- The number of people served by volunteers,
- The amount of money saved by volunteer work,
- The amount of money raised by volunteers canvassing for donations,
- The amount of items sold — if for example in a charity store — and their cumulative value.
When you review these points, you can break your analysis down even further per volunteer, and cross-reference it with hours worked. For example, if one volunteer serves 20 people in a soup kitchen over 2 hours of work, then, based solely on quantitative data, you might assume that they are more effective than a volunteer who has serves 15 people over 4 hours of work.
When helping your volunteers understand how well they are doing, you can translate the money raised (or saved) into real benefits. Here’s another example: while raising money to keep a shelter open, you should have a good idea of running costs. When a volunteer comes to the end of their shift, instead of telling them how much money they raised, you could tell them that they have allowed the shelter to stay open for another 5 days.
Qualitative data is not as cut-and-dry as numerical figures; normally, quantitative data is wordier and is about describing outcomes rather than counting them. For example, you could have qualitative feedback — in the form of testimonials, etc. — from people who have been helped by your volunteers.
How do you collect qualitative data? Here are a few ideas:
- Conduct surveys to people who have benefitted from your volunteer services,
- Testimonials before and after interviews,
- And case studies following particular examples.
Qualitative methods are often really effective ways to describe the success of your volunteers, allowing you to deduce results you may have otherwise missed. Let’s take our soup kitchen example from before. Perhaps the 20 who were served in 2 hours report having had a good experience. But because the volunteer who served 15 in 4 hours spent more time with each individual, they report having had a more intimate experience, which made them feel emotionally better. Now you can see that the second volunteer is actually doing a really great job, too!
Finally, you can evaluate volunteer work and your volunteer program by setting realistic and measurable goals. These can be short- or long-term, and should be tied to expected final outcomes. For example, you aim to raise a certain amount of money by the end of the week or month, therefore, your progress towards these goals serves as your evaluation.
Simply looking at figures usually isn’t enough for volunteer work — the work performed tends to have a more emotional impact. Leverage a variety of quantitative, qualitative and goal-setting methods to evaluate your program, work and impact effectively.
Author Bio: Joan Herbert is a curious individual, avid reader, and a passionate creative writer. She is also an Assistant Manager Bank-Opening-Times.Co.Uk