63 million American adults volunteer their time and talents each year. Like many nonprofits, these volunteers are likely the lifeblood of your organization. But recruiting new volunteers and retaining the ones you have can be an overwhelming task. How can you convince individuals to invest their time and energy to support your mission?
One key volunteer recruitment and retainment strategy is to measure and share the impact of your volunteers and the overall impact of your organization in the community. When volunteers see a clear correlation between their work and solving some of their community’s greatest needs, it will inspire them to further invest themselves in your organization’s mission.
It’s About Impact
Volunteers give their time and talents, but they need something in return. They need a clear understanding of the good they do and the purpose of their contributions. Showing volunteers their own impact starts with understanding the positive impact of your organization.
Understanding your impact requires reliable data that gives you insight into how your beneficiaries are better off because of the services your team provides. Understanding your impact can benefit your nonprofit in three major ways:
- It allows you to best serve your cause. Knowing what works, and what doesn’t, gives you the insight necessary to do the most good with your available resources.
- Understanding and then communicating your impact provides a powerful tool in fundraising. Reliable impact data gives current and future funders confidence that their donations will continue to create positive change.
- It gives your team members, and especially your volunteers, a sense of satisfaction that what they do matters.
Measuring impact starts with asking the right questions.
- What is the connection between the services you provide and the outcomes you produce?
- How is your work contributing to positive changes in the community?
- What does success look like?
The first step is understanding the different categories of information you should track and what each of them tells you. The next step is collecting the right data. There are three types of data you need to collect in order to measure your organization’s impact: outputs, quality, and outcomes.
Outputs; What was done?
Outputs are likely the most commonly tracked metrics. How many lessons did your participants attend? How many hours of counseling did your volunteers provide? How many meals were served? This type of information is critical to understanding how your program is being run and what resources are being utilized. But outputs by themselves cannot provide insight into the true success of a program. You also need quality and outcomes data.
Quality; How well was it done?
Once you know what is being done, it is important to know how well it was done. Did your programs fulfill their stated obligations? Did the recipients of the services feel valued and respected? Were their needs met? Were the services delivered in a way that was digestible by the individuals? Quality reflects the commitment and professionalism of your organization.
Outcomes; How are program participants better off?
A common myth is that your organization’s impact is defined by the number of services you have provided. But what funders really want to know is how individuals and families are better off as a result of their investment. Are you able to demonstrate that your program is producing positive outcomes for your participants? What positive changes have occurred in their individual lives because of your nonprofit?
Once you answer these questions for your own nonprofit, you can put together a plan that includes selecting metrics and key indicators that will help you understand your organization’s social impact.
Understanding the Value of a Volunteer
Volunteers contribute millions of hours to nonprofits and other organizations each year, but their value goes far beyond time. Individuals contribute their professional skills, from accounting to graphic design to language translation. Volunteers also pour energy and enthusiasm into your programs. Individuals donate their time and skills because they are passionate about your cause. That same passion can inspire your full team, your beneficiaries, and the entire community. Recruiting volunteers from diverse backgrounds provides unique perspectives and increases your outreach. The list of intangible benefits could go on.
Though many of the contributions of volunteers are immeasurable, there are definite financial benefits to recruiting and training volunteers. The cost of providing services includes both direct program expenses and the administrative overhead. Volunteer efforts can lower both numbers. The Independent Sector estimates the hourly value of a volunteer at $29.95, though the price of some professional services could be many times higher. Volunteers allow you to spend your financial resources in ways that directly benefit your enrollees and community.
The Right Tools
Understanding and communicating your impact and the value of each volunteer may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. The key is having the right tools. To understand the overall impact of your organization, you need an impact management solution that enables you to track outcomes at an individual, program, and organization level. To understand the impact of your volunteers, you need a volunteer management platform that simplifies volunteer scheduling, hour tracking, and reporting.
Once you can demonstrate the impact of your organization and the impact of your volunteers, you can show current and potential volunteers that their contributions matter. They will see that their time and skills benefit not only your nonprofit but individuals and communities. That knowledge will help to build stronger and more meaningful relationships between the volunteers and your nonprofit and motivate volunteers to help you continue increasing your nonprofit’s impact.
To learn more about measuring and communicating your organization’s impact, download the free Ebook "The Ultimate Guide to Impact Measurement: A Step-by-Step Guide for Leveraging Technology to Track, Measure, and Communicate your Unique Impact."
Sheri Chaney Jones is the CEO & Founder of SureImpact. Sheri is a social change entrepreneur and has worked alongside foundation, non-profit, and government leaders for more than 20 years to help them use data to solve complex social problems. An author, professor, and internationally recognized expert, Sheri believes in data, metrics, and accountability.