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How To Measure the Direct Impact of Volunteer Service: What Money Cannot Buy

How To Measure the Direct Impact of Volunteer Service: What Money Cannot Buy

In this issue, author Laurie Mook looks at an interesting case study of the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House as an example of how to measure the direct impact of volunteer service on the organization, clients and volunteers themselves. The research – conducted by Debbie Haski-Leventhal (Australia School of Business), Lesley Hustinx (Ghent University, Belgium), and Femida Handy (University of Pennsylvania) – is based on a series of surveys, informal interviews and observations through the researchers’ own involvement as volunteers in the organization.

As Mook explains, volunteer managers often view the monetary value placed upon volunteer service as one way to gauge the relative importance of volunteer resources as compared to other resources in delivering the services of a nonprofit. And, according to Mook, volunteer hours are also used as a proxy for impact.  But through this case study, Mook explores a few more tools. For example, the findings in this study reveal several areas of impact that can be measured. From the perspective of the client, three categories of impact emerge: tangible impact (providing services), attitudes (satisfaction and perceived altruism) and future behavior (willingness to volunteer). From the perspective of the volunteer, intrinsic and tangible benefits are identified. Overall, the researchers are able to communicate the distinctive and unique impact that the volunteers had for the organization. 

To read the full article

Mon, 07/16/2012
Wow- this is important information. Thanks for sharing it. I am not surprised at the results of the research but am delighted to see it so succinctly expressed. This can be valuable for all practitioners.

Thu, 07/26/2012
Well done! Having been involved in the engagement and deployment of volunteers in health and social care organisations for over 10 years now I feel as though we have been waiting for something like this for years. Finally we have some evidence to go back to our funders and say that volunteer numbers are not the be all and end all, there are ways of measuring the extremely valuable impact of volunteering on our clients. You will be quoted, referred to and should be rightly proud! Thank you

Tue, 10/23/2012
As the volunteer manager for an organization that thrives on metrics, I was happy to see this piece in the latest issue of E-Volunteerism. I hope it will get other volunteer managers and organizations thinking about the importance of metrics for their programs. When I began at my organization, metrics on the volunteer program were not something that were meticulously kept and promoted. Since my arrival at the organization, we now track all volunteer time and attach an in-kind value to all donated service. Statistics are also kept for all of our volunteer programs. At any time, data can be reported on how many volunteers participated in each specific opportunity or program area, and working with our staff, we can attach additional numbers to that, including; how many pounds of trash were picked up, miles of coastline cleaned, number of visitors engaged at our centers, number of restored species, etc. Additionally, volunteers are asked to review each project they participate in and provide a few words at the end of the year as to why they volunteer for us and what it means to them to volunteer with us. As much as I push my staff to make sure volunteers and interns are signing in and tracking their time in order to report back legitimate numbers to our board, donors and funders, the impact of volunteering is about far more than just numbers. While it is nice to know that x number of volunteers gave x number of hours at an in-kind value of x dollars, really the true impact of the volunteer program lies in the work that volunteers are able to accomplish and how you can convey the importance and meaning of that work to your constituents.

Mon, 12/10/2012
For those of you who enjoyed this article, I strongly recommend checking out Tony Goodrow's Scarce Resources Model. He presented here in Portland over the summer and created quite a buzz in our local community of volunteer managers. Very interesting way of calculating the ROI of volunteer engagement. I have had a lot of success garnering support for my program by reporting on a variety of quantitative and qualitative outcomes related to priorities identified for each of our constituent groups. I love the idea of comparing the motivations and outcomes of episodic vs. recurring volunteers, as well as the strong correlation between volunteerism and donations (which we have not found at our organization). Are any of you aware of any trainers in the Northwest or who are willing to travel, who may be able to make an engaging presentation on this topic to our local professional assocation?