It is estimated that in 2016 about 63 million Americans provided 8 billion hours of volunteer service. Many nonprofits struggle to track the impact their volunteers are making across the scope of their organization. When it comes to volunteering, measuring impact from service experiences is much more difficult without tangible outcomes. The value of volunteering is measured by the level of social interaction and civic engagement generated. The effect an organization’s or individual's actions have on the well being of the community is their social impact. Volunteers want to make an impact and nonprofits need impact metrics to keep pursuing their causes.
How can tracking volunteer metrics and data through impact reporting lead to increased funding, advocacy and awareness in the nonprofit sector?
Step 1: Track Your Volunteers
First, much valuable information about volunteer time goes unrecorded and unreported. Organizations are missing an opportunity to strengthen their financial reports and show the extent of community participation in their activities.
Dennis Walsh, advisor to nonprofits, stated “One of the best ways to ensure that volunteer efforts do not go unrecognized is to record donated service at the time it is performed. By doing so you capture volunteer contributions for financial reports and lessen the likelihood that volunteer efforts fall through the cracks unnoticed.”
We know volunteers play an integral role in providing resources to nonprofits and therefore funders, donors and foundations are interested in knowing the impact across the organization. Remember that all roles should be tracked, including board and committee members. Volunteers are advocates and capturing each role they play within the organization helps in advocacy and can ultimately attract more volunteers to raise more in funding. That funding goes directly back into furthering your cause.
Step 2: Analyze Your Data
Gathering and analyzing volunteer data is key to staying informed, keeping volunteers engaged, completing reports and making future projections. Data also provides insight into your relationships with volunteers and your overall impact. This can actually help you achieve your mission more effectively and use your resources more efficiently.
Additionally, by capturing and analyzing specific volunteer data and metrics including interests and knowledge, it will help support skills-based matching so volunteers can be placed in a role that leverages their skills and experiences. The data can also reveal the way volunteers are spending their time and the results they are achieving.
Volunteer hours can also be calculated into a dollar value. In Colorado the estimated dollar value of volunteer time is $25.97 per hour.* This estimate helps quantify the millions of dollars in volunteer time committed to nonprofit organizations.
Data analysis also helps recognize volunteer service deserving of awards or incentives. In addition, you may be better able to make projections on future service needs and budget staffing costs or general volunteer needs with the captured information. Keep in mind we measure what we value, so tracking is recognition that volunteer time is important.
The impact that volunteers make is a kind of return-on-investment for your organization. The better you track how your volunteers are performing, the better your ROI for volunteer recruitment and training.
Step 3: Share Your Impact
Translating volunteer metrics and data into an impact narrative can then be used in your grant writing, fundraising and advocacy efforts. As nonprofits heavily rely on their champion volunteers to fulfill their program initiatives and carry out their missions, all too often valuable time and staff resources are spent on recruiting and retaining volunteers. Impact reports can provide insight into the the quality of volunteer experiences that are being offered - for your organization and individuals. Adjustments can be made to ensure access to meaningful and mission based experiences are offered to aid in recruitment, retention and further volunteer engagement.
Increasing the value of your social currency by telling your impact stories and sharing those narratives is key to funding and further visibility in the community. "Our funders see volunteer inputs as a measure of effectiveness and reporting volunteer contributions is essential in securing funding," said Donna Newton, director of the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium. Impact reports should be utilized to make adjustments to achieving the organization’s mission, program goals and service initiatives. Showing appreciation is also one of the most valuable ways to engage your volunteers. Recognition is a good investment; it pays off.
Striving to increase collaboration across the ecosystem of volunteers, nonprofits and corporations can create thriving, service-minded communities and significant levels of impact. Let’s transform the current age of information into the age of social impact and empower further participation by individuals, donors and funders to support the social do good movement.
*According to the Independent Sector’s Value of Volunteer Time report as of May 31, 2016.
Angie Vermillion works in Community Engagement for the Boulder-based company Unself.
Unself helps people do good, by measuring and amplifying impact in the social good sector. We are creating a holistic technology platform that helps organizations track and maximize the social impact of their people, connects volunteers and nonprofits, and changes the way that individuals engage with their favorite causes. To learn more, contact email@example.com.
Walsh, D. (2011, November 3). Tracking Volunteer Time to Boost your Bottom Line: A Complete Accounting Guide. Blue Avocado. Retreived from http://www.blueavocado.org/content/tracking-volunteer-time-boost-your-bottom-line-complete-accounting
The Value of Volunteer Time, “Independent Sector”, May 31, 2016. Retrieved from http://www.independentsector.org/resource/the-value-of-volunteer-time/
What is the Monetary Value of Volunteer Time?, “Grantspace, a Service Foundation Center.” Retreived from http://grantspace.org/tools/knowledge-base/Nonprofit-Management/Employment-Volunteering/monetary-value-of-volunteer-time.