Prove the difference your volunteer programme has made

Best practice questions answered by Evelyn Rodrigues, VCTH Training and Best Practice Manager

Q: We are looking to gather information on the difference our volunteer programme has made. How should we go about this?

A: Great question! It is important to measure the impact, or the change that happens as a result of our volunteering activities and projects. It is essential to plan carefully from the beginning. Here are some questions to think about before you start:

  • Why do you want to measure impact?
  • What are the key questions you want to answer?
  • Who will use this information?
  • How will the information be used?
  • When is the information required?

Your reasons for measuring impact will shape your plans. The obvious need is for reporting to funders, but impact measurement can also be useful in securing new funding, improving practice and performance, recruiting new volunteers, and for publicity purposes.

It is useful to think about who might be impacted. Of course, it will be service users or beneficiaries that your volunteers support, but it could also be your organisation (staff and services), the volunteers themselves, the local community, and wider society. Hopefully the impact will be positive, but it might also be negative: you should gather this information as well, in order to make adjustments. Change can be shorter-term and a direct result of volunteers’ activity, or wider and longer-term. Look out for changes, both expected and unexpected.

Once you have a plan, you can develop your tools and start to collect information. Tools could include online/paper surveys (eg volunteer survey), interviews (eg volunteer exit interviews), evaluation forms, voting, focus group discussions, volunteer diaries, mapping, case studies, videos, photos, storytelling and quotes. You can use digital tools such as Quick Tap Survey, Google Forms or Microsoft Forms. Record the number of hours given by volunteers. You can then attribute a financial value by using an hourly rate (eg London Living Wage or the going rate for that type of work) to work out the economic value of volunteering to your organisation.

Then assess the data against your key goals, review your activities, and decide on any changes that need to be made. Lastly share the information on the difference your volunteers have made. Present the information in an engaging way using info graphics (using software such as Canva, Piktochart or Iconarray), photos, or use postcode maps to show geographic reach.

If you would like any support with measuring the difference made by your volunteer programme, please get in touch with Evelyn Rodrigues at [email protected]