Just how do you communicate volunteer impact – and to whom?
You’re a leader of volunteers, and you’ve done the hard work of figuring out how to strategically measure the impact of your volunteers.
No more touting the number of volunteers or volunteer hours when asked to report on your program’s status.
Instead, you’re demonstrating progress towards change – illustrating with percentages (most likely) just how your volunteers engaged more visitors, increased independence for seniors, or reduced food insecurity in your community.
That’s great. Now you have meaningful data to illustrate your volunteers’ value.
Then comes the bigger question: how do you use this information to enhance your program?
This is the #1 question whenever I lead a conference session on creating impact measures. As much as participants want to learn this process, they also want to know what to do with the results.
Where do they communicate impact – and to whom?
Or to put it another way:
How can you get the most impact out of volunteer impact measures?
For starters, you’ll want to think about your medium. Here are various ways to get the word out:
- In your organization’s newsletter
- In your newsletter to volunteers
- In a volunteer management annual report
- As fun facts on social media
- On your organization’s website
- As fun facts that you print out and post on your office door (thanks to my colleague Susan Sanow for this one)
Then, you’ll want to consider who would benefit from receiving this information.
- Your volunteers, certainly, will find meaning and motivation in learning about their impact
- Your supervisor will want to see your program’s impact, to assess your performance – and to enhance departmental outcomes
- The general public will want to see these figures to better understand the important work you do – and feel inspired to volunteer themselves.
There is one set of stakeholders, though, who absolutely need this information, whether they realize it or not.
Your Board of Directors
Your board needs regular, consistent reports on the impact of your volunteer program. More than any other entity, they need education on the power of volunteers. Without this information, your board may have little incentive to consider the needs of your volunteers, appreciate the complex nature of your work, or ultimately include volunteers when making organizational decisions.
Ideally, your volunteer impact measures make it into the regular board report – the one that’s updated for every meeting, and used to assess your organization overall.
If your board doesn’t already request this kind of information, then take the initiative. Have a conversation with your supervisor or Executive Director. See if leadership is willing to review at least one metric that goes beyond measuring the number of volunteers or volunteer hours.
If your board isn’t there yet, set this as a goal and don’t get discouraged if it’s a slow process. Influencing upwards is always possible – it just takes a while. If you’re unsure how to build your influencing skills, here are strategies to get you started.
A New Normal
We’re one week past International Volunteer Managers Day, the day set aside to recognize our valuable role. Wouldn’t it be great if this special day was recognized by all nonprofit leaders – and most especially by our boards?
We can make this wish a reality by getting impact data in front of our boards on a regular basis. It is absolutely your place to do so. Let’s make this practice the norm and not the exception. That’s the ticket for true celebration!
Ready to influence upwards? My Principles of Buy-In will keep you focused on success. Email me to receive a handout about the principles and a next steps worksheet – and I’ll add you to the Twenty Hats mailing list.