Why Measurement Matters: 5 Steps to Improving Corporate Volunteer Programs

Dec 21, 2011

Sadie MillerToday’s guest post was written by Sadie Miller with True Impact LLC.  Prior to her work at True Impact, Sadie was the national AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader at Campus Compact, outreach and planning intern at the Corporation for National Community Service, and graduate research assistant at the Brandeis Center for Youth and Communities.

As a young VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America), I was committed to measuring the impact of my volunteer programs with participant surveys. When I got back the results of my first survey, the only thing I learned was how much college students like to complain about the food and timing of volunteer events. Of course, making programs comfortable, filling, and convenient is important for keeping volunteers coming back. I didn’t get any deep insights by asking about satisfaction and hours in the community. Many of us fall into the process measurement trap, losing focus on the end impact. In Mapping Success in Employee Volunteering, the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship found that many Fortune 500 respondents track satisfaction, participation levels and volunteer hours. Getting an employee volunteer program requires fulfilling business and community goals beyond how many volunteers leave happy. Here’s a checklist for improving the bottom-line impact of corporate volunteer programs.

5 Steps to Improving Impact of Corporate Volunteer ProgramsSTEP 1: Make a list of stakeholders
Cast a wide net when identifying stakeholders; you’ll never know who will be your biggest advocate– or squeakiest wheel. Map all of the internal and external people and organizations that influence and are affected by your volunteer program. Here’s a start:

  • Advocacy groups
  • Beneficiaries
  • Community partners
  • Customers
  • Government agencies
  • Public Relations and the Communications Department
  • CEOs and CFOs
  • Prospective employees

STEP 2: Define social and community goals
It doesn’t matter if you have a 5-year strategic plan or are in the first year of your employee volunteer program. Every program has a set of explicit or implicit expectations for social and community change. Brainstorm a list of outcomes your stakeholders want to see to guide your evaluation. Process indicators, like the monetary investment and the number of volunteers engaged, can be left off the list– focus on the bottom-line outcomes. Examples of social goals include:

  • Get low-income middle school students to matriculate into 9th grade on time and prepared for high school
  • Inspire young people in our communities to go to college and major in science, mathematics, engineering, or computer science
  • Prevent children under five from death and illness caused by water-borne disease.

STEP 3: Define business goals
Sustainable CSR programs forward the social and business bottom-line. Who wants to support a community program that bores employee volunteers? Inspiring programs resonate with a company’s business goals, be it training a future generation of engineers and entrepreneurs or reducing employee turnover. Business goals for employee volunteer programs include:

  • Enhancing brand and reputation in the community
  • Fostering productive and committed employees
  • Networking with advocacy groups, leaders, and customers that provide the company with a social “license to operate” in the community
  • Identifying sales opportunities with other volunteers, organizations, or companies, because your next business partner may be as committed to Habitat builds as your employees are!

Realizing Your Worth shares a great list of goals in their article on starting a corporate volunteer program.

STEP 4: Evaluate outcomes
Moving from program goals to a meaningful measurement of volunteer impact seems challenging. At True Impact, we firmly believe that measuring the right things is simple and attainable, as long as you focus on measuring the outcomes that capture your program goals.

Your employee volunteers are best equipped to evaluate the personal, professional, and business effects of their volunteerism. Examples of business outcomes include:

  • Skill development
  • Job satisfaction related to volunteerism
  • Employee recruitment through volunteer activities
  • Relationship development with business stakeholders
  • The monetary value of employee volunteers.

Community partners are the key to evaluating social outcomes, and are the most invested in proving the value of their outreach. Long-term social outcomes include:

  • The number of middle school students tutored by employee volunteers that matriculate into 9th grade and graduate high school
  • The number of high school students mentored in a STEM program that major in science, mathematics, engineering, or computer science
  • The number of children protected from water-borne diseases because of volunteer investments in training and clean water infrastructure.

STEP 5: Prepare for change
Once you and your stakeholders define a program’s goals and evaluate the end outcome, it is much harder to justify programs that don’t make a difference. It is also harder for internal stakeholders to ignore programs that enhance employee satisfaction, develop sales opportunities, and make lasting social change. So take the next steps to make programmatic changes that will leverage employee skills. And when your evaluation points toward significant social impact because of your volunteers, toot your own horn to build institutional support and get more employees engaged. Because measuring impact is only as good as the work it does for you.

For more information or to participate in the ongoing Volunteerism ROI Tracker, visit us at True Impact.

Now more than ever CSR and EVP managers need to prove value, invest more strategically and continuously improve the impact of their programs.  Points of Light can help!  Learn about our exciting new tools and services for measuring and benchmarking.  Such as the ROI Tracker, provided in partnership with True Impact LLC and the Employee Volunteer Program Benchmarking Tool, developed with the support from the AT&T Foundation.  For additional information contact  Jennifer Highsmith, Director of Business Training and Consulting at The Points of Light Corporate Institute.