From social services and animal shelters to schools and hospitals, volunteer programs make up the framework of many organizations. Whether you run entirely on volunteers or use them in addition to staff, understanding the value of your investment is essential for measuring your performance. When you want to measure volunteer ROI, you can look at multiple characteristics of your program to gauge its value and overall success.
What Is ROI?
Return on investment is a term used in business to describe the profitability of an investment. This general measure looks at the cost of an investment and compares it to how much money that investment made the company. If ROI is excellent, a business will make much more than it has spent.
When referring to ROI for volunteer programs, the measurement is a little different. Rather than looking at the money made, a volunteer program aims to impact the community or people it serves. When measuring ROI for a volunteer program, you can look at the money spent and saved and also consider how well the program achieved its mission.
How to Measure Volunteer ROI
A volunteer program can be valuable to many organizations, ranging from education to public arts. Measuring and improving volunteer ROI is essential to making a significant impact in your community. Regardless of your industry, you can use the following suggestions to measure volunteer program ROI as your organization grows.
1. Calculate Volunteer Value
One of the most direct ways to measure volunteer ROI is to calculate the value of your volunteers. When volunteers donate their time to your organization, you’re accomplishing tasks while saving money. The value of every volunteer can give you an idea of your impact.
The best way to accomplish this calculation is to use an average hourly value for the hours every volunteer works. In 2021, the estimated national value of a volunteer is $28.54 per hour. If you multiply this number by the total number of volunteer hours in a year, you can determine how much money you save from your volunteer program. Subtract this number from your program costs to uncover your return on investment.
In addition to considering the dollar value of your volunteers’ work, you’ll want to factor in the opportunity costs associated with these individuals. These costs can include expenses like training and program development. Including these expenses in your program calculation will give you the most accurate picture of the impact of volunteer hours on your organization.
Assigning value to your volunteers can be refined further according to your area and the types of work volunteers perform. Your state’s average hourly value may be lower or higher than the national average, and the value of a tech position will have a different rate than a fundraiser. The more specific your metrics are, the more accurate your ROI calculation will be.
Volgistics volunteer tracking software makes it easy to access records from volunteers and compute hours worked for your value calculation. With features like grouping and type classifications, you can make your calculations as precise as you’d like them to be.
If you calculate volunteer value and find it’s not offsetting your program costs enough, you might need to find new ways to optimize volunteering within your organization. Low volunteer hours may require social media campaigns and other types of outreach to boost your contributors.
2. Consider Your Staff
While volunteers are significant contributors to your organization, you likely rely on permanent staff to ensure everything runs smoothly. When volunteers work for you, they lessen the workload of your existing staff, allowing them to achieve more in other areas.
When thinking about ROI, you’ll want to consider what your staff can achieve with volunteers’ support. If your team has to work more hours to meet your goals, their wages come from your organization’s funding. This metric isn’t as direct a calculation of volunteer value, but it can help you assess what your volunteers are worth in a different sense.
Imagine the state of your staff without volunteer support. Would they be pushed to their limits? How many positions would each staff member have to fill? If you find that your staff members are still struggling to keep up with their tasks, you may need to recruit more volunteers.
Organizations that operate with an old-school sign-up sheet for volunteers may find it challenging to recruit the volume of individuals they need to succeed. These traditional methods also come with manual entry requirements that overwhelm your existing staff.
Volgistics acts as a recruitment software with online application forms, straightforward scheduling functions, and an opportunity directory that can bring in more volunteers than traditional methods. People who want to support your organization can quickly put their name into your system, and the software logs all schedules automatically so your staff doesn’t have to.
3. Identify Volunteer Footprint
If volunteers do not fully support your organization, you have staff with designated responsibilities. Your volunteer footprint represents how well your volunteers fill in the positions that don’t have staff. The concept of the volunteer footprint combines the idea of staff support with volunteer value. The larger your footprint, the higher the value of your volunteer program.
The best way to assess your footprint is to break your organization into its individual departments. Identify the positions within each department you need to fill and determine how many of these positions a volunteer covers. Compare the number of posts filled by volunteers to the number of jobs in your organization overall. This comparison will give you a percentage — your volunteer footprint.
Tracking your footprint throughout your program can help you monitor program effectiveness. Volgistics software offers user-friendly reporting features to help you track volunteer logistics. Group volunteers according to departments and continue to measure percentages against your whole organization.
4. Uncover the Relationship Between Donors and Volunteers
Donors play a role in organizational support as much as volunteers do. How do they correlate?
According to a report on volunteer statistics, 50% of donors said they contributed more money to an organization because they volunteered for it. This report also revealed that 87% of volunteers said there was a correlation between their donations and service.
This connection between volunteers and donors can work in your favor. While a high volume of volunteers increases your program’s value, these individuals contribute in other ways. The quality of your volunteer program affects your fundraising and vice versa.
When you’re cross-examining your donors with your volunteers, look for trends in demographics. Are parents more likely to donate and volunteer? Maybe donating and volunteering are more common in individuals over 65. In finding these trends, you can more effectively recruit volunteers from your donor pool and encourage donations from them.
As you bring in new volunteers, keep an eye on your donations to see if financial contributions increase with further service support.
5. Assess Volunteer Attendance and Retention
Volunteer attendance and retention play a significant role in the money and time you save within your organization, making it a significant aspect of your ROI. High attendance and retention mean high value in return. Assessing these aspects and making changes where needed can help improve your ROI.
Attendance is a major key performance indicator for volunteer programs. It’s helpful to look for patterns among your volunteers to find factors leading to high turnout and no-shows. Suppose you have minimal no-shows in your volunteering schedule. In that case, you’re probably creating an inviting environment for your volunteers that acknowledges their schedule needs and makes them excited to work for your organization. A low number of no-shows also points to a higher-value program.
A high number of no-shows may not indicate that your organization is unwelcoming, but it may signify that your volunteers don’t understand the importance of their work. Other times, volunteers don’t show because their assignments rarely recognize their interests or skills.
Creating strong relationships with your volunteers and reminding them how valuable they are to your organization and community can encourage them to show up for their scheduled time. When you know your volunteers personally, you can learn about their interests and make sure they fulfill positions they can excel in.
Through Volgistics, the volunteer database allows you to access helpful information about volunteers like demographics, availability, and preferences. With all your volunteers organized in a single accessible platform, you can make sure every person works the jobs they like best at a time that’s right for them.
Another aspect of attendance is new versus repeat volunteers. While some organizations may have frequent new volunteers, others may rely heavily on repeat contributors to support their mission. The primary metric to evaluate here is retention.
When you have a higher number of repeat volunteers, you can build relationships and trust these people will know your organization and the jobs they’re responsible for. A more experienced worker can achieve more in less time and ultimately offer more value to your organization.
Where are your repeat volunteers coming from, and why do they stay? During your research, you may uncover a pattern in your return volunteers. Perhaps they’re in their early twenties, or they’re all parents. Consider how your mission may align with these demographic trends and make a point to recruit people within this category. For example, it may be easier to reach younger volunteers on social media platforms.
Retention and attendance both connect to your volunteer program’s quality, which directly correlates to your impact and ROI. One way to understand program quality is to speak directly with your volunteers. It may be helpful to distribute a basic survey to every volunteer once they’ve worked for your organization. You can view the program from their perspective and make changes to suit them better.
Volunteer surveys can be as little as a few questions. Ask your volunteers to rate their experience with scheduling their hours and how much they liked the work they did. You may even ask them how valuable they feel to the organization. Use this feedback to cater your program to your volunteers and get the most from your investment.
6. Evaluate Community Reach
Your organization’s primary goal is to provide services and support to your community in some form. Evaluating your community reach can detail how far your investment gets you and whether you’re meeting your objectives.
Before you evaluate your reach, you have to consider your organization’s goals. For example, a voter turnout organization will want to improve the number of voters in their county. This organization can compare voter numbers from year to year to see if their efforts made a difference.
When measuring community reach, some characteristics of your goals may be subjective and challenging to measure. Try to identify a metric that has a measurable number and directly relates to your organization’s mission. Seeing these metrics improve is a good sign that your organization has an impact and a notable return on investment.
Seeing stagnation or decreases in these metrics signifies your organization needs more volunteer support. Whether you introduce a recruitment campaign for new volunteers or discuss adding hours with existing ones, you may be able to improve your program.
7. Use Social Media Metrics
Today, many organizations rely on social media to spread the word about their missions and recruit volunteers and donors. While it’s not the most direct measurement of your volunteer program, social media interactions can clue you into population awareness and your organization’s overall effect.
Social media metrics will vary depending on the platform. While likes can be a helpful measurement, shares have a much broader reach. Make posts about volunteer opportunities and community impact, and watch the share counter. If you look at each person’s share of one of your posts, you can see how other people react to your content.
A positive social media presence is powerful for any organization. Posting about your volunteer program may give you a greater ROI. If you don’t see enough interaction with your social media posts, it may be a sign you need to improve your community’s concept of your organization.
Get more involved with community events, connect with people, and share personal stories from volunteers and others to boost your image. When community members feel a personal connection to your organization in person and online, you can increase your impact for the long term.
Track Your ROI With Volgistics
Volgistics provides several features that simplify running a volunteer program. Whether you need numbers for ROI measurements or want personal profiles to connect with every volunteer, Volgistics has the capabilities to support your organization.
We’ve served a wide range of clients, including animal shelters, libraries, museums, nonprofits, and much more. Explore all the features of our software and discover how you can measure ROI with easy-to-access volunteer logistics.