Monitoring and evaluating your volunteer programme

There is a wealth of information available on the subjects of monitoring and evaluation.  This information sheet is intended as a brief introduction, specific to monitoring and evaluating a volunteer programme.  It is based on self evaluation - that is using your organisations own people, skills and resources to carry out the task.

Why monitor and evaluate a volunteer programme?

  • To measure to what extent you are meeting any specific aims of your volunteer programme
  • To determine the quality of the volunteers' experience within your organisation
  • To demonstrate  the impact that volunteers have on your organisation, both in terms of their contribution and their economic value
  • To identify areas in your volunteer programme that may need improvement
  • Funders may require you to monitor and evaluate your volunteer programme

Definitions

Monitoring is the process for collecting the facts and figures related to your volunteer programme.  This will include such things as

  • Numbers of volunteers
  • Demographic information (age, ethnicity etc)
  • Records showing how often and for how long people volunteer
  • The type of work that volunteers do
  • The economic value of volunteer's contributions
  • The costs of involving volunteers

Monitoring information can be used to evidence your outputs (the things you do and the services you provide)

Evaluation involves using information you have collected to answer questions about how well the volunteer programme is doing, to identify any gaps and improvements you can make and to demonstrate your outcomes (the difference that involving volunteers makes).  It will involve analysis of monitoring information (quantitative or "hard" data ) and any feedback, case studies, volunteer experiences etc (qualitative or "soft" data).

What do we need to know?

You can count and ask questions about any number of things. The sort of questions you may want answers to include -

  • How diverse are our volunteers?
  • How successful are our recruitment methods?
  • How well do we retain volunteers?
  • Are volunteers properly supported?
  • Are our policies and procedures relevant?
  • How does the training we provide enhance the volunteer experience?
  • How much do volunteers contribute towards the organisation?
  • How has volunteer involvement benefited our service users?

Once you have identified the information you need, the next step is to work out the best method of obtaining it.

Collecting evidence

Monitoring statistics can be collected from a variety of sources including - application forms, equality and diversity monitoring forms, volunteer timesheets and training records

Information about the quality of the volunteering experience and the difference that it makes will involve collecting feedback from stakeholders including volunteers, staff and service users

Using your findings

Once you have collected the evidence you will need to analyse and interpret it.  For outputs, this may include: Did you meet the targets you set for volunteer recruitment? Are your volunteers from a wide and diverse range of backgrounds?

What about your outcomes? Did you achieve what you set out to do, or were there some unexpected outcomes e.g: did some volunteers leave to take up paid employment using the skills and experience they learned and developed as volunteers?

You may need to write up your conclusions based on the evidence you have found. When interpreting information, consider if there are any other possible explanations for your findings. Once you have identified gaps, you need to focus on how to make improvements.

These need to be realistic, specific and achievable. This may be a good opportunity to review targets for outputs and outcomes.

Volunteer meetings can be a good way of discussing how improvements and changes can be made to your volunteering programme. This will make your volunteers feel involved in the process, and will help you to develop methods to implement the changes. All decisions should be recorded in the minutes of your meetings.