May 25, 2024

Establishing Outcome Measures for Volunteer Involvement

Establishing Outcome Measures for Volunteer Involvement

Executives develop strategic plans with goals and objectives for all organizational programs, projects, and services and should expect volunteers to work toward those just as employees do. But it is helpful to consider exactly what you expect volunteer involvement to accomplish in any period. There is no reason to let abounding gratitude for donated volunteer time restrain an organization from setting standards of achievement. In fact, volunteers usually prefer to have some way to assess their service contribution.

In developing initial and then ongoing goals and objectives, bigger is not always better. Having “more” volunteers this year than last year does not self-evidently mean better service delivery or greater impact. Some organizations would actually be better off cutting their volunteer corps in half and holding those remaining to higher standards! The number of volunteers needed is a strategy determined by expectations of productivity….

Recognize, too, that the body count of how many people are in your volunteer corps does not translate into a standard number of hours contributed. Fifty volunteers each giving two hours a month provide the same output as five volunteers who can give twenty hours. The amount of effort necessary to recruit and support the larger number of volunteers is clearly much more intense, without the payback of more service. On the other hand, if your programmatic goal is community education, you may feel that getting fifty people to participate is more beneficial than just five. See? It depends.

Focus instead on the outcome and impact of volunteer activity. What results do you want volunteers to produce? As with employees, it is possible to monitor and measure the accomplishments of volunteers by stating goals and objectives at the beginning of a period—and then assessing whether these were achieved….

Outcome measures set for the volunteer component should correlate with the overall goals and objectives of the agency. I once conducted a management retreat with the department heads of a large hospital system, in preparation for which the CEO sent me an impressive eighty-page “Five-Year Strategic Plan” for the institution. I dutifully read the entire document, and when I arrived at the retreat, asked why—despite the current participation of almost six hundred volunteers—there was not one word about volunteers in the strategic plan. After much consternation, it became clear that neither the administrators nor their outside consultant had considered it possible to “plan” for volunteers!

As with every other aspect of organizational life, the amount of time you spend determining what you want volunteer involvement to be will directly affect the quality and creativity of what you get. Ignore this aspect of your organization, and maybe you’ll get lucky. But, if you incorporate planning for volunteers into overall agency planning, you will naturally take the steps necessary to assure that you reach those goals.

Author Info

Excerpted from From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Successful Volunteer Involvement, 3rd edition, by Susan J. Ellis, © 2010, Energize, Inc. Found in the Energize, Inc. Online Bookstore at


  1. Thanks for your interest in my website. I apologize for my slow response. Best wishes and much success in your work in Nepal. Wendy

  2. All the posts are interested to read out especially this one, great work.
    Volunteer Service Nepal

  3. Thanks for your writing. I am so delighted for your nice writing. Again thanks.
    Volunteer in Nepal

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