We are a society that loves facts and figures: we analyze, research, compare, and only then do we make a rational decision based on hard data. In the nonprofit world, we are forced to abide by this analysis paralysis –- our funding, grants, donors, clients, and the government all demand it.
After several years of leading VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads (VHR) I have come to ask if the full breadth and depth of volunteerism can really be measured in numbers. How do you measure impact? And can we expect a formula to measure whether we are effecting change and moving a cause or organization forward?
I came from the corporate world and was accustomed to the pull of facts and figures. Naturally, in taking on this role at VHR, I immediately began implementing strategies to determine our impact as a nonprofit. Independent Sector, a national nonprofit supporting the sector, often refers to the “average value of a volunteer hour” as a worthy data point. It is a number derived by some sort of scientific and mathematic formulation that I never quite understood.
To give you an idea, in Virginia the value for a volunteer hour is stated as being $26.09. So, if one of our volunteers goes out to work at a nonprofit for 10 hours, whether they are cleaning up trash or writing a complicated grant, both efforts equate to a total value of about $260. This doesn’t tell us the true value of the time and skill given, but more importantly it doesn’t tell us whether we moved the needle closer to accomplishing the mission.
This is what our organization, VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads, has been wrestling with the past three years: how do we measure impact and, more importantly, ensure impact, when someone is willing to give their time and talent to further the mission of one of our nearly 4,700 nonprofits in Hampton Roads. While we do not have the exact answer yet, we do have a very exciting prototype for a new program called VolunTier Vision. We believe this model gets us closer to understanding and realizing impact in our partner nonprofits and, ultimately, the community.
VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads is currently working with leadership development groups, corporations, colleges and universities, the military, faith organizations and the general public to strategically place talented volunteers into meaningful opportunities to serve. This may seem like a simple thing to do, but with 60 years of practice connecting volunteers, we know getting the right match takes time and skill. We are also working with our nonprofit organizations, regional and local projects, as well as local government to find specific volunteer needs that will go beyond “done in a day” efforts, enabling volunteers an opportunity to have an IMPACT.
The traditional idea of volunteering, of serving soup at the soup kitchen or sorting food at the foodbank are still valuable, needed, and rewarding. VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads will continue to post these opportunities on our website for the public to engage. In addition, as a next step in elevating volunteerism to the next level, VolunTier Vision will create a talent bank for Hampton Roads where we can place talented and skilled volunteers into specific and necessary roles to move missions forward and create social change. When we take this next step in matching the right volunteers to the right opportunities, we create impact that cannot only be measured by the number of hours volunteered, but can also be measured by the marked movement of the organization’s mission.
It takes hard work, dedication and commitment to create impact when you volunteer your time to a cause you are passionate about, but first you have to show up. If you want to make a difference and want to know how to get started, I urge you to come out to ENGAGE Norfolk on Sunday, February 12th from 1pm to 5pm. You can talk to organizations that need someone like YOU to give a helping a hand, hear about how you can lend your voice to a myriad of issues that need advocates, find out how to run for office or support someone in their efforts….. And you can talk to VOLUNTEER Hampton Roads.
We are proud to be a co-sponsor of this amazing event and hope you will drop by to register as a volunteer with our organization. And if you can’t make it, you can “show up” by registering on our website to volunteer. No matter if you are looking to take the first step or to take your volunteering further, we hope to see you there and out in the community.