Men and women who work in the field of corporate volunteering do not have easy jobs. Being tasked with “making a difference” is almost always less rewarding than we imagined, and it’s easy to lose sight of what we had hoped to accomplish in the first place. At Realized Worth, we work hand-in-hand with these practitioners, digging ditches and building infrastructure. It may not make the work any less challenging, but it redirects it toward purpose, accomplishment, and impact.
Corporate volunteering practitioners have the opportunity to create transformative experiences that produce the kind of people who live and behave in ways that benefit the world around them. But how do you know if you’re creating transformative experiences through corporate volunteering? How do you know if what you’re doing matters?
What kind of data are we talking about?
First of all, what kind of data are you currently collecting? You may be working with an external vendor who is helping you determine the SROI (social return on investment) at your company. This is a good place to start. You may also be collecting basic program numbers such as hours, volunteers, nonprofit partners, and dollars. If you have workplace giving and volunteering software (examples include Benevity, CauseCast, YourCause, Good Done Great, Profits4Purpose), you have access to your company’s demographic data, providing you with a sense of who is interested in what causes.
This data is a useful baseline from which to begin an analysis of program success. But you can go further. And you should.
Effective corporate volunteering programs do more than achieve impact for communities and causes; they impact the employee volunteers themselves. In fact, programs that are scalable and meaningful are those that focus on the employee as the product. While there’s no way to clearly measure the transformation corporate volunteering triggers within an individual, we can observe changes in behavior and draw strong conclusions. Are they experiencing a sense of purpose? Is that sense of purpose driving a higher level of performance? Are they more engaged with their colleagues? Do they talk about their experiences?
What to measure
The answers to these questions and more can be found in a measurement framework that we use with many companies. If practitioners focus on creating space for transformation while implementing the right measurement structure, results worth sharing will follow.
Here’s a brief description of the four categories of strategic program measurement:
1. Competency of leadership
Are volunteer leaders equipped and empowered to create transformative space?
Equipping employees who are leading volunteer events with the proper skills and understandings should be the key focus of program practitioners. The best indicator of the success of all other measurement categories is whether or not these volunteers are following through on the key activities required to create transformative space.
- Are they able to find an organization with which to work and scope a project?
- Do they mobilize colleagues to volunteer?
- Are they able to manage the logistics of an event?
- Do they frame the event by setting expectations and facilitating critical reflection?
- Do they know how to meet volunteers at their highest level of contribution?
2. Engagement of the individual
Are employees meaningfully engaged? (Remember: showing up is not necessarily engagement.)
A simple and effective way to measure engagement is to enable your volunteer leaders to use the Net Promoter Score. Surveying volunteers after an event should focus on questions that put employees in one of three categories: detractors, passives, or promoters. Some sample questions include:
- How likely are you to participate in future volunteering and giving opportunities through the company?
- How likely are you to recommend volunteering with the company to a fellow employee?
- How likely would you be to discuss your participation/experience in the company’s giving and/or volunteering program to a friend or colleague?
- Having participated in this event, how likely are you to recommend working at this company to a friend?
These are typically answered on a scale of 1-10 and measure intention rather than action. Take into account that volunteers will respond more positively immediately following an event due to what’s known as the “helper’s high.“
3. Capacity of the program
Is the program able to mobilize employees to take action?
Measuring the ability of the strategy and structure to mobilize individuals to take action includes three interrelated components:
- Self-assessment of the stage of engagement and competency of volunteer leaders
- Clear targets and definitions of success
- A complete framework including a questionnaire and scorecard with which to monitor progress toward the next stage of engagement
Equipping volunteer leaders with one clear standard of what success looks like and then empowering them to independently track that success produces not only engagement, but results that make sense across the company.
4. Results of the program
Will the program achieve the desired results?
A best practice in program measurement requires the development of a logic model to evaluate success for all three stakeholders: the employees, the community, and the company. The logic model should include the following elements for each stakeholder group:
What resources do you already have and which will you need to operate your program?
When you have access to these resources, to what activities will you apply them?
If you accomplish your planned activities, what kind of numbers will you produce (i.e. 10,000 volunteer hours)?
If you accomplish your planned activities and produce the outputs you intend, how will your participants benefit?
If you accomplish your planned activities and produce the outputs and outcomes you intend, what systemic changes will occur?
Benchmarking Your Program
Benchmarking a corporate volunteering program requires some good resources that give you a sense of what other companies are doing. Here are two worth mentioning:
- CECP Giving in Numbers. We recently wrote about this report which surveys 261 FORTUNE 500 companies and offers the best snapshot of the industry.
- A recent report by YourCause provides a great industry review of employee giving and volunteering programs.
Quick caveat: there is an inherent risk in making decisions from your benchmarking data. What if the bar is so low that the term “best practices” is rendered meaningless? The classic mistake in trying to keep up with the Joneses applies here.
Realized Worth designs and implements corporate volunteer programs for large companies globally. Reach out anytime to discuss your program challenges and potential solutions! Contact us via email or find us online on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.