BlogVolunteerism How to Write a Volunteer Program Report That Proves Your Volunteers’ Impact Volunteerism How to Write a Volunteer Program Report That Proves Your Volunteers’ Impact Author: Tatiana Morand January 10, 2019 Contents 🕑 4 min read This guest post by Elisa Kosarin, CVA, first appeared on her blog, Twenty Hats. As a volunteer manager, you know the amazing influence your volunteers have on your organization’s mission. However, it might sometimes be hard to convey their story to the rest of your organization. I often tell volunteer managers to focus heavily on volunteer impact when sharing information about their programs, because strategic volunteer outcomes do the heavy lifting when it comes to volunteer program credibility. These metrics connect the dots in a concrete, data-driven way between organization’s mission and the value of your volunteer. But even if you haven’t yet created volunteer impact measures, you should still start promoting your volunteer program to educate and inform your executive director and board members. In doing so, you’re likely to gain more buy-in and recognition of the key role volunteers play in your organization — thus increasing support for your program and respect for your position. So, how should you be sharing your volunteers’ effect? The easiest way I’ve found is to create a document that’s easy to access and full of great info: a Volunteer Management Annual Report. What’s included in a volunteer report The notion of a Volunteer Management Annual Report is not new. There are volunteer programs that have made the publication a standard practice. This report is very similar to an organizational annual report. It’s a summary of information about what your volunteers accomplished within a given fiscal year for your organization. Consider this report your special platform for bragging about your volunteers’ accomplishments. It’s an opportunity to share multiple perspectives on the value of your program – perspectives that will impress your stakeholders and help you advocate for higher budgets, more staff, and greater influence. How to get started with your volunteer report Ideally, data about your volunteer program is part of the organization-wide annual report. But if your nonprofit does not yet include this information ― or if the only stats that get reported are the number of volunteers, the number of hours served, and the dollar equivalent of those hours ― then you have a great opportunity to take the initiative and create your own supplemental report. Here are some basic guidelines to get you started: 1. Mix up the content. You are going to want statistical information in your report, but relying purely on data makes for a stale document. It is acceptable – preferable, really – to vary the content with plenty of anecdotal information. 2. Give your report a professional look. The nicer you can make your report look, the more likely other people are to take it seriously. If you have access to a graphic designer, great. If not, there are lots of online templates that you can use to create something that looks as professional as the volunteer program you operate. 3. Make your pride palpable. Your Executive Director may wish to write the opening statement for your report. If not, use the report as an opportunity to create your own message — a message that conveys your enthusiasm and gratitude for the contributions of your volunteers. What to include in your volunteer report There are many ways to sing the praises of your volunteers, some of which I’ve included below. 1. Outcomes-based impact data. Again, you don’t have to wait until you gather this type of high-impact data to produce this kind of report. On the other hand, if you DO collect this data, your report is a prime vehicle for sharing it. 2. Other, incremental types of data that you may track. Most likely, you’re currently tracking all kinds of data to improve the internal workings of your program. That’s great information to include in an annual report – it demonstrates how effectively you run your program and illustrates just who your volunteers are. You might include statistics on: Volunteer retention Referral sources Volunteer demographics Number of volunteer who also give Results from satisfaction surveys sent to your volunteers, staff, or even clients 3. Baseline stats. It’s still helpful to include information on the number of volunteers, number of volunteer hours, and the dollar equivalent of those hours. This data helps readers understand the scope of your program. 4. Feedback from surveys. Chances are, you’ve got some great positive comments to brag about from those satisfaction surveys. Make sure to include them. 5. Plenty of visuals. It’s much harder for our brains to absorb text without images to accompany the narrative. Start gathering up plenty of photos of your volunteers, staff, and (if possible) clients. If you have any graphs that detail your volunteers’ impact, those are great too. 6. Volunteer stories. Humans process information fastest when they receive the message in story form. Make sure to include several stories of volunteers and the results of their efforts for clients (and check out Meridian Swift’s great blog post for how to do this). 7. Any special recognition received. External appreciation is a powerful credibility booster. Have you volunteers been recognized in any way? Any awards won? Any special media coverage – newspaper article or television stories? Make sure to include links within your report. I’ve heard many volunteer managers say that they know their work has tremendous value to their organization… but no one else seems to realize just how much. The more I reflect on this question, the more convinced I become that it’s up to us to communicate this value and document our enormous contributions to our communities. What better way to do that than by gathering your facts, assembling them in an easy-to-grasp format, and then hitting “Publish”? Elisa Kosarin, CVA, helps nonprofits deliver fully on their mission and raise more money by strengthening their volunteer programs. 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