Data Driven Decision Making in a Volunteer Program
The use of data and analytics to aid informed and evidence based decision making is a powerful tool to use when improving a volunteer program. While recognising that not all data is useful (or even true), a sustainable volunteer program simply must be data driven. Reliable and stable data is critical to provide insight into potential improvements. Decisions driven without empirical backing are distorted and likely inaccurate. The only thing worse than having insufficient resources is deploying what you do have in the wrong manner.
To be successful, you must have the mechanics to capture what is meaningful. Data addresses uncertainty and helps answer questions such as: What improvements do I initiate? Which improvement do I prioritise? Or, most challenging of all, how do I justify taking no action?
Collecting data on what volunteers contribute to the organisation and its mission effectively demonstrates the value of current volunteer engagement and helps to identify the next iteration. Data collection and strong reports on what you learn provide visual advocacy of the connection between your volunteers and the organisation, demonstrating the link between their individual contributions and organisational outcomes. Sample data and analysis may include:
- Hours volunteered. Be specific, as in: 100 hours of volunteer administrative support was provided to the Fundraising Department in March
- Quantify outcomes achieved: 50 patients visited, 30 tours provided, etc.
- Number of volunteers filling different roles
- Percentage of volunteer shifts filled
- The ways in which volunteers permit the organisation to go far beyond what the budget would otherwise cover by providing services with a tangible monetary value
- Specific program improvements and highlights
Accessing and understanding data specific to your program is interesting in itself, but without a strategic lens it remains just that – simply a point of interest. Appropriate and informed decision making is the ultimate goal and, at its core, it is a simple equation of probability. While the risk of making the wrong decision is ever present, the probability is decreased with increased accessibility to relevant data. Simply put, the more data you have, the greater chances of making good decisions.
Using Data to Inform Volunteer Recruitment Decisions
One practical example is applying data to volunteer recruitment assessment. By tracking the point of entry for your volunteer enquiries, you gain knowledge into the most effective methods to recruit. Data analysing the percentage of which volunteer shifts are filled can support rostering and resourcing decisions. By identifying specific days or times when you are low on volunteers, you can plan targeted recruitment campaigns.
While the specifics will vary from organisation to organisation, the premise remains true. What information do you need to know to make the very best decisions for your organisation, your program, and the volunteers?
If you wish to read more about this approach, see my article, “Applying Process Improvement Models to Volunteer Management,” in the April 2017 issue of e-Volunteerism (non-subscribers can get 48-hour access for $10).