Friday, July 27, 2012

Statistics for Managing Your Volunteer Program

How can you measure the volunteer's contribution to your shelter?

Most, if not all, animal shelters these days have volunteer programs.  Some may be long-established and running smoothly, others may be in their infancy and struggling with some growing pains, while most probably fall somewhere in between these two scenarios.  Whatever the case is for your shelter, statistical reporting of the accomplishments and contributions of your volunteers is essential.  These statistics can justify to your supporters and board of directors why the volunteer program is important to the organization and can also justify having paid staff oversee the program.  Statistics can be used as a measure of the goals of the volunteer program and to give future direction to any work the volunteers are doing.  And finally, tracking volunteer program statistics will give you a better understanding of the services and care you are providing to the animals in your organization.

Simple statistics: these are statistics that, at the very least, every shelter with a volunteer program should be tracking.  They do not require much mathematical manipulation, but are a great start to painting the picture of your volunteer contributions. 
  • Total active volunteers / month.  What each program considers active may vary (click here to read about the administration of a volunteer program), but whatever measure you use, keep track of how many from your volunteer list is actually hitting the mark each month (or whichever time frame you are collecting statistics for).  For example, shelter XYZ considers a volunteer active if they contribute 3 hours each month.  In the month of June 50 volunteers of the total of 125 volunteers on their roster hit this mark.  That translates to 50 / 125 = 40% of their volunteers were active in June.

  • Program specific volunteer participation rates.  Now take that same concept as above, and calculate for each program/area of volunteer opportunity.  How many volunteers participated in the adoption room?  How many volunteers logged hours for the offsite adoption event?  How many volunteers worked the fundraiser?

  • Total hours. Collectively, how many hours did the volunteers donate to your organization?  Standing alone, this statistic does not give you much reference, but over a period of time, tracking this statistic will help you measure the consistency of your volunteer program, the growth of your program, and will help you understand seasonal volunteer trends.

More complex statistics: these are statistics that give a more detailed look at the well-being and productivity of a volunteer program.  All shelter volunteer managers should consider tracking these for their program.
  • Volunteer retention/attrition rate.  Knowing how long you can keep a volunteer will help determine the practicality of your program and will also drive your recruitment efforts.  There are many ways to go about calculating a retention rate, here is one

1.     Count your active volunteers at a certain date (lets say, January 1, but it can be any date)
2.     Track on a monthly basis, the gain and loss of active volunteers
3.     Count all the active volunteers 12 months later (December 31)
4.     The % change from the beginning of the year to the end is your retention.  You can talk about this statistic either as retention (how many volunteers remain active) or attrition (how many volunteers you lost)
  • Training and orientation retention/attrition rates.  Similar to general volunteer rates discussed above, of the volunteers that sign up for your orientation, go through training, etc how many actually become an active volunteer?  If you have a multi-step training approach, how many volunteers do you loose along the way?  This will help you measure how many volunteers to invite to your initial training sessions.  For example, if I know that only 50% of the volunteers will finish the orientation process and I need 10 new volunteers in my program each month, then I will invite 20 volunteers to orientation to fill my program.

  • Volunteer to animal ratio: just like every parent wants to know how many kids will be in each teacher’s class, shelter supporters want to know how many volunteers are taking care of the animals.  Take your average monthly animal population and divide by your average active volunteer monthly participation.  20:1?  10:1?  0.5:1? If you have more volunteers than animals, express the ratio as: volunteers:animals with animals always being 1 (example, Shelter XYZ has 12 volunteers for every animal).  If you have more animals than volunteers, express as: animals:volunteers (example, Shelter XYZ has 12 animals for every volunteer).

  • Volunteer care days: much like the concept of Animal Care Days, tally up all of your volunteer hours for the month and convert that number to days.  Now, take that a step further and compare your volunteer care days to your total animal care days for the month.  How do they match? 

Not for the faint of heart statistics:  and finally, this set of statistics for volunteer management reporting is the gold standard of all.  Pat yourself on the back and be proud if you are already looking at these statistics, and congratulations if you decide to start measuring your program in this way now!
  • Volunteer Return on Investment (ROI): for the amount of resources (time, staff, money, etc) you put into recruiting, training, and maintaining your volunteers, what type of return do you see?  How do the contributions of the volunteers balance with what you invest in them?  Calculating volunteer ROI will enable you to gage a truer measure of the worth of volunteers to your organization, and again, can justify expanding and growing your program. No need to calculate volunteer ROI on your own, us the ROI calculator provided by Volunteer2 to see the value in your investment.  Within the industry, there are many approaches to calculating ROI, and this tool from Volunteer2 addresses them all! 

  • Value of volunteer time: This is another way to define the worth of your volunteers to your organization.  The Independent Sector releases statistics on the hourly value of volunteers and a volunteer manager can use the value for their state and multiply it by the total hours of volunteer participation for the month, quarter, year, etc.  If you do an annual review for individual volunteers, this is a great statistic to calculate for them. 

I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention that the most important factor in calculating any volunteer statistic is that you have to collect accurate volunteer statistics first.  That, in and of itself, is quite an undertaking especially since most groups depend on the volunteer themselves to report their hours.  To convince your volunteers how important it is, share this post with them and do a preliminary statistical review of your program and share the results with them.  Hopefully seeing the numbers on paper will remind them to report their hours each day/week/month.