Ways to assess the effectiveness of volunteer involvement in an organization. The material here is mainly about program assessment; individual volunteer performance assessment is covered under "Supervision."

Harness the Voice of Volunteers through the Power of Reviews, Susan J. Ellis, Volunteer Management E-mail Update (Susan's Tip of the Month)
Receive tips like the one below every month by e-mail. Use the e-newlsetter sign up form in the right column.
The Limits of Statistical Reporting, Christine Burych, Alison Caird, Joanne Fine Schwebel, Michael Fliess, and Heather Hardie, pp. 1-2, Energize, Inc.
Measuring Up: Assessment Tools for Volunteer Programs, Steve McCurley and Sue Vineyard, Measuring Up: Assessment Tools for Volunteer Programs, pp. 43-44, Heritage Arts
A Note On Assessing Value, Linda Graff, , pp. 20-22, Linda Graff and Associates Inc.
Reacting to the Critics, Susan J. Ellis
The Socioeconomic Resource Statement, Jack Quarter, Laurie Mook , Betty Jane Richmond, pp. 97-98, Pearson Education
Volunteer Management Audit, Susan J. Ellis, The Volunteer Management Audit, Energize, Inc
Voluntary Sector Evaluation Research Project, Canadian initiative to improve the capacity of voluntary organizations to assess their performance and communicate their effectiveness to their funders, stakeholders and the public. , 2003, pp. 66

Join In (UK)'s innovative research into "the hidden value of sport volunteers, going beyond cost to measure the true value they create – through participation, wellbeing, trust and community."  The report has been published on Issu.com. 

, 2014, pp. 32
By Melissa Eystad, Editor. From the Minnesota Department of Human Services, this extremely useful guidebook (now out of print) is available free of charge in electronic form. (Thanks to Melissa Eystad of World Spirit Consulting for sharing this copy.), 1997

Assessments of the UK's volunteer mentoring schemes 2001-2004.

, 2004

By AGE concern/AGE UK. A resource to you capture your current volunteering practices, identify areas for improvement and set up a plan to achieve these goals.

, 2010, pp. 39

Excellent introduction to the why and how of program evaluation, written to guide organizations in self-evaluation without an outside consultant. Includes the importance of volunteers as an information source and as users of the evaluation results. , 2010, pp. 116

European Volunteer Centre (CEV)

Site reporting on volunteering in European countries and fostering exchange among those countries. Offers reports and research.

Innovation Network OnlineTools

Innovation Network's Point K Learning Center offers collaborative tools and resources for assessment, planning, and program improvement.

Investing in Volunteers Project(UK)

Investing in Volunteers is the UK quality standard for all organizations which involve volunteers in their work. The Standard enables organizations to comprehensively review their volunteer management, and also publicly demonstrates their commitment to volunteering.

Online Evaluation Resource Library

This site, although not specific to the field of volunteerism, offers resources for professionals seeking to design, conduct, document, or review project evaluations

True Impact Blog

Focused on metrics, ROI, and other ways to measure the impact of volunteering and service.

VIVA - The Volunteer Investment and Value Audit

Description of VIVA, a measurement tool that assesses the'outputs' of volunteer program (the value of volunteers' time) in relation to the'inputs' (the resources used to support the volunteers), from the Institute for Volunteering Research in the UK.


A variety of articles on how to conduct online surveys and gain more participation from respondents.

Print and e-Books in Our Store

Book cover

A compendium of the best techniques for leading volunteer engagement, proven to work in a myriad of settings.

book cover Measuring the Impact of Volunteers

Presents the innovative Volunteer Resources Balanced Scorecard measurement and planning tool for aligning volunteer effort with organizational goals and effectively assessing the impact of that effort. 

Tackling Evaluation One Component at a Time
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

I frequently get asked "how often" to evaluate "the volunteer program." This is the wrong question, as it is not possible review and assess an entire operation all at once. Break your evaluation goals into several components:

1. Project evaluation: This is assessment of each different activity done by volunteers. When something new is launched, it clearly needs close monitoring through its first year -- benchmark evaluation, if you will. At roughly the first year anniversary, do a more thorough evaluation for the purpose of making sure the project is working; see what needs fine tuning, etc. Then, the second year, reassess anything you revised after year one. After that, evaluation can be less formal for a while.

2. Assessment of effectiveness: It's vital to continuously monitor outcomes and impacts of volunteer efforts, especially so as not to waste volunteer time. It is always of importance to know: Are we meeting real needs? In the most beneficial and appropriate ways? Do our methods work? Do clients want us to do this...or something else?

3. Volunteer management practices: This is assessment of the infrastructure of how well the volunteer involvement strategy is being implemented. It includes considering such questions as: Are we satisfied with the results of our recruitment outreach? How could we be more effective in finding the kinds of volunteers we want and need? How are relations between paid and volunteer staff? How do volunteers assess the orientation and training they receive from us? What is the level of volunteer satisfaction? How can we get better? What do we do right so we can do more of it? A thorough evaluation of this type can be done through something like my Volunteer Management Audit tool every few years or so. But it is probably smart to do focused assessments perhaps twice a year. For example, in February ask questions specifically about orientation and training; in August, do the same thing for recruitment; and so on every six months or so.

Important Note: The biggest mistake you can make when evaluating anything is not knowing what you wanted in the first place. It is impossible to assess anything unless someone has articulated goals and objectives BEFORE the period started! First you have to know what you set out to do. Then you have to design and gather the right data to demonstrate accomplishment in those areas. And only then, after some time has passed, can you ask: Did we do this? Did we do this well?

4. Individual volunteer performance assessment: While this is part of good volunteer training, supervision, and recognition, it is also closely connected to program evaluation because one way to meet program goals is to have the best performing volunteers. As I just noted above about goals and objectives, you can't assess a volunteer unless he or she agreed in advance to a written position description. This forms the basis of the question: How did things go in the past X months?

Employees hate annual performance reviews that feel like student report cards. Make that double for volunteers. So, some tips are:

  • Consistently assess everyone -- don't single out problem volunteers. Make it a matter-of-fact annual discussion.
  • Call it an "Action Plan" and look forward, not backward. Come with ideas for how the volunteer might advance (if they want to) or select other assignment options.
  • Make it a two-way opportunity for feedback. What does the volunteer think might be improved in the agency? How would they like to be trained or supervised?
  • Talk about volunteer commitments to assignments in terms of no more than one year at a time: "So, let's agree you'll do this work for the next 12 months and then we'll see how things are going." This allows you to praise/recognize great work and allows the volunteer to re-commit to another year, or it allows either of you to say "perhaps it's time to try something else." No one should feel they "own" an assignment in perpetuity. Rotation is healthy for everyone and keeps volunteers fresh.

If you are not going to use what you learn from any evaluation effort, don't bother doing one. I mean it. It isn't an ending, but a beginning of the next round of service provision. So it has to be a learning experience and a way to guide next steps.

Also, don't look only for problem areas. We can learn as much from our successes as from our failures, especially if intended to replicate what works or do more of it. Also, if we identify good things, too, we won't scare people away from our evaluation process the next time around out of fear of uncovering failure. And of course, learning what's going well makes for great new things to say at the next volunteer recognition event.