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Program Assessment

Resources on evaluating the effectiveness of volunteer management processes and the outcome/impact of volunteer services organization-wide. For information on individual volunteer performance assessment, see Supervision.

Applied Futurism: Putting Trends to Work Today, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2004
The Cost of a Volunteer, 2003
report by the Grantmaker Forum on Community and National Service reveals the level of infrastructure neccessary for an organization to effectively involve volunteers.
End-of-Year Reports Can Illuminate Volunteer Achievements, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2012
Evaluating by Comparisons: Watch out for the Traps!, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
A Great New Report to Praise, Criticize, and Use, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2004
I'll Never Understand Why Executives Still Don't Understand, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2011
It's Time to Start Counting Volunteers Seriously, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2001
Measuring Volunteering: A Practical Toolkit, 2001
Independent Sector and UNV, designed as a toolkit to assist countries in conducting surveys assessing their national, regional, and local volunteer levels, 40-pg. PDF
Mystifying Data: Can America's Promise Get Away with It?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 1999
The Need for Institutional Memory, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2003
A Note On Assessing Value, Linda Graff, , pp. 20-22, Linda Graff and Associates Inc., 2005
Online Spying Can Improve Your Volunteer Management Skills, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2006
Reacting to the Critics, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2002
The Socioeconomic Resource Statement, Jack Quarter, Laurie Mook , Betty Jane Richmond, pp. 97-98, Pearson Education, 2003
Spring Cleaning: Take a Fresh Look at Your Volunteer Program, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2002
Taking the Client's Perspective in Designing Volunteer Roles, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2009
Universal Standards vs. Your Own Situation, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2003
The Value of Volunteering, Arden Brummell, Past Chair, Volunteer Calgary, Volunteers Connecting Community Summer 2001
Volunteer Impact Report Industry View 2014, Software Advice and VolunteerMatch, 2014

Study of how organizations measure volunteer impact.

Volunteer Management Audit, Susan J. Ellis, Energize, Inc, 2003
What Did You and Volunteers Do Well this Year?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2014
What Would the Perfect Volunteer-Involving Organization Look Like?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2012
Why Do We Love Volunteer Satisfaction Surveys?, Susan J. Ellis, Energize Hot Topic, 2012
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

Guide from Volunteer Canada on how to consult stakeholders in the development, design, delivery or review of services and programs.

, pp. 37

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 the Charity Finance Directors Group in the UK, with an Appendix on "The Development of Recommendations on Valuing Volunteers" , pp. 68
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
The Volunteer Enterprise: Building Capacity for Civic Engagement - The National Human Services Assembly, seeking to advocate the findings of the 2004 Volunteer Management Capacity report. , 2006, pp. 28
This document from Volunteering England explores what "valuing volunteer management" really means and is designed to help organisations assess how they currently value volunteer management, why this is important, and what extra steps they could take., 2011, pp. 16

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
A companion publication to the Evaluation Handbook above, this guide introduces a "program logic model" - a picture of how your organization does its work, to facilitate thinking, planning, and communications about program objectives and actual accomplishments. The PDF integrates volunteers into the variables studied. , pp. 72

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

Economic Impact Of Volunteers Calculator

Created by the Points of Light Foundation estimates the appropriate wage rate for volunteer time based on what the person does and the value of specific tasks according to market conditions as reported by the US Department of Labor. A starting point for organizations to determine the value of the time their volunteers give doing a wide variety of volunteer jobs.

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

Survey Measures of Youth Civic Engagement

CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) and their colleagues have developed and tested various measures of young adults’ “civic engagement” (including their political participation; their community service and local civic work; and their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values). These measures are available for anyone to use. 

Value Volunteer Management

Initiative of Volunteering England to advocate for the importance of "investing in volunteering."

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

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

Book cover for From the Top Down

Outlines the key executive decisions necessary to lay the foundation for successful volunteer involvement: policies, budgeting, staffing, employee-volunteer relationships, legal issues, cost and value of volunteers, and more.

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Workbook of checklists, worksheets, idea stimulators, and other practical tools for senior-level leaders to incorporate volunteer involvement as a key ingredient in the overall strategy of an organization.

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Dozens of forms to assess volunteer involvement in your organization including forms for agency readiness for volunteers, volunteer feedback, assessing organizational climate, and personal satisfaction in your job. 

Discusses the purpose and values of a volunteer program evaluation and helps identify the steps needed to carry out an evaluation.

A validating tool for analyzing the effectiveness of an organization's volunteer management practices, with complete Scoresheets and instructions to conduct the process successfully.

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A very timely analysis of a major challenge facing nonprofits today - how to properly assess social impacts and the important contributions of volunteers.

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An assessment and planning tool for developing best practices for dealing with young people as volunteers, complete with forms to copy and use again.

Deck the Halls and Check the Pulses
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

The end of one year and the start of the next is a great time to "check the pulse" of people in your organization. Keep things easy with a very short feedback request consisting of only two main questions -- one looking back over the year ending and the other looking ahead. But ask for a specific number of short responses to each.

For example:

  1. In 2009, what two things did you do or see someone else do that you felt were really important to the people we serve?
  2. For 2010, what two things would help you to be even more successful in your work here?

Note that the questions do not necessarily have to be about volunteers, nor do you have to limit the participants to volunteers only. In fact, asking everyone, regardless of position or pay status, to respond will allow you to use the responses to demonstrate the role of the volunteer office in organizational recognition and planning. Here are two ideas for how to do that, based on the sample questions above.

Sharing the many answers you will get to question #1 will make everyone feel good (it's that time of year, after all). You might even post the "really important" actions on big sheets of newsprint in some area seen mainly by paid and unpaid staff. Make sure the comments are legible and presented seriously, but you can also use colored markers, glitter, whatever, to make these posters festive. (Be sure to say something at the top such as "The Volunteer Office Wants You to Know..." so that you get the credit for the idea!)

For question #2, you might collate the answers and group them under topic headings. Distribute the list to everyone individually. There are many ways you can go from there. You might ask everyone to circle the five ideas they like the best and promise that, in 2010, you will attempt to put volunteer energy into those areas. Or you might offer to facilitate a meeting in each unit or program to discuss what's needed and what you, collectively, can do to accomplish this.

One important caveat: Do not ask for any feedback that you can do nothing about! In other words, if you do not feel able to tackle the issue of "what do you need to be successful," ask a different question. The whole point is not to conduct a survey per se, but rather to use the holidays to make people reflect positively on what they did throughout the year, and then to be upbeat for next year.

Learning from Supporters and Detractors of Volunteers
From Susan J. Ellis, President, Energize, Inc.

If you're like me (and a lot of volunteer managers I've known are!), you really want to please everyone. Of course this is unrealistic, but it ought to be possible to create more supporters of volunteers in your organization than detractors.

Begin by identifying who on staff is a real champion of volunteer involvement - the people you go to if you need a creative role for a volunteer or anything else special. On a piece of paper or an Excel spreadsheet, write down their names in a column (if you don't want anyone to see your list, use code names!). Then, next to each, identify why you think each person is so positive. Is it because:

  • The volunteers you've assigned to them in the past have been exceptionally good?
  • They are secure in their work and so able to share it more easily?
  • They are naturally warm and welcoming?
  • They have a good relationship with you?
  • Their direct supervisor rewards success with volunteers?

Obviously there are many other possible factors.

In the third column, identify what benefits the staff member seems to derive, personally, from success with volunteers. Things like gains a sounding board for new ideas, access to many different skills, more ways to help their clients, etc.

Now draw a line across the page and do the same thing for staff members who are often positive, but not always. Can you find reasons for their occasional reluctance by comparing your answers in columns two and three to what you identified above for the greatest supporters?

Draw another line across the page and repeat the process for those who seem "on the fence" or neutral. Do it once again for those staff who are more often negative than positive. Finally, analyze those staff who really seem "bent on destruction" - who are always negative about volunteers.As you look at the possible reasons why detractors might be that way, you will be able to separate issues out of your control from things you can possibly do something about. Are their attitudes based on bad experiences with recent volunteers or on unsubstantiated prejudice? Might they be completely untrained in how to partner with volunteers, and yet not realize that? Do they receive feedback from their managers about how well they do or do not work with volunteers?

So now you can make a fourth column headed "What I Might Do." Consider how you might use what you have diagnosed about supporters to approach resisters. Are there real issues that you can take care of and change the situation (such as not assigning volunteers at particularly hectic times or requisitioning another workspace)? Is there a way to ask for the help of supporters to do some peer outreach to their more negative colleagues?The real point is that rarely is there only one reason why volunteers are welcomed or not. It comes down to personal relationships with each staff member - both with volunteers you may ask them to supervise and with you as leader of volunteers.