Monday, August 10, 2015

Evaluating Volunteers

Program evaluation is an essential process, particularly for non-profits. Since volunteers are important to the success of most non-profits, then volunteers must be included in the evaluation process as well. Such evaluations can help you ensure that your programs are successful and meeting the needs of your community. In addition, gathering feedback on your programs and volunteers can help secure additional funding. For example, tracking volunteer time can show how non-profits contribute financially to their community.

In addition to tracking volunteer time, volunteers should also be evaluated on their performance. Not only will this help you make sure your programs remain up to quality, but feedback for a volunteer's performance is also a great way to keep them motivated. Remember that your volunteers act mainly as employees, but without pay--therefore, you should ensure that their evaluation process is consistent, just as you would for a paid staff person. This also means that the feedback process should be two-way--allowing time for the volunteer to offer their own feedback will help them feel like an appreciated member of the team. There are many ways to accomplish this, and they can be formal or informal. Examples include monthly focus group meetings, questionnaires, and interviews. 

What does this mean for your organization? The first thing to consider is if you even have an evaluation system in place for volunteers. If not, then it's time to put a system in place. If your organization mainly utilizes short term volunteers for specific events, then a brief meeting at the conclusion may work best, followed by an electronic survey for volunteers to offer additional feedback. If you rely on long term volunteers, then scheduling regular, individual meetings with the volunteer may be the best way for evaluating their progress. For example, I currently don't have anything setup to evaluate my volunteers. Since my volunteers are always resistant to change, I plan to start with an informal process, such as offering general feedback at our bi-monthly meetings, and leaving time for the volunteers to offer feedback as well. As my volunteers become accustomed to this process, I will seek their input on developing a more formal process. I want to be able to offer them individualized feedback, but I also value their time and would want to find a way to do it that would fit everyone's busy schedules.

Teen Counselor volunteers supervise campers at a pool party. Teen Counselors usually receive immediate feedback on their performance during the week of camp. Additional feedback is offered before or after camp at mandatory training sessions.
Volunteers are important to most, if not all, non-profit organizations. Thus, a good amount of time and energy should be devote to ensuring their performance is in line with the organization's mission, and is helpful for the volunteers themselves.

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