Measuring the Impact of Volunteering
The Secretariat were in windy Edinburgh last week for the Measuring the Impact of Volunteering event, which was graciously hosted by Per Johansson of the Edinburgh European Parliament Liaison Office. The event was held to launch Volonteurope’s latest report, which was produced as part of the impact measurement working group. The starting point of the report is considering volunteering as the most visible expression of promoting solidarity, facilitating social inclusion and building social capital. This is why Volonteurope, supported by a European Working group on impact measurement, decided to embark in the work to produce a report that aims to promote the need for greater recognition of volunteering and explore ways to better capture its impact in systemic form. In order to facilitate the discussion on the value of volunteering and the management and measurement of its impact, the report contains an analysis of the current situation on the matter in Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Serbia and the United Kingdom.
Volunteering infrastructures and rules differ between European states. This paper highlights some of these differences, providing a summary of research carried out. For example in countries that were under a Communist regime, e.g. Romania, Serbia and Bulgaria, there is a less developed culture and infrastructure of volunteering, while countries in northern Europe, especially the Netherlands and the UK, have high rates of volunteering and enabling volunteering infrastructures.
The second chapter defines the methodological basis for impact measurement and the measurement of social impact. It defines social impact and identifies case studies on how Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and volunteer-involving organisations (VIOs) measure their impact. It is illustrated with some illuminated case studies, and contains a number of useful tools for measuring impact in the third sector.
First on the agenda was the presented of the report itself, and Laura de Bonfils gave a great overview of the findings, and especially the tools that were developed in the report. Laura explained the thrust of the work, and Volonteurope’s definition of social impact: namely, the non-economic impact to the status quo of a person or of the community. Well-being is closely associated with social impact, which can be summarised as the state of being comfortable, healthy and happy. This is traditionally measured by the Human Development Index, but some favour the subjective well-being index that is a direct measurement of happiness to measure social progress.
She also went into closer detail with some of the interesting case studies included in the report – such as the Czech Republic – who face particularly unique barriers, such as a lack of measurement tools and resources. Laura de Bonfils was also joined by Louise King, who went into closer detail about the tools used in the report:
- Self-assessment tools to understand how well an organisation is measuring impact;
- Evidence planning tools used to plan a project evaluation;
- Specialist tools designed specifically for social ventures involving volunteers;
- Outcome assessment tools to track and measure outcomes in robust and reliable ways; and
- Benchmarking tools that enable comparison against other organisations and similar data sets.
A particularly interesting case study came from the UK, and we were lucky to have Thaddaeus Douglas, Volunteering Matters’ impact and evaluation manager, to present Volunteering Matters’ work on building its impact measurement framework . He came armed with an very in depth presentation, looking closely at how impact is measured at his organisation, especially using tools such as the Theory of Change Model, or the Volunteer Assessment Toolkit. He explained how these tools were used by Volunteering Matters, and the kinds of impacts they had been able to measure and record using them.
Striking French traffic controller meant that there was a last minute change to the final part of the morning’s programme – Volonteurope Board Member David Lopez was meant to chair the event’s closing panel but he was grounded in France; luckily for us, Tulip Foundation’s Maria Petkova stepped into the breach. We were joined by Angela Schlenkoff-Hus from Volunteering Matters, John Downie, head of the Scottish Council of Voluntary Organisations, and Lesley Hustinx of Ghent University. Each panellist presented their work on measuring impact, with three varied perspectives – which prompted lots of discussion and engagement from the audience.
The event was a fantastic opportunity to talk about the work of this working group, and we were able to disseminate many copies of the report. If you would like to read the report, please click on the picture above and you can download it – feel free to pass it on to other interested parties too!
By Rosalind Duignan-Pearson and Laura de Bonfils