Volunteer program assessments are a great way to get candid volunteer feedback and boost leadership at the same time. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t take time out to reflect on their current practices in a purposeful, comprehensive way.
But, if volunteers are truly essential to your mission, doesn’t it make sense to maximize their environment so they can be as successful as possible? And, who knows better than volunteers themselves whether or not current management practices work for them?
Why Conduct a Volunteer Program Assessment?
There are many benefits to involving volunteers in an audit of your operations. For one, needed improvements are often best identified by volunteers themselves. In addition:
- Include the volunteer viewpoint in volunteer program enhancement
- Offer new opportunities for volunteers who are seeking more
- Educate potential volunteer leaders in the “back end” operations of your organization
- Identify best practices and common challenges that can be shared across the agency
- Increase effectiveness of the services you provide
Volunteer Program Assessments Step-by-Step
There are several things you can do to ensure your assessment project is set up in a way that empowers volunteers to become active team members and leaders. Here are a few ways to set the stage for success.
1) Identify minimum requirements for team members.
Make sure you know what you are looking for before you extend any invitations to join the program assessment team. Anyone who joins the team should agree to the following, at minimum:
- Share responsibilities for addressing a challenge or opportunity
- Regularly attend team meetings
- Actively participate in team processes and project(s)
- Make commitment to review and contribute to the assessment plan
- Rotate in and out of team roles, if appropriate
- Can work on their own and like to work on a team.
2) Identify the expectations for team members.
Any volunteer who is interested in assisting with the assessment should also commit to the following general responsibilities and ethical principles, including:
- Anonymity & Confidentiality – Any comments or responses collected, regardless of method, should be kept anonymous. Use online tools for conducting surveys; if it’s necessary to administer surveys through other methods that could impact anonymity, confidentiality should remain a priority.
- Informed Consent – Complete information about the assessment and how results will be used should be shared with volunteers, community partners, and any others asked to provide feedback. Talking points/information sheets for the key stakeholders should be provided to the team for this purpose.
- Data Security – Survey data, interview and focus group notes, and any other data, as well as program assessment results, should be kept in a secure, locked cabinet or file.
- Safeguarding Intellectual Property – It should be made clear that all assessment materials (e.g., survey questionnaires, etc.) belong to the organization and, if these materials may be shared with others, the official channels for this to occur.
- Objectivity – The team should be educated about types of research bias and strongly encouraged to resist “snap decision-making.” Not everyone sees the world the same way. Our perceptions are formed by our experiences, culture, upbringing, and the mass media. Working in a team, versus individually, can help us unearth our biases and make better decisions.
- Discretion – Team members should also understand how important it is to keep discoveries and findings to themselves and only share them through an official report to authorized parties. There is nothing that undermines the trust in program assessment results more than gossip.
3) Determine the kinds of roles needed for your assessment team.
Volunteer roles will vary with the size and preferences of each team, but some key roles are listed below. By identifying the roles you need, you’ll better estimate the number of volunteers you will need.
- Team Facilitator – working closely with his or her key staff partner to arrange orientation for team, facilitate open team dialog, get support and feedback on draft documents and audit report
- Survey Coordinator – directing the distribution and collection of surveys of either or both program volunteers and community partners
- Checklist Coordinator(s) – leading the assessment activities for their assigned research areas
- Materials Review Coordinator – gathering and recording feedback on program and volunteer materials, including promotional pieces, screening and application forms and training materials
- Data Analysis Lead – inspecting and interpreting data collected through audit process
- Writer – drafting final report and communication materials about results of audit
Stay tuned next week for Part 2 of this post!