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Measuring volunteer impact benefits more that your program: it empowers YOU

The life of a volunteer manager can feel lonely. We have a primary purpose in our organization—the subject matter expert, you might say. This purpose often means we are the only ones in charge of scheduling and coordinating volunteers.

Albeit an essential role, volunteer management is frequently overlooked as the department that works to serve the needs of all the others.

It can be a struggle and is eerily similar to being stuck in the middle; forced to live with one foot on each side of organizational dynamics; the go-between in the micro and macro of work.

If you aspire to more authority than you have, this middle position can feel frustrating, and you might choose to ignore the awkward position you’re in. But the mindset you hold rules supreme. The mindset you choose defines the experience you have as an employee and a human.

As volunteer managers, we know this to be true of our volunteers, right? When they show up to serve and are well informed, inspired to help and excited to learn, our jobs are easy. But, when they show up confused or resistant, they can cost the organization more energy than they contribute.

It’s the same situation with your own employment. Your attitude predicts your outcome. If you feel awkwardly misunderstood or undervalued, your work will suffer. So, how can we demonstrate with confidence what we do matters?

Your most powerful strategy requires getting serious about metrics. All businesses and organizations are governed by them, even when they talk about mission and values, the metrics behind the rhetoric matter. So, get good at understanding values that can be measured.

Ask yourself and your team (if you have one) what it costs the organization to do the work that you do. Keep it simple and host an informal brainstorming session where you start adding up the simple numbers of your time spent on projects (your income, divided by the number of hours it takes you). Add to that the cost of your volunteers’ time, which can be calculated by referencing the follow resource(s):

Once you’ve calculated the cost of human resources, now add simple, high level numbers attached to the other resources required to complete the project(s). An example of this could be materials and supplies—right down to the paper clips and office supplies, if applicable.

(Don’t belabour this activity as it should be quick, information gathering and with top-of-mind costs or a quick google search for numbers. The point of the exercise is to be honest about the value you are bringing to the organization!)

Once you have some numbers, add them all together and take stock of how much you and your department/team/volunteers contribute. Be humbled by the sheer volume you see there and then shift your attitude to match it.

The greatest reason to get serious about metrics is NOT so you can prove your place to the organization you serve (sorry to disappoint). It’s to prove your worth to yourself in order to transform your attitude!

Regardless of your professional circumstances, you and only you control your attitude and mindset. I am continually amazed at how long people wait for their employers or organizations to ‘treat’ them a certain way. If you do not like the way you’re being treated or regarded, why are you still there? As we welcome more and more millennials into our work and volunteer forces, we’re seeing that they are not willing to tolerate mismanagement or lack of empowerment in their jobs.

So, take a lesson from those who will, in time, dominate the workforce: we are all unique. There is only one YOU on the planet and when you use your unique gifts and skills to empower yourself, regardless of your level of authority, you are assured freedom and opportunity around every corner. Don’t wait for others to do it for you even though you may live in the middle. Instead, encourage and allow your mindset to transcend that!



Amber McMillan, PMP Prosci ADKAR (CMC) CVA EQP (she/her/they), is the current Board Chair of CCVA, the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration.

Amber is a diversely skilled professional with a unique approach for innovating and leading projects in various environments. With experience in all aspects of project, change and people management as well as operations and organizational strategy, she is committed to the highest of standards, works diligently to create positive working environments and is motivated by her own contagious enthusiasm.

With tangible credentials and over 25 years of experience in both profit and not-for-profit environments, she is well equipped to contribute her skill set in complex organizations in need of dynamic and proprietary services.

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