Measuring the Strength of Your Volunteer Program
I talk to companies every week about employee volunteer programs. It doesn’t seem to matter if the company is local business or a multi-national Fortune 500 corporation. Invariably the conversation begins with the question of how to get more employees to participate as volunteers. Next, we explore how the volunteering program fits within the company and what the outcomes have been so far. Finally, we talk about metrics. What is the data telling you? Usually, this brings us right back to the beginning of the conversation: participation rates and how to increase that number.
It makes sense that a successful corporate volunteer program is well attended by employees, but that’s not necessarily an indication of strength or sustainability. So in these conversations I try to share at least two alternative measures to use that get at the health of a volunteering program.
1. Motivation. Why are people volunteering?
Understanding the reasons why people participate is essential to discovering the program’s long term potential. When people volunteer for the first time, they are usually motivated extrinsically. This is completely normal. We all want to help; give back; make a difference. But if we’ve not volunteered before, we usually don’t “own” these motivations. Instead, they are extrinsic to our personal lives and they exist outside of us. They are not intimate. While extrinsic motivations are important, they are not deeply rooted in our personalities.
Eventually, if volunteering programs are designed well, people will begin to discover their intrinsic motivations for volunteering. Intrinsic motivations are tied to our sense of self. This kind of motivation is connected to who we are. It is essential that people transition from a general sense of ‘it’s the right thing to do’ to highly personal reasons. Why? Obviously the more we are personally invested, the greater our commitment. The question isn’t, “How many people are showing up?” but rather, “How much of each person showed up.”