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Maximizing Impact through Program Evaluation
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Maximizing Impact through Volunteer Program Evaluation – Subscriber Circle Summary & Tips

Sammy Feilchenfeld, Training Coordinator 

In May 2015, a number of volunteer managers and coordinators from Toronto’s non-profit and charitable organizations came together to discuss the planning of and potential for program evaluations at Volunteer Toronto’s Subscriber Circle. Here are a few highlights and tips from the session:

What is a Program Evaluation?

  • It’s a way to collect and interpret data to answer questions about your program’s efficiency, effectiveness and impact
  • It can help you determine strengths and weaknesses of your volunteer program and increase transparency
  • The process can help inform the growth of your organization and program while working toward your mission

What should I evaluate?

To determine what you’d like to evaluate, you should:

  • Identify the purpose of the evaluation - what are you looking to find out?
  • Determine the stakeholders - where will the data you collect from and who will it affect?
  • Identify the program goals and the indicators of success that you can measure

Some examples of what to evaluate include:

  • Measuring volunteer contributions
  • Examining volunteer return rates (retention vs. attrition)
  • Determining volunteer satisfaction
  • Analyzing your feedback and evaluation system

How do I collect data for an evaluation?

  • Start by understanding what data you already have, who you want to ask and how much detail you’ll need
  • To reach large groups, you can use surveys sent out electronically or physically
  • To reach smaller groups and individuals, you can use interviews and focus groups

What does all this data I collect mean?

  • Take a look at the totals, averages and/or percentages of the data you collect
  • To understand and fully use this data, make comparisons (trends over time, performance vs. target, group vs. group)
  • Apply this data and your analysis to your purpose and your organization’s missions and goals
  • Determine the story your data is trying to tell – use the data you collect, including numbers (volunteer hours, dollars raised) and anecdotal or descriptive data (stories, written responses) to determine the strengths and weaknesses you want to address

Are there tools to help me?

  • When collecting measurable data, consider using volunteer hour tracking tools, online/e-mail survey systems and spreadsheets to record and compare information
  • For descriptive feedback, you can record interviews and focus groups, use physical evaluation forms and utilize volunteers to help you read through all of the data you collect

Looking for more information on Program Evaluation? Stay tuned for a new Online Learning Course on Program Evaluation in Summer 2015.

Subscriber Circles are themed discussion groups for volunteer coordinators and managers, hosted monthly by Volunteer Toronto in-house and in different parts of Toronto. Subscriber Circles are free for Full Subscribers.

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