5 tools for measuring the impact of volunteering on volunteers

Last week I attended the Archives Wellbeing Impact Seminar organised by The National Archives and What Works Wellbeing. It was a terrific event with lots of great discussion and interest in how we can measure the impact archives have on people’s lives.

On my table there was quite a bit of discussion about volunteering and how we measure the difference archive volunteering makes to volunteers. The report The impact of volunteering by Caroline Williams collates evidence about the impact of volunteering in archives. It uses data from previous national surveys and some qualitative data (e.g. quotes from volunteers) to demonstrate the health and wellbeing, social and learning impacts.

But how can archive services measure the impact of their volunteering programme on their volunteers? Here are five useful tools.

1. NCVO Volunteer Impact Toolkit.

This toolkit costs £60 (£42 to NCVO members), but includes some good resources for capturing qualitative data including running focus groups, creating case studies, and volunteer diaries. I particularly like the volunteer diary template which help volunteers reflect on what they have gained and learned from their volunteering.

2. Happy Museum Narrative Evaluation

Lots of my clients already have great qualitative data (from focus groups, interviews, feedback etc.) but don’t know how to collate or analyse it. I love the Happy Museum Narrative Evaluation which is simple desk work approach to identifying themes including how frequently they recur in qualitative data. Every archive service should be using this.

3. Questionnaires

The NCVO Volunteer Impact Toolkit also includes some sample volunteer questionnaires using Likert scales to measure the impact of volunteering. I’m not overly keen on the wording of some of the questions and prefer the questions NCVO used in their national Time Well Spent 2018 survey. Q46 of this questionnaire include some good questions on impact and you can benchmark against the national results.

4. What Works Wellbeing

If you are interested specifically in wellbeing then What Works Wellbeing have created a fantastic guide to measuring wellbeing impact which includes recommended questions (ONS, WEBWBS etc). It also includes super advice on how to approach the research and analyse the results.

5. Volunteer Functions Inventory

The Volunteer Functions Inventory (Clary et al., 1998) is a validated instrument for assessing the motivations and impact of volunteering. As part of my MSc in Social Research and Evaluation I am piloting a version of this instrument at a couple of archive services. I am hoping it can give high quality data about volunteer motivation and impact. You probably need some experience of quantitative data analysis in order to interpret the results and you may need to think about sampling methodologies in order to ensure the results are representative. I’m hoping to write more about this instrument once I have completed the pilot.

Let me know what tools or methods you are using in the comment section below!


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