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Corporate volunteerism programs are highly effective in leveraging the skills and enthusiasm of employees to make a difference in the community. They build a strong internal culture as well as goodwill with external audiences. Unfortunately, CSR programs often feel the impact of budget cuts first. As a result, the ability to prove – and improve – the value of volunteer programs is critical to attracting and retaining support.

Measuring Social Value
Farron Levy, President of True Impact, recently wrote an interesting article on the most important metrics for employee volunteerism. When it comes to understanding the social value of volunteerism efforts, he recommended monetization: calculate how much money nonprofits saved by not having to pay someone to perform the services your volunteers provided for free. Another way to measure this impact is to get feedback on how volunteer services helped improve the capacity of the nonprofit served. Did employee volunteers help increase reach by serving more beneficiaries? Was the nonprofit able to use fewer resources in delivering its services or increase the effectiveness of the services it provides?

Gaging Employee Satisfaction and Engagement
We’ve written frequently about the impact volunteerism programs can have in building corporate culture and boosting employee morale. The most obvious engagement metric is participation, either number of volunteers or number of volunteer hours served. However, this really only gets to the what of your EVP program. A more effective way to measure the real impact of employee volunteerism is to dig a little deeper and get to the why. Why employees volunteer and how this impacts job satisfaction. This can be done through surveys – either immediate post-volunteerism or as part of a larger employee satisfaction survey – or during exit interviews from departing employees. The data collected can provide a valuable tool for building credibility and support for your EVP program. It also provides you with insight into what areas of your program are most – and least – successful.

Understanding the Impact on External Audiences
Measuring the impact of volunteerism efforts on external stakeholders, such as clients, prospects, communities, or the media is tricky. While it’s fairly easy to track the number of impressions from a press release or ad campaign, the actual impact on the bottom line is less clear when it comes to CSR-focused communications. And it’s a delicate balancing act: how to communicate the good work in a way that is meaningful without appearing inauthentic or self-serving. One way to gage the impact of external CSR-focused communications, informally at least, is during conversations with clients, prospects or recruits. How many are aware of your firm’s volunteerism efforts? Does this have any impact on their perception of your firm or their desire to do business with or work for you? These types of questions could also be sprinkled into customer satisfaction surveys.

While almost anything can be measured, the key is to first identify how your organization defines success. What are the goals of your volunteerism efforts? Are they internally focused, maybe to build corporate culture or increase employee satisfaction? Or, are they based on external outcomes, such as improving the perception of the firm in the minds of communities or the media? Understanding these goals will help you measure the right outcomes, empowering you with the information you need to enhance the long-term success and impact of your employee volunteer program.