Inputs are those things that are put into your program. They are things like staff, staff time, money, equipment, supplies, volunteers and volunteer time.The contribution of resources by your partners may also be considered an input. Inputs also include constraints on the program, such as laws, regulations and requirements for funding.
Activities are those things that the Volunteer Program does to fulfill its mission. Examples of Volunteer Program activities might be:
- Referral of volunteers to non-profit agencies
- Training of area Volunteer Managers in professional Volunteer Management techniques
- Sponsoring projects that impact the critical social needs of the community.
Outputs are the products of the program's activities. What actually got accomplished?
- How many hours did the volunteers serve?
- What was the contribution of the partners?
- How many people were reached, tutored, mentored, # of kits made, etc.
In the past, Volunteer Programs, like many other human service organizations, did not track what happened to the volunteers that were referred after the placement. We might know how many hours a volunteer has spent at his volunteer activity, but we do not know how this volunteer activity has changed or helped the agency in which he was placed. How has this volunteer service benefited the volunteer? This is where the measurement of outcomes comes in.
Outcomes are the changes or benefits that have happened to the agencies in which you have placed your volunteers, benefits to the community, and to the volunteers themselves. How have the populations, which you have served, changed their behaviors, skills, knowledge, attitudes, values or conditions? It is the impact you have had on your community.For example: A neighborhood clean-up campaign
Outputs - These are your Accomplishments
- #of organizational meetings
- # of participants
- # of volunteer hours served
- # of blocks cleaned
Outcomes- This is the Impact that you have achieved through your project.
As a result of the neighborhood cleanup campaign 90% of community residents surveyed reported reduced exposure to safety hazards in the neighborhood and an increase in community pride.
When writing outcome measures be sure to:
- Use measurements when determining your outcomes
- Use measurements and standards that are straightforward and easy to understand
- Be specific- avoid general statements
Outcome measures clearly state how your program has made an impact and benefited your community. But what are some other ways that we can use this clear and focused information?
- Recruit and train talented staff
- Enlist and motivate volunteers
- Engage collaborators
- Retain or increase funding
- Demonstrate innovative efforts
- Gain favorable public recognition
Outcome measures can also help your Volunteer Program to improve its programs and services by:
- Identifying staff and volunteer training need
- Develop and justify budgets
- Prepare long-range plans
- Focus Board member's attention on programmatic issues
The demonstration of program impacts has become increasing crucial in the quest to prove Volunteer Program effectiveness. Federal programs as well as many private funders require human service agencies to measure and report on their outcomes.
Good Luck! You will find with a little practice and patience, the Outcome measures described here will be a useful addition to your Volunteer Program.
About the Author
Devorah Vineburg is the lead staff professional at the Volunteer Center of Brown County, Green Bay, WI, in the areas of training, consultation and technical assistance to nonprofit agencies. Her website Crafty Community Connections located at www.craftycommunityconnection.com is an excellent resource of ideas for craft and volunteer service projects that can be donated to local people, agencies and charities as a community service.It is a great resources for crafters, kids, teachers, scouts, youth groups, Sunday Schools, parents and friends. The website is updated each month.
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