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New standards give volunteer program administrators something to count on

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If a group of volunteers plant a tree in deforested woods but nobody knows how many where there, how long they were there or whether the tree grew, did they do any good? It’s hard to say.

But the Points of Light Institute has new reporting standards for employee volunteer programs that can help eliminate the unknown from the start.

Employee volunteer programs are on the rise as their value is recognized by companies. Once established, the first challenge for program administrators and managers is to determine what it takes to deliver that value to the business and the community. What level of participation makes an impact?

According to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s Drivers of Effectiveness for Employee Volunteering and Giving Programs, 50 percent participation in an employee volunteer program is an indicator of a high impact program. So how do you accurately measure the level of participation so you can assess your own programs, compare them to others and communicate their value to the community? And how do you come up with a target participation rate for your own programs to know if they meet their goals?

It’s not easy. More than 40 percent of the more than 350 companies responding to the Drivers of Effectiveness for Employee Volunteering and Giving Programs Benchmarking Survey Tool (www.volunteerbenchmark.com) are unable to report what percentage of their employees participate in their employee volunteer programs.

This is not surprising. Establishing a system for tracking hours involves answering an onslaught of questions: Should we include time employees volunteer on their own time completely independently from work? Is the hour drive to the volunteer assignment considered volunteering? What are the principal methods for collecting hours?

The Points of Light Institute’s revised and updated Employee Volunteer Program Reporting Standards help you do all that and more. They provide companies with definitions and standards for measurement that Points of Light believes encourage voluntary compliance within the employee volunteer program community.

The EVP Reporting Standards include detailed guidelines for tracking and reporting volunteer hours and establishing categories of volunteer programs as well as types of volunteers to better track where and how resources are being devoted in programs. To more accurately measure program performance the standards also recommend valuation methods and calculations to produce financial and “utilization” metrics. Utilization metrics compare the standard rates of participation, program access and use, and the threshold of benefits relative to program engagement.

Employee volunteer program administrators all want their programs to count. With the help of the Points of Light Institute’s reporting standards they can start by doing the counting right.

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