Captures the Power of Volunteers

8 Dec

An intriguing volunteer trend has made me reflect recently on the value of tracking both qualitative and quantitative data about volunteers. recently launched a movement in partnership with the Corporate Council on Volunteering called Power of the Hour, whereby both workplaces and individuals are being challenged to pledge as many volunteer hours as possible in order to reach a goal of engaging Canadians in 2,000,000 volunteer hours in 2010. Hours pledged by workplaces and individuals are being tracked at here and there are currently over 1,000,000 hours pledged. The live list of pledges is updated very frequently and is an exciting and motivating tool for anyone who is interested in volunteerism or who is looking to volunteer.

I also reflected on the challenge of attributing value to an hour when it is sometimes difficult to understand the impact that 1 hour from 20 volunteers or 20 hours from 1 volunteer has on an individual, or the greater community. This reminds me of a blog that was posted a few months ago from Volunteer Vancouver  where the following comment was made about tracking volunteer hours:

“Measuring hours is like comparing how quickly I can fix a computer to how quickly someone who actually knows how to fix computers does it. It tells us absolutely NOTHING about what work was done…So instead of measuring how many hours your volunteers work with you, why don’t you measure what impact they had on your organization, your clients and your mission?”

In a reply to this post, one reader commented:
“…the value of that person’s volunteer work may lie in that person’s increase self worth or sense of self efficacy. It may lie in connectedness that that person now has with a greater community. But attaching a value to either of those is difficult.
So how do we measure successful volunteer engagement? Ask. Ask the program managers supervising the volunteers what value has been created by working with volunteers. Ask the volunteers how they have been impacted.”

Clearly it is important for all stakeholders in the volunteer experience to understand the value of an hour, and most importantly to ensure that each hour volunteered is in fact valuable for all. is working to ensure that this is the case by encouraging all who pledge their hours online to “create an action list and log their hours with descriptions and photos.” With action lists that will hopefully capture over 2,000,000 hours volunteered by Canadians one can only imagine the innovative and powerful volunteer activities that Canadians will share with each other. I consider this a promising example of tracking volunteer engagement that represents an alternative to the recommendations suggested by the two bloggers I quoted earlier from the Volunteer Vancouver blog.

It is also important, as I stated at the beginning of this post, to consider the value of quantitative data tracked about volunteers. While the number of volunteers engaged and hours tracked may not tell us much about the work that was involved with any particular volunteer activity, people do hold stock in the power of an hour. With so many Canadians engaged in this quickly evolving challenge many more will be motivated to jump on board to ensure the target is reached. With this in mind, I do also hope that those same volunteers will engage in as much sharing of their volunteer activities as possible with project descriptions, photos, and narratives of memorable moments.

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