Is Your Volunteer Program Investment Paying Off?
Posted Friday, September 18th, 2015 by Verified Volunteers Staff
Recently, Amy Lytle, Executive Director of HandsOn Northwest North Carolina, hosted a Verified Volunteers-hosted webinar called It’s Budget Season. Is Your Volunteer Program Ready? Chuck Kraft, Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House of Winston-Salem, Inc. and I participated as panelists. During the Q&A portion, we received lots of questions around one particular number – the ROVI (Return on Volunteer Investment).
Attendees wanted to know – what is ROVI? How do you calculate it? And how do you know if your ROVI is good…or if it needs improvement?
I thought it would be a good idea to run down all things ROVI once again in this blog post.
What is ROVI?
As noted, ROVI stands for Return on Volunteer Investment and it provides you with a way of quantifying the benefits to your organization of its volunteer program, which can be both financial and non-financial. It is the core concept at the base of making the case for securing financial resources for your program. After all, volunteers are not “free.” Deciding to engage volunteers is a significant decision to invest in a new “program” for your organization. Like all investments, there are risks and rewards. Calculating your ROVI lets you know if the investment has been “profitable.”
How can you calculate your ROVI?
In order to calculate your ROVI, you’ll need to know the costs associated with your volunteer program. Some of the common costs include:
- Staff time for all those who manage or work with volunteers
- Planning and training costs (for staff)
- Recruiting and marketing costs
- Background checks and other risk management measures
- Training costs (for volunteers)
- Volunteer recognition
- Ongoing professional development and program improvement
You’ll also need to understand the benefits of engaging volunteers – both financial and non-financial.
Some common financial benefits include:
- Cost savings
- Engaging different skills and expertise not found within staff population
- Increased donations
Some non-financial benefits include:
- Increased credibility
- Increased public transparency and trust
- Possibilities for innovation and program improvement
- Increased understanding of your mission and work
- Access to different populations that allow you to further your mission
Quantifying your non-financial ROVI is based on determining specific goals for the volunteer program.
- Increased number of new volunteers
- Higher percentage of new donors
- Numbers of volunteers who become donors
- Increased percentage of new clients served
- Increased percentage of new populations reached
Your non-financial ROVI is reflected in your ability to reach these goals.
Your financial ROVI will be an actual ratio (“for every $ invested, you generate X dollars in value”). When it comes to determining your financial ROVI, calculate all your costs/investments – salaries, recruiting costs, training costs, etc. Then calculate your total return (your number of volunteer hours/year x $23.07* = Total Return). Your financial ROVI is the calculation of the total return divided by the total budget. Sound complicated? This calculator will help you easily determine your ROVI.
So, what’s a good ROVI?
If you determine that you have a ROVI in the $8-10 range, you are a superstar. If your ROVI is lower than $8, it shows that there are some improvements that can be made in terms of spending efficiencies, etc.
How can you improve your ROVI?
There are several organizational changes you can promote in order to ensure an improved return on your volunteer investment.
For instance, encourage leaders within your organization to:
- Lay a strong foundation for the volunteer program through a shared mission and vision for volunteer involvement
- Combine inspiring leadership with strong volunteer management practice
- Build a culture of understanding and collaboration between volunteers and staff
- Learn, grow, and change through the contributions of their volunteers
These points are admittedly vague, but are a great starting point to get you thinking about your organization. Watch the webinar for specific examples and insights. Once specific recommendation I have is related to volunteer screening: ask volunteers to contribute towards the cost of their background checks (or pay for them entirely). This can reduce or eliminate a significant line item in your volunteer program budget and help improve your ROVI.
I would be happy to speak with you about your particular organization. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject line: My ROVI and I will get in touch!
*Value of a volunteer hour according to the Volunteering in America Report http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov