The word “audit” is a dirty word for a lot of people, but really, it just means “a methodical examination and review”. Something we should do with our volunteer programs annually.
It is rare that we set time aside to work ON our program, rather than just IN it.
It takes stepping back from it and viewing it with an objective eye. Seeing the big picture of why we have volunteers, what we have them doing, and analysing whether or not the program is actually furthering the organization’s mission.
Even the best volunteer program needs to be reviewed regularly. In fact, the best ones are; otherwise they wouldn’t be the best!
It doesn’t take much to audit your volunteer program.
Start by reviewing your mission statement. Are there parts of your volunteer program that aren’t really helping to achieve it? Be honest! It’s easy to find excuses for doing something even if it doesn’t help the stated mission.
I once worked with an organization whose mandate was to adopt out abandoned rabbits. One of the tasks that they had volunteers doing was taking a few rabbits to a local senior’s care home to give the residents a chance to cuddle a bunny once a week. Wonderful thing to do, and perhaps there was a real need for it.
It didn’t, however, help increase adoption rates. It didn’t further their mission. It would have been better to take the animals to a local elementary school, where there would be people who might be able to adopt them. Another organization could be in charge of providing experiences for the seniors.
This is where stepping back and being objective really helps.
Next, if you don’t already know, think about what an ideal volunteer program would look like for your organization.
How many volunteers would be ideal? What would they be doing? What skills would they have? How long would they stay? How much time would you be spending on training, on-boarding, managing, etc?
The clearer your picture of what you want, the easier it will be to get it.
When you audit your volunteer program, compare what you have now to that ideal. Where are the gaps?
Look at each of the challenges that you’re facing and narrow them down to exactly what the cause is in each case. Say you don’t have enough volunteers. You need to investigate whether it’s because not enough people are applying, not enough are making it through the application process or through training, or whether the volunteers just aren’t sticking around. Same symptom, but widely different causes.
If you look at the lack of volunteers and just start recruiting more, without looking into the reasons, chances are you won’t see much improvement. You might; you may hit on the correct cause right away, but it would just be luck. By doing an audit, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly why a problem is occurring, and your time and effort will be spent on actions that will make the biggest impact.
Doing an audit of your volunteer program takes time, I know, and few of us have much to spare.
However, you are likely to save time in the long run. You won’t be spinning your wheels trying to solve a problem by tackling the wrong cause, and your program will run more smoothly and efficiently.
Take the time. You won’t regret it!