The Help-Files: The Truth Is Here
Vol02: Iss05 – Let’s Do The Numbers
Last month we talked about the importance of stories to engage our volunteers and donors and keep them coming back to serve and to give. But if you walked away from that article thinking the numbers didn’t matter then you must not have read the fine print. Stories touch the heart – numbers engage the brain. To be effective in motivating your volunteers or raising donations you need both. Numbers help people to “justify” what their heart is telling them. They also come in handy when you are looking at improving the “how” and “what” that your Serve the City does.
So, what kind of numbers should you keep track of? While not quite endless, the list of potential measurements you can make is lengthy and driven in part by what kinds of project you do in your city. The most obvious are related to “output” like number of volunteers, number of volunteer hours, number of projects, number of people served, etc. Other “output” numbers are things like the number of sandwiches made or the number of hugs given out. For future planning purposes keeping track of “inputs” is extremely valuable with the cost of materials/supplies for a project a key one.
What you can do with these numbers is also endless. I have a spreadsheet that I just use for our Big Volunteer Week that has all the volunteers who signed up, what days they signed up for, project preference, t-shirt size, etc. From just this list alone we know what our daily volunteer count might be so we can plan our projects accordingly and how many t-shirts we might need to order. Use it note who actually attended and it will automatically calculate volunteer hours, turn up rate, and average daily attendance. Numbers like these can tell you if you are being effective in communicating with your volunteers (do they remember to show up) and when looked at from event to event can tell you how effective your are at retaining volunteers (are they one-and-done or do they keep coming back).
But where do all these numbers come from? The answer is anywhere from paper signup sheets to advance relational databases. The registration forms that are easily customizable as part of the “events” feature on the Serve the City website template can get you started (these forms are powered by GravityForms). The volunteer information they collect is easily exported to a spreadsheet program like Excel where the data can be used however you wish. By adding some relatively simple formulas, Excel can “tell” you all sorts of things about a specific event. And while some tasks can be automated, using Excel is still very much a hands-on approach to data analysis and if you want to look at multiple events together it gets even more labor intensive.
That is where relational databases like Salesforce come in. They definitely require more upfront work to get setup but they can very much be “set it and forget it” as they keep track of all the connections. Their main benefit is that they can keep track of everything from individual volunteers or donors, project details, etc across multiple projects and events. Want to know who volunteered the most last year? There’s a report for that. It is even possible to automate check-in so that the system knows who showed up without your Volunteer Coordinator having to do a lot of manual data entry. The downside is that systems like Salesforce (which the website template is set up for) does require someone in your city to learn how to use it and that takes some time. Fortunately, Salesforce provides plenty of online training modules and we have taken the time to identify the key “trailheads” for getting started (it can be found on Teams at this link: Salesforce Trails).
Well, there you have it – you are now equipped to put together a complete picture of the impact of your projects and events and the effectiveness of your methods of doing things. Just remember, when you engage both the heart and mind of your volunteers and donors your message is unstoppable.