Measuring Nonprofit Impact and Outcomes – data is key!

After School ProgramsAs an organization, your nonprofit’s impact, perhaps it’s very existence is based upon the outcome it has on your community and stakeholders. Underlying everything that you do are some key questions that you should be able to answer:

  • Do our programs make a real difference to the people that we serve?
  • What evidence of impact can we show to our funders and other stakeholders?
  • Given that our resources are finite, what programs should we focus on?

Answering these questions means that you need to have the data to back it up. Unfortunately, there’s no magic wand that you can wave to bring all the data together. It means putting in place systems and technology to gather the data in as easy a manner as possible.

In this article, we talk about nonprofits that focus on after-school programs, summer camps, sports programs, music, dance and art programs. Especially ones that deal with children and youth. In the time that we’ve worked in this area, we found that there are three basic  pillars that you need for success.

  1. Automate manual tasks (get more face time with the kids)
  2. Build your systems for scale (do it right and you will grow)
  3. Track the right data (prove your impact and secure more funding)

Automate Manual Tasks

Class Attendance Tracking
Class Attendance Tracking

Software can help to automate tedious, manual processes. One example of this is attendance tracking for your programs. Instead of spending time, manually completing this task with clipboard and paper or a spreadsheet, use a mobile app to automate this process. It not only saves you time on the front-end, but lets you gather additional data that you can use later to review for county / state compliance requirements and to review individual student attendance. If you use Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) and Volunteers for Salesforce (V4S), you already have the basic building blocks in place. It’s simple to configure V4S’s Jobs and Shifts structure to track course and class enrollment and attendance. Most importantly, this automation puts time back in the hands of your staff members or volunteers handling the classes. Time that can be spent interacting with the students face-to-face, giving them more hands-on help.

So automate those mundane tasks quickly, and give the children the attention they need to get the most out of your programs.

Build your systems for scale

With the education and crime problems that youth are facing in our society, nonprofits that work with youth need to step up and have a bigger impact to help with the problems. Research indicates that nonprofit organizations that grow, prepare systematically for growth. This means that you need to put in place plans and priorities. You need to have in place systems and processes that will help you scale to the next level. Fortunately, if you are already using Salesforce NPSP, you already have in place a system that will grow with you and scale infinitely with you. What you need to do is ensure that you put in place the right criteria for your programs and make sure that they are properly tracked in Salesforce.

Track the right data

Track relevant outcome data
Track relevant outcome data

You need to track the data that will help move your nonprofit’s mission forward. So decide what those outcomes should be. Outcomes could range form improving grade-level reading or math skills for elementary school students to improving standardized test scores for high school students. With Salesforce, you get the breadth and depth of platform to collect any amount of data for any size population very easily. And with the wealth of reports and dashboards, you can analyze the outcomes you want accurately and precisely. You can communicate easily with student stakeholders, giving them updates about individual students. With the ability to prove your impact to funders and grant makers, the more likely you are to receive additional funding.

So train your staff and volunteers to properly use your software for data collection. Show them the big picture and convince them that collecting data is worthwhile. After all, it’s measuring the outcomes of your efforts that matter. And that’s possible only with the right data.

5 great tips for your volunteer liability waivers

Volunteers on a construction project

Your volunteers generously give their time and take on a wide variety of activities that are critical to your mission. Some of these activities may involve risk of injury. As examples, nonprofits use volunteers to do construction-related work, operate forklifts, pack heavy boxes, drive and drop food off or provide home based care to senior citizens. Depending upon the nature of the work that your volunteers undertake, it’s important that you protect your organization and give volunteers a clear understanding of the kinds of tasks that they are likely to do.  Volunteer liability waivers are a great way to do this.

What is a volunteer waiver of liability?

Volunteers must sign a liability waiver document before participating in some of your activities which involve any kind of risk. As abundant precaution, you may want to get all volunteers to sign a liability waiver. This may be a requirement from your insurance provider too. So check on that.

Typically, a waiver protects your nonprofit, in the event of an accident involving any of your volunteers. It should also serve as a document of understanding between your nonprofit and your volunteers. It’s important that volunteers are aware of the risks involved and are willing to sign the waiver before taking part in the activity.

We’ve got some tips and best practices for volunteers and waivers. So read on.

1. Keep it simple, but cover your bases

The actual language in the waiver document may vary depending upon your organization’s mission. But make sure that you cover the basics. Make sure that your waiver ensures that your organization is protected by law, so that you can continue to have a positive impact on your community. Your waiver should be able to clear your organization of fault if an accident should occur. Make sure that you tell your volunteers that they are not covered by your workers compensation. Make sure that you talk about specific risks associated with your activities, while also ensuring that you include general hazards involved with volunteering. Depending on your organization’s requirements and insurance requirements, decide if you want an annual waiver, a waiver that does not expire or a waiver for each time that the volunteer works with you.

2. Make sure that your volunteers understand the work involved

Regardless of the kind of risks involved, ensure that your volunteers understand the kind of work that you expect them to do. Your volunteer liability waiver is the appropriate place to do this. Your liability waiver should educate volunteers and parents and guardians (in the case of minor volunteers) about the nature of the activity, it’s purpose, benefits and possible risks. Include clear, specific  descriptions of the activity and identify possible risks associated with the activity. Decide if you want to have a general liability for all volunteers and a separate one for volunteers doing more dangerous activities such as construction, heavy lifting, driving, etc. Include information that will prepare volunteers for the specific type of activity:

  • Locations and environments where the activities could occur
  • Explanation of the individuals volunteers can expect to work with (senior citizens, young children, persons with disabilities, etc)
  • Specific requirements for the activity (minimum weight s/he must be able to lift, specific type of driver’s license, etc)
  • If you need background checks on the volunteers, then make sure that you include it.

3. Clear, straight-forward language

Don’t get into “lawyer-speak” when drafting your waiver. It’s critical that volunteers understand what you’re asking them to sign. The waiver should be understandable by a person without legal training. So avoid unnecessary jargon and keep the language simple. Avoid small-print. Make sure that all of your document is clear, visible and understandable, so that volunteers understand that they can trust your organization.

4. Easily accessible waivers

Signed waiver on the mobile
Signed waiver on the mobile

Waiver forms should be easily accessible to your volunteers and to your organization. The best way to do this is to keep it all electronic and store it within your volunteer management system. This makes it easier to serve up the relevant waivers to your volunteers and also to retrieve signed waivers when required.

If you have volunteers signing up for tasks on your website, ensure that they see and sign your waiver forms. If possible, email your waiver forms to your volunteers, so that they can read and sign them at their convenience. If you use software to check-in volunteers, make sure that you can get volunteers to read and sign the waivers (if they haven’t already done so), before they check-in to the activity.

5. It’s not just about paper-work

The safety of your volunteers is of the greatest importance. it’s not enough to make sure that your volunteers have signed a waiver. Ensure that your organization is properly insured and has the right safety equipment in place for your volunteers, Make sure that your volunteers know how to use the safety equipment. If you need specific medical clearances for your volunteers, make sure that you have that in place before the volunteer participates in the activity. Talk to your insurance provider and see if it’s possible to get some form of volunteer insurance.

In conclusion

Volunteers want to do good and are appreciative when an organization looks out for them. They want good policies in place and to have proper training and management. Retaining volunteers requires not just gratitude, but also an organized approach that is protective of both your volunteers and your organization.

5 great reasons for tracking volunteer time

Retain volunteers

Last week, I was talking to the Executive Director of a small nonprofit. She said they had only 4 full-time employees, but over an 18 day period just before Christmas, they have over 2,500 volunteers who make their annual program possible.

The value of a volunteer’s time donated to a nonprofit is enormous. But tracking those hours is a challenge for most nonprofits – how many hours volunteers contributed and the impact of those hours (what was accomplished? what difference was made?). With volunteer time outweighing that of paid employees for most nonprofits, volunteer hours are exceptionally valuable.

So let’s take a quick look at 5 great reasons why tracking your volunteers’ time and including it in your budget and financials makes sense.

1. Money, money, money.

Funding for nonprofits
Funding for nonprofits

One of the biggest issues for most nonprofits is funding. It’s key to keeping your nonprofit afloat. Tracking volunteer hours can help your organization prove more qualified for a grant.

When reporting your organization’s impact on a grant provider, including volunteer hours, makes a huge difference. Independent Sector recently released the value of volunteer time of $ 25.43 per hour. If your nonprofit records just 8 hours of volunteer time per day, that works out to over $ 52,800 a year, calculated for just for 5 days a week.

The power of your nonprofit stems from the fact that so many individuals come together to work for your mission – something that is bigger than any single individual. When tracking and sharing your volunteers’ time and impact, grantors clearly see that you have a team of people that believe in your mission and that you are making a positive contribution to your community.

2. Keep ’em coming.

Retain volunteers
Retain volunteers

Volunteers appreciate the recognition. Remember that we always count what we value. So tracking volunteer time, clearly shows your volunteers that you value the time that they are putting into your nonprofit. Sometimes, volunteers don’t see the connection between their donated time and your mission. This is the primary reason why volunteers don’t build long-term relationships with nonprofits. By crediting the volunteers’ time and recognizing them when they hit certain milestones, you automatically build a system of transparency and trust. And this can be key for volunteer retention.

3. Build an A-1 reputation.

Build a great reputation
Build a great reputation

Use your volunteer hours to attract new volunteers and donors. Use your tracked hours to build a great volunteer narrative. Let’s say, 300 volunteers, put in, on an average 10 hours each over the year. That gives you a total value of 300*10*25.43 or $ 76,290 of volunteer work. Use that number not just to thank your volunteers, but put that in front of your donors and your grantors. When they see the impact of your volunteers’ time, they are more likely to want to be a part of your nonprofit. And the fact that you actually have concrete data, makes your organization seem more legitimate to prospective donors and grantors.

4. Get your ducks in a row.

Analyze your data
Analyze your data

Once you start tracking your volunteer time and where it is being spent, you can start improving your volunteer programs and ultimately strengthen your organization. Make sure that you ask your volunteers to track what they are working on, in addition to tracking the actual time spent. Once you collect this data, you can put it to good use to adjust your programs.

Let’s say, you notice that the total number of volunteer hours has increased, but you are actually getting fewer school backpacks packed. You look at your volunteer data in detail, and you see that 60% of your volunteer time is going towards marketing and administrative tasks and only 40% towards packing the backpacks.

Now if your short-term goal is to grow your nonprofit through marketing efforts, then this may be fine. On the other hand, if you want to get more backpacks out to school kids, then you can easily adjust your volunteer programs to need more volunteers on the backpack packing job. There are countless ways you can improve and strengthen your programs once you have the volunteer data to back it up.

Tracking volunteer time will help you align your organization goals and your volunteers’ efforts.

5. No taxes, yeaaaah!

As a nonprofit, you don’t have to pay taxes. That’s great, but you still can’t escape

Nonprofit taxes
Nonprofit taxes

the paper-work. Use the Form 990 to your advantage. Since this form must be made public and the data is available on sites like Guidestar, donors, and grantors use it to evaluate organization (s) that they want to engage with. Displaying accurate volunteer hours, is not just the right thing to do, it can also help with your funding efforts.

Never assume that your volunteer hours won’t look impressive, the fact that people in your community believe in you, to put in their own time is a huge testament to your nonprofit. Being transparent with your volunteer time gives you a great image with the public, with funders, and with the government.

With Salesforce’s Nonprofit Success Pack and Volunteers for Salesforce, managing donors and volunteers is now easy. And with V4S Mobile, you can now track volunteer hours very easily on mobile devices. Reach out to us at info@pk4385708235.wpcomstaging.com, for more information on volunteer tracking. We’ll be happy to help.

The Power of the Hub!

Across the world on a mission for nonprofits

It was a cold and stormy night…. Nope, not the start of yet another horror story. In fact this story is the exact opposite. At 2 AM on a chilly Bangalore night, there I was typing responses into an online spreadsheet. And feeling pretty good about it. But let me start at the beginning…..

In the summer earlier this year, TJ Warfield put up a wish-list for an Event check-in tool for nonprofits on the Power of Us Hub (The Hub, as it is sometimes called, is an online community for Salesforce.org customers, certified partners and staff). Caroline Renard, who knew of our work in the mobile app space for nonprofits, brought us into the conversation. Over a lively discussion on the Hub involving multiple people, a detailed list of functionality came up. Looking at that list, it seemed to us as something we could deliver, given that we had so much of the Salesforce and mobile infrastructure already. So we took it upon ourselves to deliver an Event add-on to our V4S Kiosk product over the next couple of months. That started a hectic round of design, development and testing internally, running into September.

Come the end of September and it was Dreamforce time. And time for virtual conversations to become real. At the Amplify breakfast, I met  with TJ and Caroline and spoke about what we had done with the wish list for Events. It was truly exciting for all of us to see how a conversation in the Hub had turned into something concrete.

Back home after Dreamforce in mid-October, we connected across the world, our team in Bangalore with TJ in San Francisco and Caroline in Seattle. And we were back in the virtual world to review the Events add-on. TJ was very happy with what we showed and graciously offered to demo and test the add-on at the Salesforce.org Open Source Community Sprint, held in Portland, OR  (#SFDOsprint) in end-Oct.

We were of course thrilled with the idea, but we were also very aware of the many things that could go wrong. TJ had seen the app near-complete, but the last 10% takes 50% of project time, right? Our team in Bangalore worked pretty much round-the-clock to put together a demo org for the Sprinters to use. We made sure there was a reasonable amount of data, a clear set of instructions and other resources for the Sprinters and a shared Google spreadsheet to collect suggestions and feedback.

The Salesforce.org Community Sprints are amazing events. Participants discuss everything from best practices to general experience to solution requirements. Working in teams, participants go all the way to produce solutions with documentation, code and data models. And everything produced by the teams goes back into the Community, making the whole ecosystem better for everyone. The Portland Sprint had that same terrific energy and enthusiasm. With 130 people at the event covering the Nonprofit and Higher Education sectors, we had a large number of people trying out the Event add-on.

With our mobile app still in beta on the iTunes Store, we did some pretty hairy

Across the world on a mission for nonprofits
Working for a mission

back-and-forth using the iTunes TestFlight platform to get our friendly Sprinters in Portland on board. It was incredible seeing the Sprinters in Portland, our awake-at-midnight team in Bangalore and the Test flight platform (wherever that is hosted :)) all coming together for a good cause. Watching from across the world as multiple Sprinters installed V4S Kiosk via TestFlight was awe-inspiring, to say the least. And as suggestions and feedback came flying into the Feedback sheet from the Sprinters, it truly felt great to be typing in responses at 2 AM :).

Kudos to all the Sprinters who dedicated their own time to test and review the Events add-on, all for the cause of enriching the product range for Nonprofits. Thanks to these hard-working Sprinters, there’s now a terrific set of feedback and suggestions that we will add into the product. A product that nonprofits can use to raise money, manage volunteers and deliver education. Which goes to prove that “All for One and One for All’ is not just the Three Musketeers slogan but a way of life for a lot of people!

Top 5 best practices for volunteer management

Volunteers are a nonprofit’s dream. They believe in your organization and it’s

Your real superheroes
Volunteer Management

mission 100%. They put in their best efforts of their own volition and their contribution to your organization is invaluable. But just like with employees, volunteers need to be managed professionally. Which means that you need to recruit, train, delegate, evaluate and show appreciation just as you would with employees.

So let’s take a look at some best practices for managing your volunteer program successfully.

  1. Recruit right. Your organization and your projects have specific goals. First, develop a list of all the volunteer jobs needed to achieve your goals. Then make a list of all the volunteer skills and characteristics that you’ll need for those jobs. Create simple recruitment forms with all the details that you need including contact details, skills, availability dates and times, previous volunteering experience. If you use volunteer management software, then you’ll probably have these forms already and should be able to get them on to your website fairly easily. Use social media and local media to get the word out about your volunteering opportunities. Target places where your ideal volunteers work or play. Local gyms, libraries, sports bars are all great places to put the word out, depending on what you are trying to recruit for.
  2. Train appropriately. As baby boomers retire and millennials look to give back, volunteer motivations and skillsets are changing. Make sure that your volunteer orientation and training are in step with your project goals and with your volunteers’ skills. Volunteers today want to make a tangible difference to causes and programs. So involve your volunteers in planning and execution, so that there’s a feeling of ownership in the process. Your orientation and training need to focus on cultivating a relationship with volunteers and engaging them long-term. That means everyone from your board members down, need to be in sync with your volunteer program and be involved in the training process. And that you understand volunteer’s skills, commitment and time availability.
  3. Delegate effectively. Empower volunteers by delegating specific projects to specific volunteers or volunteer teams. This delegation should be based on qualifications, responsibilities and time availability that you’ve drawn on from the first two stages. Make sure that you have defined responsibilities, limits and freedoms clearly. Staff your projects based on the strengths and skills of your volunteers. Set appropriate short, medium and long-term goals, so everyone is clear of what needs to be achieved. Stay involved with your volunteers to motivate them and provide continuity. But provide advice and help only when requested.
  4. Provide supervision. Just like regular staff, volunteers need regular direction and feedback. Supervision is about helping your volunteers get a handle on what they are supposed to be doing, let them know when they are doing well and providing direction when they need it. You need to support your volunteers so they can contribute effectively to your organization’s needs, while at the same time meeting the volunteers’ motivations for being there. This role can be played by a volunteer manager or a senior volunteer. This is also a great way to get feedback and ideas from your volunteers. You can use your volunteer management software here to provide additional means of feedback and communication to volunteers.
  5. Recognize volunteer contributions. Show your volunteers that you are grateful for their help. An easy way to keep your volunteers engaged is to acknowledge their contributions to your organization. You could use formal recognition such as awards or certificates to publicly demonstrate gratitude to your volunteers. Use informal methods such as thank-you notes and emails to volunteers for finishing a job. It’s important that you mark your volunteer’s milestones with you. Maybe they’ve reached a certain number of hours of volunteering or number of months of volunteering. Use your software to keep track of these events and thank volunteers immediately. Use simple gifts like buying pizza for a volunteer group, free movie tickets or gift cards to recognize volunteers.

Following these principles improves the outcomes of your volunteer programs. It also gives your volunteers a more relevant experience and helps to build positive long-term relationships with them.

Would love to hear from you about specific ideas that you use to manage your volunteer programs.