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Data Management for Creating Impactful Volunteer Programs

September 2023, Written by: Communications @ Volunteer Management Professionals of Canada (VMPC)


Using data management for volunteer programs is a helpful practice that can bring numerous benefits and take your volunteer efforts to the next level. Data can also validate the trends seen and felt by volunteer management professionals to support fund development and help get the attention of program stakeholders. Imagine having a trusty sidekick by your side, helping you navigate the vast volunteer landscape with ease. Well, that's precisely what data management does for you!

VMPC President, Tara Gilroy-Scott shares with us that “as Volunteer Professionals, we are asked to understand the goals and challenges of the organizations and communities where we work, as well as the aspirations and motivations of the volunteers we are called upon to engage in this enterprise. We work towards outcomes that are very much relationship-based, and the best among our peers have a great intuitive sense of how to navigate this complex system.

But our role is also to be able to manage these outcomes, to develop and follow best practices, and to leave a template behind for our colleagues coming into the profession after us, who will build upon our successes as well as learn from our mistakes. And despite the art and finesse required every day in our field, it is a truism of business that you can't manage what you can't measure.

Our best tool for measurement is data, but this is often overlooked in a practice requiring so many more of our relationship-based skills. It is, however, the cornerstone of assessing the effectiveness of our programs, of our volunteers, and of ourselves as leaders.”

Gathering data about giving and volunteering is crucial because it provides valuable insights and information that helps professionals in the field of volunteer management make better decisions and improve volunteer programs. Data management can enhance the effectiveness of your programs and support your work in the following ways:

  • Volunteer Recruitment: Analyze data on past recruitment efforts to identify which channels and messaging led to the highest number of quality volunteers. Use this information to focus on the most successful recruitment methods.
  • Volunteer Screening: Utilize data to track the performance and reliability of volunteers. This helps in identifying high-performing volunteers and ensuring that only reliable individuals are assigned to critical tasks.
  • Volunteer Training: Assess the impact of training programs by measuring volunteer performance before and after training. Adjust training content based on data insights to address skill gaps and enhance volunteer effectiveness.
  • Task Allocation: Use volunteer data, such as skills, interests, and availability, to match volunteers with tasks that suit their abilities, which can increase motivation and satisfaction.
  • Volunteer Feedback: Collect and analyze feedback from volunteers to identify areas for improvement. Data-driven insights from surveys or feedback forms can guide program enhancements.
  • Volunteer Retention: Track volunteer retention rates and use data to identify trends or factors that contribute to volunteer turnover. Addressing these issues can improve volunteer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Resource Allocation: Analyze data on volunteer hours and contributions to understand the value they bring to the organization. This information can justify resource allocation and demonstrate the program's impact to stakeholders.
  • Impact Assessment: Measure the outcomes and impact of volunteer efforts using data, such as the number of beneficiaries, services rendered, or goals achieved. Communicate this data to donors and supporters to showcase the program's effectiveness.
  • Volunteer Recognition: Use data to identify outstanding volunteers who deserve recognition or rewards. This can boost morale and encourage continued dedication.
  • Program Evaluation: Regularly assess the overall performance of the volunteer program by comparing data against predefined goals and benchmarks. Use the insights gained to make informed decisions for continuous improvement.

At VMPC, we encourage our colleagues to collaborate with us in capturing accurate data to develop more and better approaches to accomplishing the greater objectives of volunteers and the organizations where they have dedicated so much of their time, their energy, and their goodwill.

We are more than halfway to completion on our data and engagement project with Imagine Canada, Volunteer Canada, Ajah, and the Association for Fundraising Professionals of Canada. A main output resulting from our efforts has been development of the Canadian 'Knowledge Hub' for Giving and Volunteering. A website offering information and resources on data centred around giving and volunteering.

We want to help VMPC members and all those who lead volunteers to understand trends in the charitable and volunteering sectors. Data can help us find our strengths and weaknesses as well as build new opportunities. A way you can collaborate with us and take part is to checkout the Knowledge Hub, use the resources, share feedback, and take part in regional and national surveys.

The Knowledge Hub breaks down data from sources such as Canada’s General Social Survey - Giving, Volunteering and Participating (GSS-GVP). The GSS-GVP collects national data on individual contributory behaviours like volunteering, charitable giving, and civic participation. It provides reliable and timely data to the System of National Accounts. The survey also informs public and voluntary sectors in policy and program decisions related to the charitable and volunteer sector. The GSS-GVP is a valuable resource because better understanding people's opinions and behaviours can be used to help make important decisions.

With data at your fingertips, you gain valuable insights that can help guide you towards making informed decisions. You can identify the most passionate and skilled volunteers for each task, ensuring they're engaged and fulfilled in their roles. Data can help streamline your volunteer recruitment process, making it smoother and more efficient. Training becomes a breeze as you analyze data to recognize areas where volunteers might need extra support. Tailoring your training programs to their needs ensures they gain the confidence and skills to shine in their roles.

But that's not all, data management is like a secret weapon against potential challenges. It empowers you to identify and address issues before they become major stumbling blocks, enabling your volunteers to overcome obstacles. As you collect data on your program's impact, it can also become heartwarming stories of success that you can proudly share with stakeholders and supporters. They'll be amazed by the quantifiable difference your volunteers are making in the community.

And let's not forget about volunteer retention – by understanding what motivates your volunteers through data, you can create a nurturing and supportive environment that keeps them coming back with a smile. So, if you aren’t already, embrace data management as an ally in your volunteer programs! Because data empowers volunteer management professionals to make a positive and lasting impact.






Who Cares?  (No, Really, Think About It.)

October 13, 2022, Written by Adam Janes - Chair, Advocacy and Professional Standards, VMPC


Leaders of Volunteers, I have an advocacy question for you.

Who Cares?  (No, really, think about it.)

I reflected, who would care to hear about Volunteer Management and hear from Leaders of Volunteers like you?

I also thought, if "MANAGERS OF VOLUNTEERS NEED TO KNOW YOU CARE" was posted on LinkedIn or in various places and spaces on the internet, who would take note?

Finally, I thought who would care if there was a succinct and crystal clear message given to them from a current Leader of Volunteers about the value and importance of the profession and the impact it makes?

Think about it; who cares? It's an interesting list…

I will start with the most obvious – Volunteer Engagement Professionals, in all their titles, care. We are an emerging profession, with some college programs and university courses based on the field. We have a few national and international organizations and many small ones keeping an eye on trends, movements, growth and building up a collective knowledge in the field.

But in most fields, the members of that field themselves advocate and support the work of their profession. Social workers will rarely talk about supporting animal rights (unless they also happen to be animal rights activists). Volunteer Engagement Professionals support two causes: the cause their organization represents, AND we support volunteer engagement.

When we speak about advocacy for the professional management of volunteers-  It's mostly to us, from us. One vital role here is reaching out to those in the field who are not yet engaging with the larger profession. So let's throw some care into this read!

Action step one: Intentionally reach out and connect to those in the field who are not yet connected to all the rich resources available, connect them to VMPC or your local Volunteer Managers Association- Their presence is a gift to that community, and that community is a tremendous gift to that individual – like any community, most people need an invite, maybe three.

There are many more people on this list who care as well!

Who else cares? The organizations you, the Leaders of Volunteers, work for care. Even if they don't know how to show it, the Leader of Volunteers position or directives exist because there is value in it, and an organization can see that the value of one or two staff is worth two, three or even ten times the cost of the volunteer budget. They care because you bring real, caring people to the doorstep, and you build the community that enhances and increases the mission and impact of your organization. But can they 'get it' even more? Sometimes, there are opportunities to see where a leader of volunteers fits in an organization and a long list of items an organization can provide to build up the volunteer engagement team – a professional development budget is a great place to start!

Action step two – know your role; check out the VMPC professional standards resources and shine a light on your department.

Does anyone else care? Yes, Volunteers Care! Without you, they may not have found the opportunity to be trained and given access to such positions. They wouldn't have a voice in their corner when there was a disagreement, and they would often not know the impact of their time invested if you didn't take that time to share it with them. The volunteers are why we do what we do. We believe we are better together as communities with staff, participants (clients, cause), and volunteers because in that combination, we can be assured that people care and are cared for in our organizations.

Action Step 3: Talk about the profession to volunteers! If you have built rapport with a volunteer and they have told you what an excellent job you are doing, accept that! Be as bold as to ask them to write your supervisor about it.

Who else cares? The people and causes you represent! You matter to the mission and impact of your organization. Wear that with humble pride. Do not forget to insert yourself into the equation of how your organization makes a difference to the community. Share how a robust and active volunteer program is central to success in any cause! Get feedback and include volunteer evaluation in client and participant surveys.

Action Step 4: Do the math and research - Be clear with your supervisor, your organization's leadership and the board of directors about the value of volunteers. Share how much of that value comes to life with professional volunteer leadership! 

Finally, VMPC cares – as well as our affiliates. As we keep moving forward on Advocacy at VMPC, we will be leaning into this question of who does care. We will be aiming to represent you, the Leader of Volunteers, as we speak to the value and impact you make every day. We know the difference that comes when an organization has a well-informed, supported and connected volunteer management professional of any title and designation on their staff team. We will seek to hear what advocacy means to you, what you need to be an advocate, and what advocacy you need VMPC to take on to help you thrive!

Action Step 5: Keep building your communities one great connection at a time, knowing and utilizing that caring heart! The members of VMPC are the heartbeat of caring for and growing the Volunteer Management Profession in Canada. If you want to be more involved JOIN HERE Thank You!





Testimonies of three members who obtained their CVA designation

There are articles written on the value of a CVA International Certification. But did you know in 2014, VMPC moved from a Canadian certification to an international certification and formed a partnership with Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration to manage the process and administration.

Those who achieved the certification in 2014 were required to recertify in 2019 as the certification is valid for a 5-year period. As part of the recertification process, a personal reflection is submitted.  Below are excerpts from three members of the board and what has happened during their past five years as a result of achieving the CVA certification in 2014.

Ruth Millard, CVA, President


“Those three letters” opened many doors of where I am today in this field.  Opportunities to represent our profession on the national VMPC board, national and local workshop presenters. Certification has impacted my career bringing a world of fellow colleagues, peers and friends into my network. Certification brings respect to my thoughts, approaches and a solid understanding of volunteer management.  I feel privileged to be part of an international certification accreditation framework, the CCVA.


Michelle Mungar Lumley, CVA, Chair, Advocacy and Standards


I fell into this profession many, many years ago, I stay in it because I believe in what we do and the impact we make. To me, having the CVA means I take what I do seriously, and I am committed to this profession. I joined the VMPC Board of Directors because of the eye-opening experience I had going through certification, and my commitment to continuing on the board has been confirmed through recertifying. Advocating for our profession within my organization, community, province and country is important, and the CVA after my name confirms my commitment.


Lindsay Baker, CVA, Chair, Professional Development

I originally obtained my CVA certification because I consider myself a professional manager of volunteers. Professionals are part of something bigger than what they do from 9 to 5 - they are co-creating the future of their profession. I definitely wanted to be part of that objective.  In the past five years, I have joined VMPC's board of directors, presented at national and international conferences, started teaching volunteer management at a college, and won an award for exemplary leadership of volunteers from my peers. I also gained valuable insight into what intrinsically motivates me to continue this work, which is so important when you are hitting the 20-year mark!  My key takeaway was that having my CVA designation directly contributed to the incredible opportunities that opened up for me over the last five years and that I look forward to the next renewal period when I can take stock of what happens between now and 2024!