Judging volunteers by their # of hours? No thanks.

I would never judge the quality of an employee by how many hours he or she worked. When I see someone regularly working overtime, week after week, here are my thoughts:

  • That person’s job might be too much for one person; that job might need to be broken up into two positions.
  • That person might be doing things he or she shouldn’t be doing, and ignoring what should be priorities. I wonder what isn’t getting done?
  • That person may not be qualified for this position.
  • That person may have personal problems that aren’t allowing him or her to get this job done.

So, if I wouldn’t think the number of hours worked by an employee is a good indicator of their job performance, why would I judge a volunteer by the number of hours he or she contributes?

When judging volunteer performance, I look at:

  • What did he or she accomplish as a volunteer for this organization?
  • How does this person’s volunteering – specifically this person’s time and effort – have a positive effect?
  • How did volunteering have a positive effect on him or her?

Which is actually how I judge paid employees as well…

I gather that data by:

  • surveying volunteers, employees, clients and the public, through both traditional online and printed surveys and formal and informal interviews
  • reading through feedback that comes through emails, memos and online discussion groups
  • listening and writing down comments I hear
  • observing their work for myself

What about you? Is your organization still giving out volunteer recognition based on number of hours provided to an organization? Is the person who donated 100 hours to your organization last year really more valuable than the person who donated 20?

5 thoughts on “Judging volunteers by their # of hours? No thanks.

  1. tonygoodrow

    You hit the nail on the head with one Jayne. I am curious to see if anyone can come with any sort of good counter-point to this. The challenge ahead for the sector, as I see it, is getting over the inertia of that’s-how-we’ve-always-done-it.

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  2. tawanna_ward

    Great topic Jayne. I agree, helping organizations get over the inertia is the challenge. As a volunteer leader/advocate, who has fought hard to eliminate this from award options, I found it was a simple, almost lazy way of doing the "necessary thing" of recognizing volunteers. What I think we can fail to realize is that volunteers see this is what is happening too. While they accept the award, the feeling of value, accomplishment and partnership can go waning.If we need to develop volunteer team leaders who report back on specific volunteer achievements, it is worthwhile as its important to give awards that highlight specific accomplishments. This also helps all volunteers understand their time is valuable and that recognition is more of a connection between achievement and organizational mission than the amount of time on your hands. Some volunteers have little time but a lot of passion for your mission. They should be fairly recognized as well.

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  3. MichaelDeLongSF

    It doesn’t bother me when it is one among many quantitative and qualitative factors. I think it is more problematic when it is the only way we are measuring. In answer to this question: "Is the person who donated 100 hours to your organization last year really more valuable than the person who donated 20?" I would say no, not necessarily. I agree that the passion and results are necessary indicators there. But, on the other hand, when a company such as Deloitte (from the tweet this post was tied to) gives a lump number of hours its employees volunteered in a year, I do think that can be an interesting figure. Not just because CSR is a PR tactic (although because of that too), but because it’s a consumable metric. Impact is awesome, too, and I would hope that Deloitte tied that metric to deeper stories of the results its employees achieved (if their PR department is worth its salt, it did). But such high-level stats can help drive people to those deeper stories of impact. I guess what I am asking is can we measure volunteer engagement by many factors, including number of hours, using those different factors in ways that are appropriate to various audiences? Do hours have a place at all in volunteer reporting?

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  4. Anonymous

    Thanks so much for commenting, Michael! I’m honored, truly…"Do hours have a place at all in volunteer reporting? " Yes. It does. But WHERE is the other kinds of reporting? Where?! Deloitte would never base a measurement of success on its employees based on how many hours they worked – why are we expected to be impressed ONLY with the number of hours Deloitte staff engaged in community activities? I’m trying to be provocative, as usual. I’m trying to get corporations to move beyond, "We did well because our employees gave 100 hours to charity." I’d like to know, for instance, if those activities already existed and needed volunteers – or if Deloitte asked for such to be created specifically for their employees (which takes a LOT of time and money on the part of nonprofit organizations to do). And I would like to know how the nonprofits and schools that received this volunteer assistance feel about the support. Because if we don’t start reporting that as well – if we stick to just volunteer hours – then volunteering is going to remain way, way under-valued (and under-funded – volunteers aren’t free!). Did I mention that I’m honored that you commented?

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