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How To Measure the Direct Impact of Volunteer Service: What Money Cannot Buy

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What Money Cannot Buy:  The Distinctive and Multidimensional Impact of Volunteers 
By Debbie Haski-Leventhal, Lesley Hustinx & Femida Handy (2011). 
Journal of Community Practice 19, 138-158. Available online at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10705422.2011.568930#preview

In this issue, author Laurie Mook looks at an interesting case study of the Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House as an example of how to measure the direct impact of volunteer service on the organization, clients and volunteers themselves. The research – conducted by Debbie Haski-Leventhal (Australia School of Business), Lesley Hustinx (Ghent University, Belgium), and Femida Handy (University of Pennsylvania) – is based on a series of surveys, informal interviews and observations through the researchers’ own involvement as volunteers in the organization.

As Mook explains, volunteer managers often view the monetary value placed upon volunteer service as one way to gauge the relative importance of volunteer resources as compared to other resources in delivering the services of a nonprofit. And, according to Mook, volunteer hours are also used as a proxy for impact.  But through this case study, Mook explores a few more tools. For example, the findings in this study reveal several areas of impact that can be measured. From the perspective of the client, three categories of impact emerge: tangible impact (providing services), attitudes (satisfaction and perceived altruism) and future behavior (willingness to volunteer). From the perspective of the volunteer, intrinsic and tangible benefits are identified. Overall, the researchers are able to communicate the distinctive and unique impact that the volunteers had for the organization.