“Without data you are just another person with an opinion”
W. Edwards Deming
Most voluntary organisations believe that what they are doing is good and works well but it is no longer enough just to know this - there needs to be evidence to support our claims.
Whatever the approach to the development of hospice community volunteering, it is important to gather information that helps you to understand what is happening in the programme and the difference that it is making. This is important in order to:
- understand and improve the experience of those being supported
- explore how well needs are being met
- understand what works well; what could be better, improving quality
- develop the community volunteering programme
- secure funding or reporting to funders
- motivate and value volunteers and staff
- build trust in the community
Many hospices already gather data about their traditional volunteering programmes such as number, age, gender, activity, number of volunteering hours etc..
Information that is collected needs to be appropriate to the type of volunteering programme. The following suggestions may help in giving an overall view of programme activity and trends:
For example: number of volunteers, age, gender, how many people with PEOLC needs are supported each month, how many families of people are supported each month, type of support, frequency of individual volunteer visits, length of individual volunteer visits, number of matches made, number of unsuccessful matches, volunteer turnover, why volunteers leave etc.
Making a difference
The other type of information to be collected is about the difference that the programme is making. It will be important to consider the aspect/s that you want to evaluate:
- the difference made to people with PEOLC needs?
- the difference made to their families?
- the impact on volunteers?
- the impact on staff and the organisation?
- the impact on the community?
There are many approaches to gathering this information such as surveys, interviews, focus groups and gathering case studies of people’s experience and resources (should you need them) to help you start. You will find ideas and suggested tools in the More Resources section.
Whatever you do make sure you share your findings with others internally and externally so that knowledge and understanding can be shared in order to develop and improve practice.