Measuring Volunteering and Social Impact

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I love telling people how much I love my bank. I am lucky enough to have access to the USAA Federal Savings Bank (previously only open to members of the military and their families, but currently accepting new members without military history to sign up for some of their excellent services) because my Dad served as a bombardier navigator flying A6 planes in the United States Navy. They are really amazing, and I encourage everyone to check them out.

One of the cool things they do for clients is to send friendly emails about pretty much anything related to money and the economy. Last week they had a feature called Need a Paying Job? 8 Ways Volunteering Can Help, which led to a nice list of reasons to volunteer with some brief explanation of each. You don’t need to be a member of the bank to click on that link and read the whole article (it’s short, go for it!), but here is the list of “Benefits of Working Pro Bono”:

1. Boosts your confidence

2. Keeps your skills sharp

3. Teaches you new skills

4. Fills in the blank spots on your resume

5. Introduces you to new work possibilities

6. Expands your network

7. Reveals unadvertised positions

8. Puts your character front and center

Reading the article got me thinking about how we make personal measures of our social impact. Clearly USAA was asking the question for its readers, “how does my social impact effect me?” But this list could potentially serve as examples of measurements of social impact that any company or nonprofit could use. The hard part is, how do you measure a person or community’s “boost in confidence” or “skills kept sharp?” We can more easily quantify with cold, hard numbers when someone “expands their network,” but can we measure how that will change their quality of life and chance at future opportunity for the better?

Part of the challenge of this kind of measurement and reporting is simply time. It can be a long-term effort to measure a change in quality of life, or to show how putting a person’s “character front and center” has improved their chances in life. But let’s not shy away from all these difficult issues – let’s find a way to gather data, measure, and report on it! If we do, and we do it in a way that can be (tweaked and) replicated, then we are really on our way to making a difference in how organizations with social missions and corporations with CSR activities track, measure, report, and ultimately grow and improve their social impact.

I’m so excited! Can anyone point us to any other interesting measures of social impact?


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