I have been intrigued by the idea of measuring volunteerism for long. I always thought of volunteering as a qualitative field, while everywhere it is measured in numbers. “We have 70000 volunteers registered with us!” “We work with 8000 non-profit partners” “Our volunteers helped more than 20000 people last year”… When I got a chance to interact with Mike Bright; founder of the microvolunteering platform Help From Home; one of my earliest questions was how do they measure their performance. Below is an account of how Help from Home measures [or rather not measures] volunteering on their platform.-Ashima Goyal Siraj
HelpFromHome.org is a directory of 3rd party run microvolunteering actions and is considered to be one of the leading microvolunteering platforms in the world. We use these 3rd party run actions to increase volunteering participation rates in different sectors of society, throughout the world. These sectors are primarily the home, the school, in work, senior citizens and disabled people.
One of the main questions we are often asked concerns volunteer retention rates and is it any different to traditional volunteering? Our answer to both is that we honestly don’t know. The reason for this is that we are primarily a directory of 3rd party run micro-actions – third party being the operative word here i.e. we don’t have access to their stats on volunteer involvement.
So what of the number of repeat visits to our website, which could indicate a continued interest in this type of volunteering. Our web stats show that people visit our website twice on average and per visit they are accessing between 9-11 pages. The low number of repeat visits is indicative of the fact that we are primarily a directory of microvolunteering opportunities and as such, once somebody has found an action that interests them, there is usually no need to revisit our website in the immediate future.
Whilst we cannot put our finger on the volunteer retention aspect of microvolunteering we can say quite definitely that interest in the microvolunteering concept is growing rapidly. We have seen an increase in our web traffic by over 100% in the past year, all achieved without spending any money on promotion or marketing, ie. our web traffic has been generated via word of month.
But how many visitors to our website actually volunteer? Again, we honestly don’t know as we don’t have any impact monitoring functions on our website. That’s not for lack of wanting some, it just boils down to a lack of funding for such tools. But as a gut feeling, I would say 10 – 20% of visitors to Help From Home actually microvolunteer. To put that into context, we’re currently getting 225,000 visits per year.
As mentioned before we are a directory of 3rd party run microvolunteering actions, but we do have our own volunteering roles up for grabs. I suspect that our experience with recruiting volunteers matches those in the traditional volunteering sector i.e. the number of people that continue to volunteer for us beyond our initial response to their enquiry is very small and of those that continue this commitment beyond a week, it gets even smaller! If you’re interested in the figures, we receive an average of 2-3 enquiries/week from which 2-3 volunteer for us for a couple of months at a time per year.
One surprising element of running Help From Home has been the number of people who apparently have been inspired by the concept of microvolunteering and have used Help From Home as the catalyst for a project they intend to set up, with which they then approach us to collaborate on. That’s a very exciting development for us, as we’re in a position to offer web space for these projects, whilst in return obtaining the chance to increase our impact for change.
So in conclusion then, whilst we feel our efforts have contributed to the growing global interest in the microvolunteering concept, as evidenced by our web traffic, we can’t as yet quantify the volunteer involvement or retention rate. Until we source some funding, that situation is unlikely to change.