We believe every organization has one … and it has the potential to lead an organization to greater impact. What is it? It’s an organization’s VQ, of course. VQ (or Volunteer Quotient) is an organization’s ability to leverage volunteer talent to increase its impact. Over many years of working with organizations large and small on improving volunteer engagement strategy, we have seen that institutions that embrace best practices not only have higher “VQs”, but their impact increases as well.

In our experience, organizations often consider volunteer engagement to be a “program” with volunteers as the audience to be served. However, when an organization views volunteers as partners in mission fulfillment, they shift from considering volunteer engagement as a program and instead embrace it as a strategy to achieve their priorities and, ultimately, achieve mission. When organizations do this, they measurably increase their impact. Hence, our concept of VQ.

Increasing impact through a higher VQ starts with first understanding your current practice. How does your organization’s volunteer practices stack up against best practices in engagement? You can easily determine this by downloading and completing our Assessment to calculate your VQ.

Next, take the time to develop a vision of what is possible through volunteer engagement. What is your vision for success and how can volunteers fundamentally help you achieve that vision? Are you familiar with the research on the benefits of engaging volunteers fundamentally in the organization? (The Funder’s Guide we developed with the Leighty Foundation earlier this year is a useful resource that briefly summarizes much of this research.)

Finally, identify one area where you can change or enhance your practice based on the assessment. Once piloting such a change, increased impact will likely follow. For example, Douglas County Libraries is currently seeking certification as a Service Enterprise. In response to a needs assessment conducted with staff, the library district recently developed three new volunteer roles – namely, a volunteer lead in charge of online book sales, another volunteer lead to coordinate onsite book sales, and a lead to manage the homebound deliveries. Thanks to the work of these new volunteers, the library district is receiving more money from the bookstore, additional revenue from online book sales, and more deliveries to homebound community members – in other words more resources to achieve their mission and more County residents being served! That’s a tangible increase in impact.

One organization recently certified as a Service Enterprise is Taysia Blue Rescue. Taysia Blue focused much of its efforts on improved training (for volunteers and those who lead volunteers) and more efficient processes for recruiting and supporting volunteers who foster rescued Siberian Huskies and Malamutes. By improving training and the intake and processing of dogs in volunteers’ care, Taysia Blue dramatically increased the number of animals they could rescue. Executive Director Jackie Roach noted:

We have been able to increase the number of dogs we are saving from area shelters by 78% because we are more effectively engaging volunteers and being efficient with our resources.  We have not increased the number of Foster volunteers, but instead reduced the time the dog remains in our care.  All this through defined roles and efficient processes we are able to get them in to homes quicker and save more lives.

78% more dogs rescued within one year of making these improvements in volunteer engagement. That’s bigger, smarter impact!

So, take our assessment, develop a vision for success, and start shifting your practice today. When you do, you too will raise your VQ and, most importantly, begin to see smarter impact.