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5 Business Analysis Tasks to Improve Volunteer Program Evaluation

Imagine you’re leading a team at a large nonprofit organization with oversight over numerous programs and initiatives.  You have the goal of enhancing your volunteer programs but you're unsure of the best approach. This is where the business analyst methodology, particularly in a non-technical capacity, becomes invaluable. Business analysis offers a structured framework to assess and improve volunteer initiatives, ensuring they meet organizational goals and deliver maximum value.


A confident business leaders explains data on a tablet to a group

Business analysis (BA) is a versatile discipline that plays a crucial role in enabling change within organizations by identifying needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders. In the context of nonprofits, non-technical BA techniques can be particularly powerful in evaluating the impact of volunteer programs.


In this article, let’s explore how program evaluation can be approached from a business analysis methodology.  Specifically, the five tasks of solution evaluation will be discussed.


Defining Business Analysis and Solution Evaluation

Business analysis (BA) is a structured approach to identifying and solving problems within an organization. Business analysis is centered on understanding organizational needs and devising solutions to address those needs effectively. The goal of BA is to enable change by defining what the organization requires and recommending practical solutions that deliver value to stakeholders.


The IIBA logo

The International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) is a professional association that sets global standards for the practice of business analysis.  IIBA defines business analysis as “the practice of enabling change in an enterprise by defining needs and recommending solutions that deliver value to stakeholders”.

In other words, BA is all about helping your organization make positive changes by figuring out what it needs and suggesting practical solutions that benefit everyone involved.

Volunteer programs and initiatives are designed to meet organizational needs.  As solutions, volunteer programs are great examples of non-technical, person-centric solutions to meeting an organizational challenge.  And they come at minimal cost.



Potential to Actual Value

One of the core knowledge areas of business analysis is solution evaluation. Solution evaluation is the process of assessing whether implemented solutions meet their intended objectives and deliver the expected value. Solution evaluation ensures that the solutions continue to align with organizational goals and adapt to changing needs.


In the context of nonprofit organizations, volunteer initiatives are designed to address specific organizational needs, whether enhancing community engagement, supporting service delivery, or fulfilling strategic goals.

CCBA certification badge from IIBA

Coming at this as a certified business analyst, I see parallels between solution evaluation in business analysis and program evaluation in volunteer administration. Volunteer Program Initiatives can be viewed as solutions designed to meet organizational needs, making program evaluation akin to solution evaluation.


Volunteer initiatives, like any solution in a business context, require regular evaluation to ensure they fulfill their goals effectively. Program assessment is a best practice. By applying a structured approach from the business analysis discipline, nonprofits can assess the realized value, or impact, of their volunteer programs.


Whereas strategic plans lay the foundation for potential value in the development of programs and initiatives, solution evaluation focuses on the value realized from them.


A picture of the BABOK

According to the Business Analysis Book of Knowledge (BABOK), solution evaluation tasks “analyze the value being delivered, identified limitations which may be preventing value from being realized, and makes recommendations to increase the value of the solution.” 


In the context of volunteer program evaluation, these same business analysis tasks are ideal to apply.  The five tasks of solution evaluation are:


  • Measure Solution Performance

  • Analyze Performance Measures

  • Assess Solution Limitations

  • Assess Enterprise Limitations

  • Recommend Actions to Increase Solution Value

In the next section we'll look at each of these five tasks in turn as they relate to program evaluation in an applied scenario example.


How to Use Business Analysis to Conduct Volunteer Program Evaluation

Let's explore how the five tasks associated with Solution Evaluation can be applied through a practical scenario.   First let’s get familiar with the organization and volunteer initiatives, then we’ll apply each of the five business analysis tasks in program evaluation.

 

Meadow Memorial Hospital: A Volunteer Program Evaluation Example

You are the Volunteer Director at Meadow Memorial Hospital, tasked with evaluating the effectiveness of various volunteer programs and for their improvement. The hospital has several volunteer programs including:


Surgery Navigators: A team of 7 volunteers assists patients in navigating the surgery process, supported by 2 staff members.

Sewing Team: Comprising 15 volunteers, this team sews items for patients, supported by 1 staff member.

Gift Shop: Managed by 10 volunteers and 1 staff member, providing patients and visitors with gifts and necessities.

Parking Assistance: 6 volunteers help manage parking services, supported by 1 staff member.

Chaplain Services: 4 volunteers provide spiritual support, with the help of 1 staff member.

 


three hospital team leaders walk through a busy lobby talking and smiling

 Task #1 | Measuring Initiative Performance

The purpose of this task is to define the performance metrics and collect the data. Just as in solution evaluation, the performance of a volunteer program must be measured against predefined metrics.


  • Setting Performance Metrics: Establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) such as volunteer retention rates, hours contributed, and impact on service outcomes.

  • Collecting Data: Gathering quantitative and qualitative data on how the initiative is performing.

  • Analyzing Results: Comparing actual performance against expectations to determine success and identify any gaps.


For example, at Meadow Memorial Hospital: 

-Metrics include the number of volunteers involved, resource allocation, impact on patient experience, financial impact, and overall value score.

-Data is collected through surveys, feedback forms, and impact analyses.

-Compare actual performance against expectations to determine success and identify any gaps.


Let's look at some sample data collected:

A picture of the sample data set referenced in the article.

Scores are assigned based on pre-determined criteria.  For instance, programs may be assigned a resource allocation score on a scale of 1-5, based on the number of volunteers involved.  In this example, a score of 2=low resource allocation (3-5 volunteers), while a score of 5-high resource allocation (12-15 volunteers).

 

Task #2| Analyzing Performance Measures

The purpose of this second task is the provide insights into the performance of a solution. Performance analysis in volunteer initiatives involves:


  • Comparing Results to Objectives: Ensuring the initiative meets the organization's strategic goals.

  • Identifying Variances: Recognizing discrepancies between expected and actual outcomes.

  • Determining Root Causes: Investigating why certain outcomes were not achieved and understanding the underlying issues.


At Meadow Memorial Hospital

a volunteer helps an ambulatory patient by filling out information on a tablet

- Surgery Navigators: High impact on patient experience with a high prioritization score, indicating essential service.

- Gift Shop: Moderate impact and well-managed, but lower impact compared to Surgery Navigators.

- Sewing Team: High resource allocation with low return on patient experience impact.

- Parking Assistance: Necessary support service with moderate impact.

- Chaplain Services: Important for spiritual support with moderate scores across various metrics, suggesting limited volunteer availability.


 

Task #3| Assessing Initiative Limitations

The purpose of this task is to determine solution-based factors that are limiting value realization.  In the context of program evaluation, this involves understanding internal dependencies and gathering detailed feedback to identify any shortcomings.


  • Identifying Issues: Pinpointing problems that limit the initiative’s effectiveness, such as lack of resources or volunteer engagement.

  • Assessing Impact: Evaluating how these issues affect overall performance.

 

For example, at Meadow Memorial Hospital:

-Understand how different components of the Surgery Navigators program interact and identify dependencies that might be causing issues.

-Collect feedback from patients and staff to identify recurring problems, such as delays or navigator availability

-Using root cause analysis, investigate why navigators are not always available when needed.

-Explore factors such as scheduling issues, insufficient training, or other potential causes that contribute to the limitations of the Surgery Navigators program.


Task #4 | Assessing Organizational Limitations

The purpose of this task is to uncover the factors external to the program’s design that may restrict value realization.  Consider elements like organizational culture, processes, and policies that may affect the program. These factors can present limitations that are external to the program design but crucial to its effectiveness.


  • Organizational Culture Assessment: Evaluating the shared values, beliefs, and behaviors within the organization that might impact the solution.

a leader shares her insights with a team
  • Organizational Structure Changes: Analyzing how changes to the organizational structure can support or hinder the solution’s performance.

  • Operational Assessment: Analyzing how the day-to-day operations and processes might limit the solution’s performance.

  • Stakeholder Impact Analysis: Assessing how the solution affects stakeholders and how their needs and expectations might limit the solution’s effectiveness.

 

For example, at Meadow Memorial Hospital:

  - Assess if the hospital culture values and integrates volunteer contributions.

  - Identify cultural barriers that may limit the program's success.

  - Evaluate communication flows between volunteers and staff.

  - Recommend adjustments in the hierarchy to better integrate volunteer efforts.

  - Map processes managing volunteer activities.

 

Task #5 | Recommending Actions for Improved Value

The purpose of this task is to recommend a course of action to align the differences between the potential value and the actual value of the solution  In program evaluation this means recommending improvements to increase program effectiveness.


  • Adjusting Measures: Recommending improvements to the data collection instrumentation or process may be required.

  • Recommended Actions: Prioritize improvements based on their potential impact and feasibility. While most recommendations look for ways to increase performance, there are other recommendations that make sense as well, including do nothing, identifying additional capabilities, or even to retire the solution.

For example, at Meadow Memorial Hospital:

- Enhance High-Impact Programs: Focus on further supporting and expanding the Surgery Navigators program.

- Optimize Resource Allocation: Reevaluate the Sewing Team’s resource use and consider alternative contributions or enhancements.

- Boost Impact of Moderate Programs: Identify opportunities to enhance the Gift Shop and Parking Assistance roles, possibly integrating more volunteer engagement or additional services.

-Expand Chaplain Services: Develop strategies to recruit more volunteers to enhance the spiritual support provided.

- Create Liaison Role for Surgery Navigators.  Align organizational culture and structure with the needs of the Surgery Navigators program to foster a more inclusive culture.  For instance, implementing regular joint meetings and team-building activities to improve relationships and understanding between volunteers and staff.

 

By applying the principles of solution evaluation, Meadow Memorial Hospital can systematically assess and improve its volunteer programs. This approach ensures that each initiative contributes effectively to the hospital’s patient experience goals, maximizing the value and impact of volunteer efforts. Integrating business analysis tasks with real-world scenarios not only improves program efficiency and effectiveness but also ensures meaningful contributions to the organization's overall mission and objectives.


 

Summary

By applying the principles of business analysis, and solution evaluation in particular, nonprofit organizations can improve the process of volunteer program evaluation.

Business analysis is a versatile framework for identifying organizational needs and driving solutions that deliver value. Business analysis can be particularly powerful in evaluating the impact of programs and initiatives.


Explore how program evaluation can be approached from a business analysis methodology.  A scenario case study from the healthcare volunteer space was used to illustrate how business analysis can be applied to volunteer program evaluation.

 
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Roseanna Galindo is Principal at Periscope Business Process Analysis, specializing in organizational learning and development. She is dedicated to advancing data literacy, enhancing healthcare experiences, and empowering volunteer leaders.

Explore Roseanna’s expertise and insights on her blog, The Periscope Insighter, starting with the opening post, "Venn the Time is Right."

 

Roseanna offers a range of professional development services, including training workshops, keynote speaking, and executive coaching.

 

Visit PeriscopeBPA.com for more information or click on the button below to schedule a time to talk

 


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