How a Statewide Volunteer Program Radically Improved its Performance in One Year

DrawingChallenge
A large statewide network of 54 volunteer-based health benefits counseling programs was interested in increasing their performance, which in turn might generate additional funding to expand services. An analysis of their program outcomes revealed that, although the total number of active volunteers across the state had increased, he total number of clients served had not.

In addition, their primary federal funder had recently made changes to the national performance measures that held the program accountable. The funder had also begun to distribute performance bonuses to states that had met or exceeded their goals.

DrawingObjective
To address these issues, the program leadership decided that an investment in program capacity building was warranted. Specifically, they were interested in launching a Performance Enhancement Initiative to address existing weaknesses and to position their network for future success.

The lead agency hired Tobi Johnson & Associates to design and implement a multi-faceted performance management approach that would span the entire network. With past experience developing similar systems that had resulted in improvement, we were confident we could help.

Our project objective was to develop a system, tools, and training to increase the capacity to track and meet the performance outcomes of the network’s 52 local volunteer programs.

DrawingSolution
Over the next year, we worked with the lead agency’s leadership team to design and develop a comprehensive performance management system

Anticipating potential resistance form the network, the project included a deliberate change management strategy to maintain ongoing communication about the new initiative. This included a project kick off webinar as well as numerous informational emails and fact sheets throughout the duration of the project.

ppslide
Project Overview Slide

After the preliminary design was complete, and stakeholders briefed, we began to develop the tools and templates necessary to track and improve performance. These included:

  • County-specific Performance Goals and Dashboards
  • Performance Award Criteria and Methodology
  • Site Visit Assessment Tools (email templates, sample agenda, interview and focus group guides, checklist, etc.)
  • Site Visit Orientation Training for Local Program Staff
  • Best Practices Collection Criteria and Methodology
  • Local Volunteer Coordinator Recognition Program
  • Local Volunteer Coordinator Survey
  • Local Volunteer Coordinator Coaching Program
  • Local Volunteer Coordinator Training Workshops
  • Quarterly Reports and Recommendations

DrawingResults

  • All ten local programs that took part in the coaching program met or exceeded their volunteer recruitment goals.
  • The network doubled the number of outreach events over the previous year.
  • The network’s national program performance standing rose from 45th in the nation (out of 54) to 36th in the nation in one year.

Advice

  • What steps should someone take to implement this solution?
    • It is important that the executive level of the organization supports the idea of performance management and understands that failure, learning, and discovery are all part of the process.
  • What should someone know before starting this process?
    • Expect and plan for resistance from some, but not all, stakeholders. It is a natural part of any process of change. To proactively address anxiety and increase trust, be sure to integrate a change management plan into the project that includes a specific internal and external communications plan to keep everyone in the loop.
  • What top five things should someone consider before purchasing a similar solution?

1)   Consider forming a small advisory committee of staff and volunteers to guide the project – they will be valuable allies to garnering support from the ground up.

2)   Also, early in the process communicate with executive staff at each local agency and keep them updated regularly, so that they know how their programs will be held accountable.

3)   Be prepared to integrate new staff roles and responsibilities for data tracking and analysis.

4)   Expect some investment in software, if you do not yet have a database. This does not necessarily need to be complex or expensive, depending on the level of you opt to implement.

5)   In terms of performance management, simple is better. Try to choose three key outcomes to track. If your funding source requires more, prioritize those that have the most impact and communicate their important to the team.

  • What can someone learn from this process? 
    • If managed and deployed properly, a new performance improvement initiative can increase the confidence and morale of a team. Over the course of this project, the culture of the organization changed perceptively and evolved into a network that was more responsive and strategic.