measuring success

How To Measure Success When Volunteering

measuring success

I have been volunteering at the nursing home in Leon for a week now. I have read many accounts online recounting how volunteers inevitably feel disappointed upon completion of their volunteer work. They are often not disappointed in their efforts – just that their efforts didn’t lead to substantial change the way they expected.

Even with that in mind, I was starting to feel similarly yesterday at the nursing home. But then something great happened. Rudy, one of the patients there and someone I’d consider a friend now, asked if yesterday was my last day. When I said no, he reacted with an excitement I’ve only seen in little kids – like a little boy finding his favorite player in a pack of baseball cards or opening presents on Christmas morning. He made a fist and moved his elbow backward like a “cha-ching” and said he was happy I’d be returning next week.

It’s a moment I’ll remember always for its simplicity and impact on me. And for the rest of The Happy Nomad Tour I hope to leave my engineering and analytical mindset behind and just focus on connecting with people in a meaningful way. For me, that’s infinitely more important than improving efficiency X% or reducing cost Y%! You can measure success in ways that aren’t quantifiable.

So I guess I’d say I really don’t know if success can be measured when volunteering. Success probably can’t even be defined most of the time. But for sure it can be felt in your heart.

With Rudy (in front of me)

With Rudy (in front of me)

6 replies
  1. cheeky monkey
    cheeky monkey says:

    Compassion and love is the real source of love. By giving and volunteering, it gives the meanings and values to our life. 

  2. Francisco
    Francisco says:


    This post is pretty interesting. Volunteering is one of my passions and I have recently studied much about how this is to be measured. There is an economic value to volunteering, which is normally calculated as the cost avoided (in the economy) because of the work this person with XYZ profile did. Basically a calculation of X hours times $Y rate. This is important, and volunteering organizations like the Red Cross and IAVE are looking to push this into national metrics, because it changes the way we see volunteering, and the way we see our contributions.
    I know there are also many social impact measurements on some more formal projects (for example, measuring HIV new infection rates before and after you do a peer-to-peer education project). But… I like the metrics that are specifically about volunteering itself, as it shows people how important this is to an economy, to a country, to humanity.
    And well, there is of course the social value to volunteering, which is very hard if not impossible to measure. I remember the words of a young volunteer from the Iranian Red Crescent I met in a conference recently: “volunteering is not free, it’s priceless”.

    • Adam Pervez
      Adam Pervez says:

      Hi Francisco,

      Great analysis and I’m glad someone is out there studying the impact of volunteering 🙂 I guess my reflections were more how I felt as a person because when volunteering it’s easy to feel like what you’re doing isn’t making much of a difference. But I’ll always remember Rudy’s reaction when he found out I was staying one more week 🙂 

      Thanks for the awesome comment and I love that quote. Volunteering is definitely priceless!!


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