Insight and impact: why evidence matters

19th April 2022

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by Paddy Hanrahan, Director of Strategy and innovation at Helpforce

For too long the value of volunteering in health and care has been measured by volume: the number of volunteers, or the number of shifts / activities. These are outputs not outcomes. They fail to capture the true value of volunteers - in terms of the impact on the people involved (volunteers, patients, staff) or on the services they operate within. We need to move from measuring the ‘What’ to the ‘So what?’

Helpforce created the Insight and Impact (I&I) Service to enable organisations working in health and care to better quantify the impact that volunteering makes. The I&I service makes evaluation more accessible to volunteer managers, and delivers ‘hard evidence’ back to them against outcome measures that health leaders and donors appreciate. Further, it can demonstrate the value volunteering offers to volunteers - developing new skills, building confidence, taking on impactful roles that benefit the community - which in turn validates the work of existing volunteers and can draw in new recruits.

The I&I service has completed over 20 evaluations over the last two years. We are currently working with over 40 projects and expect to see this number steadily increased over the next 12 months.

Our main output is in the form of what we call ‘evidenced outcomes’. We have helped to prove the difference a range of volunteer roles in hospitals have made to patients and staff, and improved services for the NHS Trusts.

A recent example of how the I&I Service can deliver results was with Kingston Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. They asked for our help evaluating their discharge support service volunteer role. Volunteers call elderly patients after they have returned home from hospital, to offer advice on and connect them with local groups and services.

Helpforce analysed the data collected, across 311 referrals to the service, and was able to conclude that the discharge support role had made an impact on patients, in terms of improved confidence, and better links to local services. This was then reported back to the NHS Trust volunteering team via our I&I Service website, per the screenshot below.

After receiving the evaluation report Laura Greene, Head of Volunteering at Kingston, told us: “It’s because of your amazing Insight & Impact Service that we’ve been able to both celebrate our service, but also secure genuine high level buy-in to the importance of investing in and growing our Discharge Support Service. Thank you so much for being our champions.”

At Helpforce we are excited by how the I&I service is growing in popularity, and its potential to accelerate the impact of volunteering across health and care. We are currently working on over 40 active evaluation projects that will further grow the list of evidenced outcomes. Many of these are with NHS Trusts on hospital based roles. However we are increasingly working with other types of organisations such as Integrated Care Partnerships, CCGs, and charities in community settings.

Whatever the setting, the aim is the same: to produce evidence that shows how volunteers are helping people and the NHS, which in turn helps the partner organisations grow and sustain investment in volunteering.

If you would like our help evaluating your volunteering service please get in touch with us at