If your nonprofit uses volunteers in any capacity, it’s a good idea to track their time.
Why? There are so many reasons, but let’s start with the top 5 before we move onto tools to help you accomplish this.
Why your nonprofit should be tracking volunteer hours
Budgeting – When determining how much a program or project will cost, it is crucial to measure all of the inputs. If the program or project relies on volunteers, they should count as an input. If your volunteer inputs are not accounted for properly, you don’t know the true cost. More importantly, your funders won’t know the true cost, and it’s important to be transparent about your program costs if you want to sustain a program long term.
Credibility – When you are trying to raise more money, advocate for new policies, or attract new members and volunteers, it’s important to display who else supports you. Showing them how many volunteers you have and how much they contribute is a type of third-party credibility. For some foundations, volunteer contributions are a measure of effectiveness.
Matching funds – Some grantors may require that you match their funds with your own funds. If your nonprofit is tracking its volunteer time, the grantors may allow you to use that as part or all of your matching funds.
Appreciation and Rewards – One of the top reasons volunteers come back is because they feel appreciated. Recording your volunteers’ hours can help you set up appreciations and rewards at various milestones, and in turn keep your volunteers coming back.
Liability – Having clear policies in place can help you avoid liability in situations where your nonprofit could be charged with negligence. Explicit instructions about what volunteers can and can’t do, and tracking when a volunteer was there doing a certain activity certainly helps. By tracking volunteer activities, you can prove someone was there doing that job, reducing real and perceived risks.
Below are our 6 recommended tools for tracking volunteer time:
1) Google Calendar: Consider making a free, public Google Calendar. You can invite people to volunteer events, or allow them to sign up for their shifts. It also features the ability to send them automatic reminders, cutting down on the time you would need to manage everyone. Cost: Free.
2) Google Forms: You can use Google Forms to sign people up for an event, sign people into an event, and track time. You can direct Google Forms to automatically send all entries to a Google Sheet so all data is easily accessible, even after the event. You can also embed Google Forms inside a webpage using an iFrame. Cost: Free.
Hot tip: To get started, go to https://docs.google.com/forms/; log in if needed; select the type of form you want to start. To tell the results to go into a new spreadsheet, click the Responses tab, and in the menu to the right, click “Select response destination” and then “Create a new spreadsheet.”
3) Your Volunteers: This company offers both a paid and a free service for scheduling, managing, engaging, and tracking volunteers. It also allows you to run reports. The free version shows advertising to volunteers. The premium version does not. There is more info about the free version here on their FAQ page. Cost: Free or Paid.
4) Salesforce: Many nonprofits use a free Salesforce license, and if that’s you, we recommend you check out this product they’ve created for volunteer management. You can track time, schedule and publish volunteer shifts to your website, take applications online, automate your volunteer onboarding process, manage information such as their qualifications for different activities, and run reports. Cost: Free or Paid.
5) VolunteerHub: This is the only volunteer management software that integrates with Blackbaud CRMs. It also integrates with Salesforce, and it is an all-in-one tool to organize and promote events, as well as schedule, recruit, and engage with volunteers. Cost: Paid; cost depends on the number of volunteers.
6) Church Director: While geared mostly toward churches, this is also a good solution for any small- to medium-sized nonprofit. Church Director allows you to track volunteer needs, assignments, and volunteer availability. It’s like a group calendar that helps you manage volunteer coverage for any program or event. The free version offers the same functions as the paid version, just for smaller teams. Cost: Free or Paid.
Additional option: And then, of course, you can go old school with an Excel spreadsheet or even pen and paper. It’s not what everyone would choose, but it works for some.