Knowing the value of the time your volunteers put to execute and support your nonprofits mission has an impact on lots of parts of your nonprofit including volunteer retention, reporting, donations, and fundraising.

When nonprofit organizations don’t have a system in place to efficiently track volunteer hours they are missing out on an opportunity to quantify and communicate the strength and impact of their organization to their volunteers, prospective volunteers, board members, and current and future donors. Especially when the 2022 national value of each volunteer hour is $29.95. That type of value can and should be a cornerstone of the messaging around the impact of your nonprofit and your volunteer program.

While it is no secret that the hours volunteers work help keep nonprofit organizations afloat, some nonprofits fail to recognize that they can increase or even double the value of their volunteer program simply by making sure that their volunteer hours are being tracked and reported correctly.

You can help your nonprofit organization thrive and improve the quality and impact of your volunteer management program by tracking volunteer hours consistently and accurately. 

First, let’s explore some of the reasons volunteer tracking is critical 

Why should your nonprofit track volunteer hours?

While it might not seem like a big deal if a volunteer or two forgets to input their hours after working at an event, it can have a huge impact on your nonprofit.

If a handful of volunteers forget to track their hours or several volunteers leave off fifteen or twenty minutes due to inaccurate hour tracking, your nonprofit could miss out on the opportunity to gain much needed financial support.

Here are a few reasons why your nonprofit needs to prioritize volunteer hour tracking:

  • Receiving volunteer grants. Tracking your volunteer hours will help you remain eligible for and receive more money from volunteer grants. Some corporations donate money to nonprofits based on the total number of hours an employee spends volunteering with the organization. Missing a few hours due to poor volunteer tracking can translate into missing out on a few hundred or thousand dollars.
  • Calculating volunteer lifetime value. Monitoring volunteer hours is essential for helping you calculate your volunteer lifetime value, which is a metric that can help improve your volunteer recruitment and showcase the impact of your volunteers to prospective donors.
  • Attracting new volunteers. When prospective volunteers see your total number of volunteer hours, they also see the impact your current volunteers are making in the community. Seeing how your organization is making a difference will make these individuals far more likely to want to sign up to volunteer with your organization. This will not only increase your volunteer force, but it will also help you save time and money on volunteer recruitment efforts.
  • Increasing donations. Donors want to give money to nonprofits that are making a difference. Showcasing your volunteer hours and impact will help donors see that there are people who are passionate enough about your cause that they are willing to give up their time and energy to help your organization.

While it might sound counterintuitive, nonprofits cannot operate without money. Tracking volunteer hours helps nonprofits receive more money from grants and donors, while also saving money on volunteer recruitment and retention, which gives them the opportunity to make a bigger impact in their community.

Improving volunteer hour tracking

While volunteer hour tracking is certainly important, it can be challenging to track these hours effectively.

For one, many volunteers aren’t aware of the importance of tracking hours, so they do not make it a priority to report their hours after volunteering.

Also, many nonprofits do not have effective systems in place for logging volunteer hours. 

Even when volunteers remember to track their hours, they may only have rough estimates of hours served if there isn’t a streamlined check-in and check-out process for their volunteer shift. Other volunteers may give up on tracking hours if they don’t know how to log volunteer hours using the existing tracking system.

You nonprofit can help improve volunteer hour tracking in three main ways:

1. Encourage volunteers to track hours

Set aside time to show volunteers just how critical accurate volunteer tracking is to your nonprofit.

Explain the benefits of volunteer hour tracking and consider offering incentives to make hour tracking more enticing.

When you encourage volunteers to track their hours and show them the importance of doing so, you will yield better results.

2. Explain volunteer hour tracking in your onboarding process

From the first day that a volunteer interacts with your nonprofit, they should know the importance of tracking their hours and how to track volunteer hours on your volunteer management platform.

Eliminate any guesswork or confusion by providing step-by-step instructions for hour tracking and make sure that every one of your volunteers knows that tracking their hours is an expectation. This way, they will start out with good tracking practices from the very beginning of their time with your nonprofit. 

3. Use digital tools to simplify and optimize the tracking process

There are many beneficial software solutions that can help your nonprofit track volunteer hours effectively. From platforms with automatic hour tracking to ones that send alerts reminding volunteers to log their hours after an event, there is no shortage of tools available to optimize the volunteer hour tracking process.

Ensure that all of your volunteers’ hours are being reported accurately when you use digital solutions geared toward streamlining volunteer management.

Here are a few ways your nonprofit can use digital tools to track volunteer hours effectively:

Use a digital dashboard to store hours

Volunteer coordinators have enough to manage without having to hang on to individual sheets of paper or flip through multiple Google form responses to keep track of volunteer hours. 

Find a software solution that stores hours on a digital dashboard, allowing you to see reported hours instantaneously and keep this information in one spot.

For instance, with our Civics Champs software, we include a digital dashboard that allows volunteer program managers to view their total number of volunteers, volunteer hours, donations, and estimated volunteer impact in one convenient overview location.

Use a mobile app that allows volunteers to check themselves in

Approximately 83% of the world’s population owns a smartphone. 

When it comes to volunteer check-in, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Allow volunteers to check-in for their shifts using a device that they all already have and carry with them during events.

With mobile apps for check-in, volunteers will have an accurate time stamp for their service, allowing them to report their hours more accurately. Oftentimes these mobile apps will also have automatic hour tracking so that your volunteers don’t have to actively log their hours if they check-in and check-out using the app.

When every hour could mean hundreds of dollars for your organization, inaccurate reporting can be a costly mistake. Using a mobile app that allows volunteers to check themselves in for a shift can help mitigate this issue.

Use tools like geofencing and automated check-in

Location services and tools like geofencing can help your volunteers track their hours live. 

While volunteers can set a timer to track hours in real-time when they are outside of an event using the volunteer management software provided, this software can make hour tracking even easier when they are at a sanctioned event thanks to geofencing.

When location services are turned on while using the mobile app, volunteers are automatically checked-in and checked-out at geofences when they volunteer, providing the most detailed and accurate hour tracking available.  

This automated check-in system takes the human fallibility out of hour tracking. It won’t matter if a volunteer forgets to submit hours or forgets to check the time when they start volunteering. With geofencing and automated check-in, their hours will still be stored accurately.

Use tools that allow volunteers to report activities at any time

If your platform doesn’t allow for automated check-in, you will want to make sure you find a tool that allows volunteers to report any hours they may have forgotten or missed at an earlier time.

Say a volunteer forgets to check-in. Instead of “forfeiting” these hours, you want to have a system in place to allow them to update their activity log and report these hours after the fact. 

While you ultimately want to have tools in place to prevent this from happening in the first place, accidents happen. Make sure your nonprofit doesn’t suffer the consequences of these mistakes by utilizing software solutions that allow volunteers to edit and add hours even after an event has ended.

Use a platform that offers a kiosk mode and mobile admin check in

Kiosk mode allows volunteers to check themselves in and out of their assigned shifts. This feature allows volunteers to use a mobile app to check-in for their shift and check-out once their shift is over. The kiosk mode feature available through Civic Champ’s volunteer software changes color schemes to help volunteers verify that they were checked in and out correctly.

Once an activity is over, mobile admins can close kiosk mode and automatically record volunteer information and hours in the app’s activity log.

While there are many great volunteer management software solutions available for nonprofits, Civic Champs offers a solution that includes all of the features above as well as additional tools to help simplify volunteer scheduling and optimize volunteer communication.

Learn how Civic Champs can help your nonprofit organization improve its volunteer hour tracking and volunteer management program when you visit our website.

About the Author:
Geng Wang
As CEO of Civic Champs, I lead our team of passionate change leaders to create technology solutions to create a seamless and rewarding volunteering experience for both volunteers and service organizations.