Using Awards and Competition In Volunteer Time Tracking | Track It Forward

Do awards and competition actually get volunteers to track hours?

Last updated by James McBryan on 03/15/2021

We’ve shared that volunteers need to know the reason why it’s important for them to track hours. However, sometimes, let’s admit it, our volunteers may be motivated to go out and volunteer their time in the community, however, when it comes to actually record their time, they can tend to get lazy or just simply forget. 

While reminding them of the time tracking system, why they should be tracking their time, and explaining the importance of volunteer time tracking for your organization are all important methods for successful volunteer time tracking. Offering awards or competitions for volunteers is going the extra mile to encourage volunteer time tracking. 

Has it ever happened in your organization, where people just don’t seem to care about hour tracking? If so, have you tried to run a competition or give out awards? We know what you’re thinking… “Those hokey things don’t work”. However, if that were truly the case, why do all successful volunteer organizations have them?

In this article, we’ll share about if and when competitions and awards work. Because everybody likes to be recognized! Everybody. 

Your volunteers are already doing great work by volunteering, but let’s reward them for something else that you really need from them besides their time - tracking their hours! 

Different reasons motivate different people towards accomplishments. Some are motivated by rewards and incentives, others are motivated through competition by seeing their name on a leaderboard. 

So when are good times to use competition and awards for your volunteer time tracking process? 

When Competitions In Volunteer Time Tracking Works

1. Volunteers have showcased a competitive side 

 Competitions won’t work if your volunteers aren’t motivated to win. However, if you know that your volunteer base likes a friendly competition, it’s one of the best ways to ensure that everyone participating will actually log their hours. 

An important part of volunteer time tracking is having volunteers log their hours, so why not throw in friendly competition? 

2. Having a leaderboard is encouraged

It’s no fun to compete blindly. If your upper management wants to keep volunteer names private in a competition, then honestly, it won’t work. Competitions require a level of transparency so that volunteers can see where they stand on a leaderboard amongst their peers.

Some volunteer time tracking software will have a leaderboard incorporated into the software. We have incorporated it in ours! It’s just another easy way to automate this process for you and instantly see the leaderboard. 

Figure out a way to incorporate the leaderboard into your volunteer program!

3. You create enthusiasm around the competition

A lot of volunteer managers set the tone for their volunteers. If you are not invested in this competition for volunteers to track their hours, they won’t be either! 

Promote volunteer time tracking competitions on social media, the website, and in meetings and volunteer events!

When Competitions In Volunteer Time Tracking Will Not Work

1. There is no reward for top achiever

 The best competitors don’t compete just for the trophy. However, you can't develop a competition if you don’t have an award, at the minimum for the top achiever.

There needs to be something that will help drive volunteer time tracking, if you think competition will work be sure to follow through with some sort of prize. 

2. There is no transparency for volunteers to see where everyone stands

 Competitions don’t work if the volunteers don’t know at all times where they stand amongst other volunteers and how much they have left to catch up. Whether you have a live leaderboard or announce it on a regular basis, volunteers need a way to know where they stand.

Volunteer time tracking by itself isn’t necessarily fun, but adding a competition makes it fun! With competition, you cannot be in it blind. You like to see how you are doing- make sure your volunteers feel like this. 

3. There is no social recognition for it

Competitors are motivated by more recognition. However, if you have a private competition where nobody knows who the winner is, then what’s the point?

While some volunteers may be a bit shy, you can still congratulate them in front of a group or just showcase them on top of the leaderboard. It does not have to be embarrassing, but recognition is a driving force behind the motivation for anything. Volunteer time tracking is not an anomaly!

If you’re reading this, and you’re thinking… we really don’t want to encourage competitiveness, then don’t worry, competition isn’t the only incentive that helps make successful volunteer time tracking. You can create a simple award system, that can be just as effective. 

When Volunteer Time Tracking Awards Work 

1. They are hard to achieve

If everyone got an award, then what’s the point of pushing yourself? However, if your reward system is based on a certain number of hours that not everyone can do, then that’s how your volunteers will be motivated to keep track of their hours.

Be sure to create a bit of a challenge when it comes to awards, then the motivation and drive to track volunteer hours, and actually volunteer will increase!

2. Awards are recognizable 

Similar to competitions, awards aren’t as appreciated when there’s nobody to share the joy with. Whether you do it through a public announcement or at a large gathering, volunteers strive for awards when they know they are showcased amongst their peers. Nobody wants to be left off that list!

3. Awards are desirable 

Sometimes, the real reward is not the physical item you’ve achieved, but the recognition that you get from a significantly important person in the organization or even above. If you cannot give out fancy awards, think of special ways to give the awards. 

Try having a volunteer time tracking awards ceremony or even an award-giving party. Something special is what makes awards rewarding, so be sure to put extra thought into these awards!

When Volunteer Time Tracking Awards Won’t Work 

1. They are not desirable 

If the award is not really one to be happy about or feel special over, it is not as rewarding as it can be and it may result in disappointment. Create awards that are fun and encourage more people to reach that goal in volunteer time tracking. 

2.  Nobody knows about it, especially the higher-ups

Volunteers want to feel acknowledged and appreciated. But if nobody knows, then how can they care? And if a significantly important person in your organization doesn’t know or care to know, then your volunteer may feel like their efforts of volunteer time tracking were not appreciated fully. 

3. Everyone's a winner

We love being caring and generous to everyone, of course. But not everyone can win your volunteer time tracking awards. If everyone can receive a reward, then what’s the point of trying harder? Volunteers can log and cannot log and if they are all treated the same, then most likely, your volunteers won’t be logging hours or will lose their motivation. 


With all this being said, as good as competitions, rewards and incentives can be, they should only be your final touch in setting up a successful time tracking program. Getting your volunteers to actually track time, SHOULD NOT revolve around what pins and lapels they can earn. After everything else is done, then you can add the icing on the cake - in this case, all the things we talked about in this article and in this one.