When Free Tools Are Not Enough For Efficient Volunteer Management And Volunteer Time Tracking | Track It Forward

When Free Tools Are Not Enough For Efficient Volunteer Management And Volunteer Time Tracking

Last updated by Kasey Murphy on 10/07/2021

Free Tools like Google Apps are convenient for volunteer management - but there are more inexpensive tools that are just as convenient and more efficient! 

Being a volunteer manager is a lot of mini-jobs all in one. With many different tasks to complete, volunteer management tools are necessary to help make the best and optimize common tasks as a volunteer manager. 

Free volunteer management software tools like Google Apps are great for volunteer programs and volunteer coordinators just starting out with volunteer time tracking and pulling volunteer analytics. 

Google Forms can be great volunteer hour logs. Google spreadsheets can provide you with free volunteer time tracking, but there is a lot of manual entry and some google spreadsheet knowledge that has to be learned. Google calendars can work for volunteer scheduling, but it takes a lot of effort from both volunteer coordinators and volunteers - which can be more than it is worth. 

If you’ve started using free tools, you might be going down the path of most volunteer coordinators. First, you see that you need to track volunteers, schedule volunteers, and pull reports - so you invest your time into free volunteer management tools. 

Then, you realize it is taking up a lot of your time and you start having problems. These problems might be that you wish your volunteer management app or volunteer organization techniques were more specific to nonprofits and volunteers. 

Volunteer Management Tool Process

First Tool
You have found out that you need to track your volunteer activity - whether it be volunteer time, for scheduling purposes, and/or analyzing your volunteer program patterns. You have started - probably with google apps, paper forms, or any other free tool! 

Volunteer Management Tools Take Up Too Much Time

After using these tools, you start to realize that you are either spending too much time doing this part of your job or that the tools are not giving you accurate information. Either way, your free tools are not your forever software and it is time to upgrade! 

You map out your problems, what you wish your volunteer management software can do for you, and how much time you want to spend on the analytics aspect of being a volunteer coordinator, and what data you want to produce within your volunteer management tool.

Common Problems That Arise With Free Volunteer Management Apps 

While all of the Google applications are free, there are some drawbacks that you would not have if you chose to pay for a light volunteer management software, like Track It Forward.

  • A lot of manual entry for an organizer/administrator which is time-consuming.

  • Many steps for a volunteer to sign up for an event - which might add confusion.

  • The spreadsheets made from Google Forms have to be set up manually and correctly to generate accurate numbers - which increases human error. 

  • Extra steps need to be taken to edit hours that might have been entered incorrectly or if someone does less or extra. 

  • Volunteers do not get to see their hours submitted at their leisure, they have to ask you for it. 

  • Calendars only schedule events, not volunteers. 

In general, using Google Apps can lead to a lot more work for the Volunteer Coordinator and does not deliver the most accurate results. 

A Volunteer Coordinator must enter all of the formulas for the spreadsheet to calculate and create reports, create new Google Forms each time they want volunteers to log hours or sign up to volunteer, and more depending on how in-depth you want your tracking to be and how often volunteers will want to know their hour total. 

How To Move On From Free Tools Like Google Apps For Volunteer Management and Coordination

If you are in this position, it is the perfect time to reflect on your free volunteer management tools and see what problems you might be incurring. When you are able to realize what issues you have and what you would like to be able to do with volunteer time tracking software or volunteer management apps - you are able to know exactly what to look for in a new volunteer management app.

But, we know that if you are working for a nonprofit organization or an organization based on volunteers, there is not a great excess of money that you are allowed to spend. And, at the same time, if you are a volunteer coordinator or manager, you don’t really have the time to be learning software or doing manual data entry and reporting - that time can be spent elsewhere towards your volunteer program! 

So, let’s find a happy medium. While free tools are good for the budget, tools made for nonprofit organizations and volunteer management are more efficient. Inexpensive volunteer management software is out there! 

Track It Forward is a volunteer management tool that combines many different styles of free volunteer management tools into one software system. The best part is that Track It Forward was invented specifically for nonprofits and volunteer managers! So, there are extra features that are specifically made to help volunteer programs. In addition, Track It Forward is a very affordable tool!

Volunteer Scheduling Software - Similar To Google Calendar 

If you think a google calendar is sufficient for your volunteer scheduling needs - we have a few upgrades to our calendar that Google does not have. These upgrades are made specifically to help nonprofit organizations and volunteer programs schedule their volunteers. Here are some extra features that a Track It Forward calendar might be able to help you solve instead of a free calendar aspect. 

  • The ability to cap the RSVPs for events makes it easy to schedule out the appropriate amount of volunteers. 

  • Volunteers can view all events and pick which to go towards. 

  • A Digital Sign In Sheet can be attached to allow volunteers to sign in and out and track their time! 

  • Hour log sheets can be automatically filled out for volunteers who RSVP to track time as well. 

Volunteer Hour Log Forms & Reports - Similar To Google Forms & Spreadsheets

Hour log forms are the most classic way to track volunteer time. When using free tools like google forms and spreadsheets to track volunteer time, there might not be as much data that you are getting or it might take a lot of extra time to gather data. 

When using Track It Forward, there are multiple levels of data that you can record about a volunteer’s experience through the hour log forms. Then, reports can be pulled instantly - with as much detail as you would like. 

Reports can even be saved so you don’t have to remember which reports to pull, and you can have someone else quickly do it when you need it! 

Track It Forward Might Be Your Next Move 

Free volunteer software tools and volunteer organization tools are great to get you started on your volunteer time tracking and management analytics journey - but they are not the most efficient. 

Track It Forward allows you to have the same ease as free tools like Google apps for volunteer management and volunteer organization, with more automation and specific features tailored to volunteer programs. 

To see Track It Forward’s other features - including what can be done on our volunteer time tracking app, click here! 

If you need to run volunteer time tracking reports without lots of math in your spreadsheet, and more of an automated process you can easily use Track it Forward! We are one of the least expensive volunteer time tracking software that you can find, and with everything we do and create - we have the administrators, volunteer coordinators, and volunteer’s level of ease in mind. 

When it comes to Track It Forward, the layout is quite simple and there are multiple options for you to use our software in a variety of ways and methods that best fit your organization. 

  1. Volunteers have their own dashboard, unlike google apps, they can log time, check-in on their total hours logged, see a leaderboard to add a friendly competition, and even see their progress towards a goal. 

  2. There is an event calendar if you opt to use it, where volunteers can sign up for events or shifts of these events. Then, they can either log their hours after their shift on our free mobile app, or an administrator can verify their attendance and time at the event, and the hour is logged. 

  3. In addition, a digital sign-in sheet or check-in kiosk can be used to check volunteers in and out of events, and their time would be automatically logged after check out. 

  4. All of the data stays in the software, and reports can be pulled instantly by admins. 

It is important to note that just because something is free and can do the bare minimum, does not always mean it is worth it!