How to choose the right type of volunteer software for your volunteer program | Track It Forward

How to choose the right type of volunteer software for your volunteer program

Last updated by James McBryan on 09/03/2020

So, we’ve talked on and on about getting your volunteers to track their time and use your time tracking system- but what software should you use? There are so many different volunteer software systems out there that it can be overwhelming. But, we have a few guides that can help you, as well as a comparison matrix to showcase how Track It Forward compares to other volunteer software programs. Download that here.

Whether you’re researching to see which volunteer program best fits your needs, or you’re just starting your process of creating a volunteer time tracking program, this series is for you. If you’re new to this, and you have no idea what your organization needs or where to begin, you should check out this series.

If you are wondering how you can organize a volunteer software program into your existing volunteer program, a large portion of this will be getting your volunteer to track their time and volunteer efforts. 

The four main kinds of volunteer software programs you can use to help you track your volunteers are Volunteer Management Systems, CRMs, Free Form Systems, and exclusive Volunteer Time Tracking Systems (like Track it Forward!). We’ll talk about the 4 categories with regards to volunteer time tracking specifically.

Volunteer Management Systems

Volunteer Management Systems are a great way to manage all of your volunteer information all in one place. If you need to keep documents, photos, notes, and even volunteer training materials all in one location, a volunteer management system may be for you.

Volunteer management systems should allow for communication with volunteers, a record of schedule preferences, and flexible data collection for reporting, however, not all do. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that easy and intuitive, mobile-friendly, and allows you to keep track of milestone requirements, then a volunteer management system is not really for you.

Volunteer management systems are volunteer software that focuses on the ease of having many different administrative materials in one location. Most volunteer management systems try to create an easy implementation for larger organizations and don’t always have the volunteer’s implementation at heart. So, some volunteer programs struggle with using large volunteer software like Volunteer Management Systems. 

Using Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRMs) as Volunteer Software

Volunteer CRMs are volunteer software programs designed to simplify the relationship between volunteers and the organization. Most volunteer CRMs help manage the relationship with past and potential donors, however, there are also a few that go beyond that by managing the volunteer impact through time. 

CRMs are great for storing volunteer records, donations, history, and other important data, however, most aren’t supported on mobile devices, there are usually very complicated, not user-friendly and they don’t allow you to have any kind of leaderboard charts or recognition systems in place.

CRMs may be great volunteer software programs for organizations that want to keep volunteer and donation data in one place, but they don’t necessarily allow for volunteer program planning or reports.  

Free Form Systems as Volunteer Software

Sometimes volunteer organizations opt for Google Forms, Spreadsheets or Survey Monkey as a simple and quick approach to get started with using volunteer software. Freeform systems are usually very simple, and not difficult to use. You usually are in control of the data that you’re able to collect as well as the ability to embed the form widgets directly onto your website. 

As good as all that sounds, the biggest thing is that these systems don’t allow the volunteer any access to look into their progress or see what they’ve submitted, which means they’re always contacting the coordinator for updates, there’s also no communication capability, recognition system, and it’s not mobile-friendly. 

Free Form Systems are usually more of a quick fix to one simple problem- having a spreadsheet to track volunteers. Free Form systems arent really designed to be volunteer software, and it shows the more you tend to use them. 

Volunteer Time Tracking Systems

Lastly, you have volunteer software systems that are specifically developed for volunteer time tracking. There aren’t very many of them, and they don’t all offer everything. But if you’re looking to have a system that can keep track of your volunteer information and their hours for different reports, and if you want your volunteers to sign up for events themselves, be able to pull up their own hour logs, and have access to do this all from their phone, then a volunteer time tracking system is what you need.

Track it Forward does all of the above, but the others? They only do some of the above. 

Track It Forward is a volunteer software program that focuses on creating an easy implementation process for admins as well as volunteers. Using Track It Forward as a volunteer software program creates a flexible software that can be used in the same workflow you have set up. Meaning, there is very little processes that need to be changed or amended with this software. It makes it easy for volunteers to track their hours, and for admins to run reports! 

To close out this series, if you’ve been paying attention, volunteer software won’t solve all your problems and it isn’t the end all be all to getting your volunteers to actually track time. You need to make sure that you have the right structure in place, your volunteers know the importance of why they need to track, you’re constantly promoting your time tracking program, and lastly, you have some awesome incentives or awards to get that last small percentage of your volunteers to join the others. (If you’re really confused and wondering what I’m talking about, you’ll need to start this series over from the beginning).