How to Use Volunteer Hours to Get Grants and Amplify Your Impact

Carrying and Spreading the MulchAn overwhelming amount of volunteer time goes by untracked and unnoticed. Tracking volunteer time might sound like just another item on your organization’s to-do list, but this simple task has the potential to drastically improve your bottom line. In this guide, you will find everything you need to know in order to effectively capture the value of your volunteer time and amplify your impact.

 1.  Track Volunteer Hours

First things first – You need an effective, organized system for logging volunteer hours. The two most important variables you should be tracking are: how many hours are being completed and what kind of work/activity is being done.

 What’s the easiest way to track volunteer hours? Track it Forward has a system where volunteers can log in their own hours (via a mobile app and/or your website), and you keep them accountable.

 2.  Calculate the Value of Your Volunteer Time

There are a number of ways you can calculate the monetary value of volunteer time.  The most recent estimate on the national value of volunteer time is $22.55 per hour. For comprehensive data on the value of volunteer time across different states and over time, take a look at this useful article from the Independent Sector. To calculate the value of more specialized skills, The Bureau of Labor Statistics has wage data by area and occupation. 

____________   x     ____________________ = total value of volunteer time

       # of hours                              avg. hourly rate

3.  Motivate and Reward Volunteers with Incentives

Why do people volunteer? Sure, the act of giving is gratifying, but volunteers love nothing more than genuine appreciation! You can set up volunteer milestones so that upon completion of a certain number of volunteer hours, each volunteer will gain recognition. How you want to reward your volunteers will vary according you your organizations mission and available resources, but simple recognition and a personal thank you letter goes a very long way. Additionally, by knowing how much time each volunteer is contributing to your organization, you can motivate him or her to volunteer even more!

 4.  Claim Volunteer Time in Your Financial Statements

Did you know that you could claim volunteer service contributions? In order to claim volunteer time, one of the following two stipulations must be met: (1) the service contribution either creates or enhances nonfinancial assets or (2) the specialized skills provided by the volunteer would typically need to be purchased if not provided by donation. For more information on these stipulations, visit the Financial Accounting Standards Board.

5.  Get Corporate Grants

Almost half of all Fortune 500 companies offer matching grants for employee volunteer hours, and most schools and 501c(3) nonprofits are eligible. These Employee Volunteer Programs, commonly called “Dollars for Doers,” offer organizations anywhere between $8-20 per hour volunteered. This number is amplified when groups or teams from a corporation volunteer at your nonprofit organization together. Some companies even offer dollars for hours volunteered by retirees! 

Target specific companies in your area that offer matching grants for volunteer hours by contacting the Corporate Social Responsibility or Human Resources departments. Also, ask your existing volunteers to contact their employers and inquire about matching grants for volunteer time. Recruiting volunteers is the hardest part. After that, all that is needed is to complete the volunteer assignment, submit the required paperwork documenting volunteer hours, and the corporations release funds directly to your organization. 

6.  Get Foundation Grants

If you’re able to effectively track and report on important metrics like volunteer time, it drastically improves your chances of successfully attracting foundation grants. Many grantees report volunteer hours based on inaccurate estimates, or volunteer hours aren’t even accounted for.  If you’re able to prove the value of your volunteers, you will be able to differentiate your organization and set yourself ahead of the competition by a long shot! For more information on how to write effective grant applications for foundations, visit Philanthropic Venture Foundation.

7.  Get Government Grants

Grants.gov is the official government site for information on federal grants and funding opportunities. Managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this site contains application requirements and stipulations for more than 1,000 grant programs administered by 26 federal grantmaking agencies, searchable by agency, category, eligibility or CFDA number. 

8.  Amplify Your Impact

Nothing scares away funders like high overhead cost. Use the value of volunteer hours to convey greater value to funders by adding the total value of volunteer hours (see step 2 above) to your overhead costs. For example, if your organization’s total volunteer time adds up to $300,000 and overhead costs are $150,000, then your total value is $450,000. This means that volunteer time is able to amplify the financial impact of your organization by 300%!  By communicating this value to funders, you are able to prove a much higher return on investment for each donation. 

Get started tracking volunteer hours Now!