The Secret To Volunteer Time Tracking | Track It Forward

The Secret Formula to Getting Your Volunteers to Track Hours

Last updated by James McBryan on 03/15/2021

Over and over again, we keep hearing organizations big and small share with us the troubles they are experiencing with being able to motivate their volunteers to actually track hours. Since we’ve been in this market longer than any of our competitors, we thought, 

“Why not share the knowledge about how other organizers get their volunteers to track time?”

Some of these may seem obvious or maybe you’ll think it won’t work with your volunteers, so we challenge you to think outside the box, get creative and don’t be afraid to try new things. 

Create Incentives

Unfortunately, people don’t like to track hours, because it’s work.  Even if you have a paid job, you probably don’t like to track your time either! In a paid job, the reward is money, but in a volunteering program, the reward is more nebulous. Ask yourself: How can you make it as easy and rewarding as possible for volunteers to submit their hours? In other words, how can you motivate your volunteer to log hours? 

A successful time tracking program is a successful incentive program!

If you have multi-level requirements that progress after each level is achieved, reward your volunteers each at each step! Whether it be a free t-shirt or movie tickets, it doesn’t have to be big, but it’s enough to motivate your volunteers for a bigger reward if they achieve the next level.  Check out this park that lets their volunteers stay for free!

Communicate the Importance 

Communicate to your volunteers why it is so important that they log hours. If they understand how it benefits or affects your organization, then they are much more likely to log their hours. For example, you can tell them that their volunteer time provides a certain monetary value to your organization, or that your organization receives some grants in proportion to the amount of volunteer time and if they don’t log hours then the organization doesn’t receive these benefits. Don’t be afraid to put the responsibility on them! 

Show Appreciation

Volunteers love to be shown appreciation and recognized for their hard work! Make sure that you know how and when individuals reach certain goals or milestones so that you can recognize and thank them publicly.

Sometimes, people just want to hear someone say to them “Thank you and well done”

This may seem obvious, but for some, this will mean so much to them and will encourage them even more to log in hours consistently.  If there’s room in your budget, host a volunteer appreciation night. If not, a simple handwritten thank you note goes a long way!

Whether weekly or monthly, make sure your volunteers are also getting the feedback they need to see not only their own progress but how far along they are in relation to others. Many volunteers are motivated by the accomplishments of their peers, so try publicizing volunteer accomplishments and see how it impacts the morale of your volunteer time tracking program. Send it in an email, print out their progress, or post it up for everyone to see. If you’re managing a school or organization that has required hours, congratulate those who have successfully met requirements ahead of schedule. 

Enforce Penalties

Alternatively, you can motivate them by penalizing untimely or inaccurate submissions. It may not be easy for you to be a strict enforcer, but some people get more motivated if there are negative consequences in place.  For example, if hours aren’ t   submitted by a certain day, then they won’t count. Or sometimes, just simply seeing their name highlighted in a list of volunteers who haven’t logged hours, in comparison to all who have done it, is motivation enough. We all know that no one wants to be that person on the list. In addition, you may not want to embarrass anyone, so make sure you give them a heads up when they sign a code of conduct so they can expect it well in advance. Some people will just want to wait until the last minute, but this will help them get on it!

Bring awareness to VTO benefits

You've probably heard of PTO (Paid Time Off), but there is also VTO (Volunteer Time Off) that more and more employers are providing.  However, it can sometimes take a bit of time for an employee to connect these dots and realize this benefit is available to them.  If you can help bridge the information gap by educating your volunteers on VTO benefits and encouraging them to check if their employers have an existing policy, your team won't need to choose between their busy work schedule and their volunteer time, because they will be one in the same.  Here's the best article I found online that describes the importance of VTO