Why You and Your Volunteers Need To Track Volunteer Hours Efficiently | Track It Forward

Why You and Your Volunteers Need To Track Volunteer Hours Efficiently

Last updated by James McBryan on 09/02/2022

A critical aspect of getting volunteers to actually track time is to make sure there’s a real reason to do it and that the volunteers know of it! Think of exercising for example. People would not just exercise because someone told them to. They exercise because it is good for you and there are proven reasons for why it is beneficial!

Keeping track of volunteer hours is the same thing. If I know why it’s important for my organization that I keep track of my hours, then, of course, I’m more motivated to do it. This is the same thing with your volunteers. They need to know why it is important and be given specific reasons.

Tracking Hours Efficiently: 

volunteers feeling motivated to track time + volunteer coordinators knowing why they need to track volunteer time + a software system to help volunteer time tracking + a process to implement this system = efficient volunteer time tracking

So, let’s brainstorm some ideas for why your volunteers may genuinely want to track their hours! 

We have some example reasons below and a worksheet to help you map out your volunteer’s motivation to track hours. Follow along with the other downloadables in this series, by the end of it you will have 6 core downloads to get your volunteer time tracking process up to par. 

Some volunteers and organizations already have the motivation to track volunteer hours

There are certain organizations that have very clear reasons why they need their volunteers to track hours. For example, 

  • Younger volunteers may need to volunteer hours as a graduation requirement

  • An organization may enforce eligibility rules to be a member - one of which being a number of volunteer hours.

In both of these volunteer structures, the volunteers have a strong motivation to record their hours because something important depends on it: their ability to graduate, or to remain a part of an organization.

Most consider these organizations the easiest group to motivate to track hours.  However, if your organization has this type of structure, you could still fail to get volunteers to track hours, because you may not be promoting it sufficiently. We’ll talk about that in the next article.

But, these are not opportunities that you can just create! So, let’s think of some more reasons that your volunteers will want to track their hours and the reasons that you need them to! 

Other reasons volunteers may want to track their hours 

  • To keep totals for a volunteer program contest 

  • To create a strong data-backed volunteer presence for new jobs 

  • To show experience working with a specific program or industry

  • To apply for scholarships 

These are just some of the reasons why a volunteer may want to track their hours, for their own sake. Many volunteers will actually just want to track their hours to help the organization. If volunteers see how important it is to you or the organization to track their hours- this is another reason for them to track their volunteer hours. But, unfortunately, this cannot be the only reason.

Other reasons you may want to track your volunteer’s hours 

  • Match grants - Match grants are grants where an organization can get funds for every hour that someone in the community volunteers.  For example, if a volunteer volunteers for 1 hour, a company will grant them $25 for each hour completed. If you currently have a grant, try to restructure it with a foundation so that it’s a match grant.  Or if you already have a match grant, make sure all your volunteers know about it and what their personal contribution is. If they are volunteering with your organization, they have a vested interest and they care, so remind them of the reasons why every hour logged is so critical.

  • Reports - If you have any supervisor or director, they may want to see the impact of your volunteer programs. The only way to do this is to pull reports. Tracking volunteer hours into software that contains reporting features is a great way to ensure there are efficient and easily accessible reports. 

  • Donations - You can use these reports above to show how hardworking your organization is, and show them to donors. This is a great way to recruit donations of people who are genuinely interested and invested in your organization. 

  • Legal reasons- some nonprofit organizations need to have proof of their volunteer programs to be deemed a legal nonprofit. Depending on the type of nonprofit and the state, this can differ. If your organization needs to show records of volunteer hours, creating a time tracking system and using efficient software is the way to go. 

If your volunteers don’t have a clear reason for why they need to keep track of hours, they just won’t track hours.

For example, there are some organizations that are just curious about collecting the data, but they don’t really have a real reason. That’s OK, but it does make it a lot more difficult to get all your volunteers to track their hours, and instead, you’ll just get a subset of that data that you’re looking for.

On the other hand, if you’re a non-profit organization that has a mission and a vision, like most nonprofits do, then have you shared with your volunteers what the community impact is? This, by far, is the most difficult to measure, however, it is the most critical to help your volunteers align with you their purpose for volunteering. Your volunteers want to know how their efforts have impacted the community and if keeping track of the hours helps them to see if better, of course, they are more likely to do it.

I definitely don’t want you to be discouraged if you realize that maybe you don’t have the right reasons. If that’s truly the case, then think seriously about restructuring your organization to make time tracking work. You can create some type of membership structure, find a grant that relates to your impact, or just put extra emphasis on always focusing on your community.

At the end of the day, keep in mind that you may have the best structure in place, however, without the proper feedback loop, it’s all pretty worthless. What does that mean? Read about the importance of promoting your time tracking program in our next article.