How to log and track volunteer hours

Volunteers are some of the most important members of a nonprofit. They keep valuable processes and services on track for both the organization and the communities it serves.

Though donors provide the funding and resources to keep organizations running, volunteers give their time and effort to support nonprofits and make the world a better place. That’s why keeping track of the hours volunteers spend supporting your cause can be more valuable than you think.

Managers who are stretched thin might balk at the added recordkeeping and tasks associated with tracking volunteers’ time. And you might have some qualms about formalizing the donated time with some sort of tabulation.

However, tracking volunteer hours will not only bring surprising improvements to your organization and processes, but it will also help volunteers value their generosity toward your nonprofit even more.

Why you should log volunteer hours

Demonstrate growth

Insightful and impressive impact reports are crucial for advancing nonprofit organizations — and nothing bolsters these more than numbers. Measurements of services (meals served, lives saved, etc.) are amazing metrics to have, as are fundraising numbers, especially when they increase year over year.

Another way to demonstrate the growth of your organization is to highlight increasing volunteer counts and the number of hours they spend working. If those are on the rise as well, others will consider your organization valuable enough to donate time to.

Retain volunteers

Logging hours is also a great way to deepen engagement with your volunteers because it will provide a way to measure the impact they’ve had on your organization. If you measure the increase in services alongside a volunteer’s hours worked, it will help showcase a direct correlation between the time they’re so generously giving and the way it’s benefitting the world.

Improve programs

Tracking volunteer hours is one of the most important things nonprofit managers can do to maximize productivity. If records reveal your volunteers are spending the majority of their time on tasks or projects that don’t align with the organization’s overall goals, this will give you insight into how to restructure programs to optimize their time.

Secure larger grants

For small nonprofits with few or no employees, volunteers will be the primary source of labor. By tracking hours, you’ll make a case for a larger budget to compensate more workers. A study in 2017 determined that each volunteer hour is worth over $24. 

How to log volunteer hours

Keeping track of volunteer hours in your regular reporting will require managers to do some additional tasks and paperwork, but there are ways to streamline and automate these duties. Develop processes to make collecting information efficient. You may even want to set up a way to automatically log your findings directly into databases (more on that later).

Log time in blocks

An effective way to keep track of hours is to break down projects or volunteer assignments into blocks of time. For example, if you need volunteers to assist at an event, and you know the event will run for eight hours, there’s a cap on how long a volunteer engagement can be. Simply add a question to your volunteer signup form about how long they will be able to work the event, and you can integrate the form with a tracking spreadsheet for automatic updates.

Ask volunteers to self report

Allowing volunteers to keep track of their own hours on a log form is a great way to minimize paperwork and labor for managers. You can record the data in your database and tabulate it later for whatever purposes you need.

Keep a management record

For situations when it’s important for a manager to monitor hours worked, time sheets or volunteer log sheets might be ideal, as they note specific times of day when volunteers work, which will be easy to verify. Managers can keep these records, or volunteers can report the information themselves. With the self-reporting method, however, the greater the specificity of the “clock in and clock out,” the more accurate the hours reported will be.

Logging and tracking volunteer hours may seem like tedious work, but these templates from Jotform will make the process as efficient as possible and bring many tangible benefits to your nonprofit organization. These suggestions only scratch the surface of all the templates that Jotform offers nonprofit organizations.

People photo created by jcomp –

This article is originally published on Dec 31, 2020, and updated on Jan 11, 2023.

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