By Marie Palacios
Time management for nonprofit leaders is already a precarious balancing act, so it’s easy to understand why program managers or even your board might balk at the thought of tracking volunteer hours.
Lots of organizations waste time tracking data that will never be utilized while other organizations operate in an information void that can negatively impact growth and sustainability.
Data tracking is useless unless those nuggets of information are carefully analyzed within specific contexts that have meaning within the organization or the community you serve. Once data is analyzed the organization then has a powerful tool to engage key decision makers, donors, and the community.
Data can be used to highlight major needs for program growth, a new facility, or an increase in staffing. It can also be used to demonstrate the incredible impact your nonprofit has generated in your service area!
We encourage you to carefully consider what data your organization should be tracking and reporting. It is important to determine how and why each data component is worth the time and resources needed to collect it.
According to the Independent Sector, the national value of one hour of general volunteer time is $24.69. Click HERE to confirm the current value of a volunteer hour in your state!
Remember, if a professional in a specialized field volunteers time, you will calculate their time based on their regular/fair market fees.
For example: if an IT professional donates time to repair your office computers, you should note their professional rates vs. the general volunteer hour rate.
Here are the top five reasons your organization should be tracking volunteer hours:
1. To determine true program costs. – Volunteer hours and in-kind contributions often get lumped into their own category of “important” but not dollar related. However, if a program or your organization depends on volunteer hours to achieve goals, that time IS worth money! Donors want to know how much your program/project is going to cost. By leaving out the value of volunteer hours, you are “underselling” your program/project. For example, if you have a program that costs $100k/year to manage (not including volunteer hours) and you request $50k from a donor, you are asking them to fund 50% of your entire program. However, if you included the fair market value of volunteer hours and in-kind contributions you might realize that the true program cost is closer to $150k which means you are only asking a donor for 33% of the total project.
2. Strengthen Staff – You aren’t alone if you have ever muttered the words “Some volunteers cost us more time and energy than they are worth!” That might be true, but other volunteers are certainly worth their weight in gold. By streamlining your volunteer tracking systems, your organization will gain a better understanding of how much volunteers COST and CONTRIBUTE to the organization.
If specific volunteers are consistently banking large numbers of hours that is a good indicator that they bring added value and the organization should offer additional training/support to grow those volunteers. If you are seeing lots of hours banked by inconsistent volunteers, it might be time to consult with your staff and board to determine how to increase the efficiency of the volunteer program. Quite simply, volunteers are amazing, but they do require screening, orientation, ongoing training, support, and supervision. If you have many volunteers who are eating into staff time, it might be time to create a volunteer program that clearly defines current needs and requirements for volunteers!
3. Volunteers = Money – That’s right. Imagine if every volunteer your program or organization has just disappeared! Would you be forced to close your doors? Would you have to operate at a reduced capacity? Most importantly, would you have to hire someone to fill those vacant positions? If you answered YES to any of the above, your volunteers certainly are filling a role that would require paid staff. Include those volunteer hours/dollars in your operating and program budgets so that your donors/community members understand that volunteers are currently filling those needs which are saving your organization time and money!
4. Reflects Community Buy-In – Donors, stakeholders, and potential volunteers take note of how much credibility your organization has in the community and actions truly speak louder than then words. When your organization can share the number of volunteers, who believe in your organization and the collective service hours they have contributed you are confirming that people believe in your mission!
5. Leverages Donors – As we have stated, donors are investing in your impact. When you demonstrate that you understand the true cost of your proposed program/project and that you have leveraged incredible community support to achieve your goals…donors are much more likely to support!
Volunteer management is not an easy task, but tracking current volunteer hours is the first step to determine how your organization should restrict or grow volunteer opportunities in the years to come.