You know the value of dedicated volunteers in moving your mission forward through their regular shifts. However, without accurately tracking their hours, you could be missing the key to unlocking a variety funding opportunities.
Volunteer time, when tracked and presented with accurate reporting, can open up new ways to grow your program and organization as a whole.
Here are 3 Steps to making sure you can use volunteer data in grants and other funding proposals.
Step 1: Create a Volunteer Data Plan
Creating a data plan for your volunteer program is an important part of being able to leverage your volunteer data for more funding. Follow these steps in creating your volunteer data plan:
- Complete a data audit
- Find the data gaps
- Determine what you need
- Create a plan
Completing a Volunteer Data Audit
Here are some guiding questions for your volunteer data audit:
What data do you currently have?
First you’ll need to see what data you are already collecting.
- Do you have general information like names, addresses, email, phone numbers from all volunteers?
- Have you been tracking the hours each individual volunteer works?
- Do you have data on which specific programs each volunteer is serving in?
- Do you know which specific shifts they’ve been “on the clock” for?
- Have you collected data on volunteer hours for special events?
- Do you know how many people your volunteer program has served?
Find the data gaps
Once you complete your audit, you can look for gaps in the information you are collecting from volunteers.
You may have data that is optional to collect, like personal information on demographics or preferences of the program served.
However, deciding what data absolutely must be collected is key to determining what is missing from your database.
So, what are grant funders looking for? Here are examples of the most popular data questions grant funders ask volunteer programs on their applications:
- Total number of volunteers serving in your organization
- Total hours logged by volunteers
- Number of services and programs your organization offers
- Number of volunteer hours logged for each service area
- Number of volunteer hours logged for each program
- Taking note of who makes up your volunteer population: local universities & schools, corporate partnerships, churches, civic organizations, individuals signing up directly
- Measurables that display your program’s impact: number of trees planted, students tutored, books donated, meals served, houses repaired, etc.
Now that you’ve pulled together the data you already have and reviewed some of the most important data points for grant applications, it’s time to determine the data that fills in the gaps you’ve discovered.
Determine what you need
Do you know what data you need?
You’ll want to pay extra attention to the types of data necessary for grant applications. These specifics help grantors to see the clear picture of your organization’s support and impact.
Are you able to pull hours logged from specific time periods, services, and programs?
Do you know how many people your program has served or projects you’ve completed?
Being able to answer these questions with clarity makes a powerful case for your program to receive grants and other funding. Now you can adjust your volunteer hours tracking process as necessary to begin catching your program’s vital information.
Create a plan
Making certain all of your volunteers are logging hours week in and week out with consistency is key for collecting accurate data to use in grant applications.
Check our guide to logging volunteer hours.
Consider the format of your current data
Is your data in paper form, digital form, or a combination of the two? You’ll need to consider the format of your data, knowing you’ll want to specifically focus on hours tracking. You want to make it easy for everyone to stay consistent with your system so that when you’re asked for data for a grant application, it’s easy to pull a report.
Step 2: Research Grant Opportunities
There are many grants available for volunteer programs delivering much needed support in their communities. You’ll need to do a little research to find the right grant opportunities for your program.
Here are a few places to get your research started:
Dollars for Doers Grants
Dollars for Doers grants are given by corporate partners when their employees complete a minimum number of volunteer hours with your organization. Developing these strategic partnerships can create long term volunteer involvement, opportunities for special corporate days of service, and grant funding.
Are you aware of the grant funds available through your corporate partnerships? Speak with your corporate partner’s HR professional to see if they have a Dollars for Doers program and the specifications for receiving one of their grants.
The Dollars for Doers grants are an excellent opportunity to make an impact in your community through hours served while also qualifying for grant funds.
Learn about other corporate funding opportunities.
Did you know that nonprofits are able to apply for funds specifically for direct community support in response to COVID-19?
Through the American Rescue Plan Act 2021 FEMA was given $510 million to disperse in the form of grant monies to organizations that are responding to the effects of COVID-19 in their communities through the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP).
FEMA Grants are also available for pre and post-emergency or disaster related projects. They are designed to support recovery initiatives as the primary arm used to award federal funding to “eligible state, local, tribal, territorial, certain private non-profits, individuals and institutions of higher learning.”
Success Story: Tracking Volunteer Hours Leads to $500,000 FEMA Grant for Volunteer Center
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The City of Albuquerque, New Mexico sprang into action to support its citizens through volunteerism. The city’s Volunteer Center, One Albuquerque Volunteers, was able to log 20,000 volunteer hours (and counting…). By tracking these hours using a dedicated volunteer management system, One Albuquerque was able to apply for and receive a $500,000 FEMA grant!
Albuquerque’s Mayor Keller went live on the news requesting volunteers to log their hours to bring in federal funds. The Mayor gave instructions on how to head to their online volunteer site, register as a volunteer, and log their hours – thus inspiring the community to get involved.
Because they had a data plan, researched grants they were eligible for, and were consistently using volunteer management software to log hours – the City of Albuquerque was able to earn an impressive grant that helped them make an even bigger impact.
Learn more about the City of Albuquerque’s dedicated volunteer management software: Get Connected.
Grants.gov is a resource for all parties involved in the granting process, both the grantors and applicants. You’ll find abundant information on available grants in this searchable database. Additionally, support and training are offered on the site to make certain you’re creating a strong grant application.
Pro Tip: Work with the grant writer at your organization on your grant applications or reach out to a skilled volunteer who has experience in grant research and writing. These grant writers will be thrilled to know you’ve got a data plan in place for tracking your volunteer hours across all programming!
Share our 10 Tips for Writing a Winning Grant with your organization’s grant writers.
Step 3: Leverage Volunteer Management Technology
Administrative time for your volunteer program is extremely valuable. You don’t want to spend your days searching for paper hours logs and entering all of that data into a spreadsheet!
This is where volunteer management software bridges the gap between getting the data you need and getting to spend time with your volunteers.
Did you know there were multiple technology solutions that make volunteer hours tracking easy? Let’s explore how using volunteer management technology to track your volunteer hours makes reporting for grant applications much easier.
The best volunteer management software systems offer the following features for hours tracking:
- Web-based hours log – Most volunteer management systems will allow volunteers to record their hours and assign them to a project or activity. When volunteers can log their hours easily, volunteer managers save time.
- Check-in kiosk – You no longer need to rely on paper sign-in sheets to track volunteer attendance and time. A web-based check-in tool will automatically log a volunteer’s hours on site when they clock in and out of an opportunity through a tablet, computer, or mobile device.
- QR code – QR codes can be created for virtually any website. So, look for a system with web-based check-in and hours logs. Just print the QR code and post where volunteers congregate. Volunteers simply scan the QR code with their smartphones for contact-free check-in and time logging.
- Mobile app – In a world that’s increasingly contact-free, a mobile app is a great way for volunteers to log attendance and manage their schedules from their smartphones. Some mobile applications will send automated notifications to remind volunteers to check-in when they arrive at their scheduled activity.
Groups and Teams Tracking
Whether you rely on corporate teams, student groups, or families, you’ll need a system for tracking and reporting collective impact.
A team tracking feature is essential for organizations that rely on corporate partnerships to fulfill volunteer program needs.
You’ll want a system that offers real time reporting on all those hours your individual volunteers and groups have logged. You’ll save lots of time by implementing a volunteer management system that offers segmented reporting and custom reports features.
You should be able to segment reports based on a range of criteria. Dates, programs, volunteer programs, events, groups, and more should all be options to look for when choosing a technology that boasts reporting as an option.
Many volunteer software programs include a host of other desirable features, but make certain the software you choose tracks the data needed for grant opportunities.
Learn more about volunteer management software.
Leveraging your volunteer data to unlock funding
It can feel a little overwhelming to make sure you have the ability to gain funding through data, but the return on investment is undeniable. Your time will be well spent!
Taking the time to make a data plan, research grant opportunities, and use volunteer management technology can get you the clear-cut data you need for grant applications.