Home » Volunteer Hours Log: Resources for Tracking Volunteer Time
Your volunteers are the driving force behind your mission. Every hour they put into your cause brings you closer to your goal. As a volunteer management leader, it’s essential that you track and report volunteer impact.
Not only is demonstrating impact the best tangible way to show your volunteers just how much they’ve accomplished, but it’s necessary to win grants and develop a successful strategy. That said, one crucial component of managing volunteers and tracking volunteer impact is logging volunteer hours.
Recording how long someone volunteers with your organization seems easy enough. Just grab a sheet of paper and start tallying hours. However, as your volunteer base grows, logging hours accurately and efficiently becomes challenging and time consuming. You’ll need a dedicated hour tracking strategy in place.
We at Galaxy Digital have helped nonprofits and other organizations track more than $269,198,387 in volunteer impact and wrote this guide to prepare your organization for success. We’ll be exploring the following topics:
Ready to jump in? Let’s start!
Your volunteer hours log is where you’ll track the hours supporters have given to your cause. The log should record essential data such as volunteer name, volunteer email, volunteer activity, check in time, check out time, and hours worked. This information can help you better manage your volunteers and keep your data organized.
Whether you do this manually or store the data in a dedicated tool, hour tracking is crucial for several reasons. Below, we’ll explore those reasons and dive deeper into why exactly organizations log volunteer hours.
Consider the following reasons why keeping track of hours in a volunteer hours log is so important:
When should your organization implement a volunteer hour log? Will volunteers log their own hours or is it the responsibility of the volunteer coordinator? What tools will you use to log volunteer hours?
Each organization will have their own answers to these questions. To help you develop your hour tracking strategy, we’ll be walking through the following basic steps and then dive deeper into strategies and best practices.
Decide on Your Goal
What are you hoping to achieve by logging volunteer hours? There are several ways to organize and log volunteer hours based on your primary goal for tracking volunteer contributions. Use the table below to help inform your volunteer hour log:
|Collect Hours By:||Primary Data Logged||Goal||Type of Organization(s)|
|Program / Cause||Total volunteer hours per program||Understand volunteer hours by program or cause. Make informed decisions about directing resources.||Community-based nonprofits running multiple programs or addressing several causes|
|Volunteer||Volunteer hours per individual volunteer||Celebrate and engage dedicated volunteers. Track individual contributions to a cause. Students may log individual hours for school credit. Employees may log individual hours for their company’s social responsibility initiative.||Service-learning programs, corporate volunteerism programs, any nonprofit|
|Time Period||Total volunteer hours throughout a set time period||Understand organization-wide volunteer impact during a seasonal initiative (i.e., Week of Caring), volunteer hours logged per month, or total annual volunteer hours logged.||Any organization|
To log hours effectively, you need dependable processes in place. This way volunteer coordinators can ensure they are logging volunteer hours effectively and correctly. Make sure to establish the following processes:
You won’t be able to use your volunteer hours and determine impact without a dedicated and reliable way to track them. Establishing the above processes will not only help your organization better manage hours but keep the experience organized and streamlined for volunteers.
Which tools will you use to log volunteer hours? Some organizations choose to log volunteer hours manually, while others implement an automated system to track volunteer hours. Here are some considerations for each, so that you can choose the method that makes the most sense for your case:
Manually logging volunteer hours is budget-friendly and quick to implement. You don’t need the internet or a computer to log volunteer hours on-site; simply print your log and invite volunteers to record their hours according to your system.
If you choose to log hours on paper, we recommend entering this data into a spreadsheet later, making it easier to add hours and search your logs. If you choose to log volunteer hours manually, check out our templates below, and download the sample volunteer hour log that works for your needs. Keep in mind that logging hours manually can be time-consuming and requires considerable attention to keep your volunteer hours data updated and organized.
Additionally, manually tracking individual volunteer hours may not be a viable option for programs with a large number of volunteers. If it’s important to your organization that individual hours are tracked, you may consider implementing an automated system that can capture and report on every volunteer’s hours.
In summary, the benefits are it’s budget-friendly and easy to implement.
The cons are that it can be time-consuming, require a lot of attention to keep data updated and organized, is hard if your volunteer base is expanding, and still involves copying your manual log into a digital spreadsheet for good practice
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If you need more accurate results, an automated system that can track volunteer hours digitally may be the right choice for your organization. These systems, also known as volunteer management software, can track hours for each volunteer online and make it easier to celebrate volunteers’ individual contributions.
An automated system also simplifies organization-wide impact tracking. Plus, impact reports are readily available, saving lots of time. You may also consider a volunteer hours log app, where volunteers can log their hours using their mobile devices.
In summary, the benefits are that this can gauge more accurate results, better manage a large amount of data in a short time frame, make it easy to celebrate individual volunteer contributions, simplify organization-wide impact tracking, and ensure that impact reports are readily available.
The con is that it can be expensive, especially if you don’t have the budget for it. If your volunteer program size is currently manageable with manual sheets, do what is right for you. Just remember to still transport that data to a digital copy.
Make sure to test out your new system, from sign-up to data entry. Get feedback from staff and volunteers.
As the Volunteer Coordinator, be sure to evaluate the system on your end. How are you managing? Do you feel that hours tracking has added value to your volunteer program? Is hours logging worth the time investment? Be patient and give yourself time to work out any kinks. Once you feel comfortable with your new system, you’ll have a deeper sense of the impact that hours tracking has on your program.
If you’re finding that volunteer hours tracking adds value to your program, but you’re struggling to keep on top of data entry, it may be time to consider an automated system to track volunteer hours.
Ultimately, logging volunteer hours should help to increase your return on investment. Consider the systems that are working and those that can be improved. If you’re ready to upgrade your system, weigh your options, and choose the method that you feel comfortable with.
In order to give you a leg up, we’ve compiled this handy collection of popular volunteer hours log templates that you can conveniently download.
For instance, this template is our Printable Volunteer Hours Log (PDF). This is a basic, printable volunteer hour log sheet PDF that can be used for any volunteer program. It highlights the basic volunteer details you’ll need (like name and email), the activity at hand, check in/check out time, and the hours completed.
However, your exact volunteer opportunity might need additional, specific fields, like a supervisor’s signature if the program is through a school or university. Explore our other templates and find one that meets your unique needs. Remember to still transport the data in your manual logs to a digital version!
In summary, our downloadable resource includes the following templates:
Your organization can log volunteer time to better measure program impact, win grants, and demonstrate accountability. We hope you find these templates and best practices useful for tracking and reporting on your volunteers’ contributions to their communities.
Author: Addison Waters
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