Organizations and programs that track and report volunteer impact are better prepared to win grants and develop strategy. One essential component of managing volunteers and tracking volunteer impact is logging volunteer hours. But without a system in place, logging hours accurately and efficiently becomes challenging and time consuming. So, we have compiled some best practices for creating and implementing a volunteer hours log that works for your program.
Plus, we have provided a variety of free templates for you to download once you have an idea of the best tracking method for your organization.
Why Do Organizations Log Volunteer Hours?
Service-focused organizations regularly log their volunteer hours to:
Understand the Value of Volunteers
By tracking volunteer hours, your organization can place a value on the services your volunteers provide. The current national value of the volunteer hour is $25.43. Logging volunteer hours helps organizations like yours understand just how important and valuable their services are to your community.
Some community partners (such as universities, high schools, and businesses) may require their volunteers’ hours logged in an official capacity on behalf of the host organization. A volunteer hour log authorized by the organization or supervisor is a common tool shared between community partnerships like these.
Improve Volunteer Program ROI
Your volunteer program’s return on investment is in part measured by the number of hours your volunteers contribute. When you log volunteer hours, you can learn your volunteer program’s return on investment and therefore take the steps to improve it.
Share Program Impact
It’s important to show donors, volunteers, stakeholders, and community members that your organization is making a real difference. Your organization can track and report on volunteer hours to show your community that you’re having an impact and delivering on your mission.
Most nonprofits rely on grants and other outside funding, and many granting foundations require these organizations to track and report on volunteer contributions. By logging volunteer hours, you’re morelikely to keep necessary funding.
How to Log Volunteer Hours
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 answer to these questions, so we’re sharing a few different methods of logging hours depending on the type of volunteer program and the resources available. Let’s start by deciding on the information you may choose to include in your volunteer service hour log.
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 over the course of a set time period (week / month / year)||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|
Remember, these are just a few ways to log volunteer hours. You may choose to add more to your volunteer hour log depending on the data your organization needs to collect.
Develop Processes to Log Volunteer Hours
Volunteer coordinators can ensure they are logging volunteer hours effectively by putting these simple processes in place:
- Volunteer Sign-Up – When a volunteer signs up for a shift, they should know the duration (or number of hours) in which they’re being asked to participate. This way, volunteer coordinators can use these hours as reference, and log hours on behalf of the volunteer if necessary.
- Volunteer Check-In – Having a check-in process allows coordinators to gather attendance and collect important information from volunteers before they begin the activity. When a volunteer arrives at an activity, ask volunteers to check-in at a designated location (with clear signage). Record names and check-in times using one of the printable volunteer hour log sheets below to capture more accurate volunteer hours data.
- Volunteer Check-Out – When a volunteer is finished with their shift, they should be prompted to check-out. During this time, volunteers will record check-out times on your volunteer hour log, to capture more accurate volunteer data.
- Volunteer Follow-Up: Follow-up with your volunteers within a few days of their activity. Ask them to submit their hours if they haven’t done so already. Provide a specific email address and method for submitting volunteer hours.
- Data Entry: Enter data from your volunteer hour logs into your organization’s spreadsheet as you go. This way, your logs won’t pile up, and you’re more likely to remember to follow-up with volunteers in a timely manner. We recommend you set aside an hour or two on your calendar weekly to update your volunteer hours log excel spreadsheet. You may also decide to scan the volunteer hour paper logs into your computer, so that you can quickly access digital copies should stakeholders or donors request data.
Choose Your Method of Hour Tracking
What 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 use case:
Manual Volunteer Hour Log
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 you enter this data into a spreadsheet later, making it easier to add hours and search your logs. If you choose to manually log volunteer hours, 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 will require 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.
Automated Volunteer Hour Tracking
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 will also simplify 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.
Test and Reevaluate
Test out your new system, from check-in to data entry. Get feedback from staff and volunteers. And as the Volunteer Coordinator, 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.
Choose a Volunteer Hours Log Template
If you decide to log volunteer hours manually, we have plenty of templates for you to try out. The templates are available in a variety of easy-to-use formats: PDF, Microsoft Word, and Microsoft Excel.
Click on the links to download the free volunteer hour log template that works best for your organization:
Printable Volunteer Hours Log PDF – A basic, printable volunteer hour log sheet PDF for any volunteer program.
Volunteer Hour Log PDF for Any School – A log for students to track their service learning or volunteer hours. Wondering how to log volunteer hours for high school programs? This template works as a volunteer hours log for high school students!
Standard Volunteer Hours Log (Microsoft Word) – A blank volunteer hours log sheet for community organizations.
Volunteer Hours Log for College Volunteer Programs (Microsoft Word) – For college, universities, service learning, or student volunteer programs, this is a volunteer log sheet (with signature column).
Volunteer Hours Log Template Excel Spreadsheet – For tracking organization-wide volunteer data and program hours data in a spreadsheet.
Individual Volunteer Hour Log Template for Volunteer Programs – Use this Excel Spreadsheet for tracking accumulated volunteer hours over time, organized by volunteer name.
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.