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.
FREE DOWNLOAD: Capture every volunteer hour with easy-to-use hours log templates
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:
- Volunteer Hours Log: The Basics
- Tracking Volunteer Hour Strategies and Best Practices
- Volunteer Hours Log Template to Try
Ready to jump in? Let’s start!
Volunteer Hours Log: The Basics
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.
Why Do Organizations Log Volunteer Hours?
Consider the following reasons why keeping track of hours in a volunteer hours log is so important:
- 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 $27.20. Logging volunteer hours helps organizations like yours measure and report just how important and valuable their services are to your community.
- Demonstrate Accountability. 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 partly 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 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.
- Win Grants. Most nonprofits rely on grants and other outside funding, and many granting-giving foundations require these organizations to track and report on volunteer contributions. By logging volunteer hours, you’re more likely to secure the necessary funding.
Tracking Volunteer Hour Strategies and Best Practices
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|
Collect Hours By: Program / Cause
- Primary Data Logged: Total volunteer hours per program.
- Goal: Understand volunteer hours by program or cause. Make informed decisions about directing resources.
- Type of Organization(s): Community-based nonprofits running multiple programs or addressing several causes
Collect Hours By: Volunteer
- Primary Data Logged: Volunteer hours per individual volunteer.
- Goal: 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.
- Type of Organization(s): Service-learning programs, corporate volunteerism programs, any nonprofit.
- Primary Data Logged: Total volunteer hours throughout a set time period.
- Goal: 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.
- Type of Organization(s): Any organization.
Develop Processes to Log Volunteer Hours
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:
- 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 then 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, make sure they know 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. Depending on your software system, you may also let volunteers easily check-in with a mobile app or at a kiosk for a convenient solution.
- Volunteer Check-out. When a volunteer finishes their shift, they should be prompted to check-out. During this time, volunteers should record check-out times on the volunteer hour log. This can be the same location as the check-in area or done later online.
- 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 if needed.
- Data Entry. Enter data from your volunteer hour logs into your organization’s spreadsheet or volunteer management system. This way, your logs won’t pile up, and you’re more likely to follow-up with volunteers in a timely manner. We recommend setting 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. Or, with the right software, your hour tracking and logging can be digitally recorded and analyzed for reports.
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.
Choose Your Method of Hour Tracking
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:
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 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
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.
Test and Reevaluate
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.
Volunteer Hours Log Template to Try
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:
- Printable Volunteer Hours Log (PDF) – A basic, printable volunteer hour log sheet PDF for any volunteer program.
- Standard Volunteer Hours Log (Microsoft Word) – A blank volunteer hours log sheet for community organizations.
- Volunteer Hour Log for Any School (PDF) – 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!
- 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 (Excel Spreadsheet)– Use this Excel Spreadsheet for tracking accumulated volunteer hours over time, organized by volunteer name.
Download the volunteer hours template bundle for free!
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.