4 Reasons To Track Volunteer Data (And How To Do It)

Salsa Labs
December 1, 2020

Galaxy Digital-Salsa-5 Reasons To Track Volunteer Data (And How To Do It)_Feature

Your volunteer base is filled with passionate individuals who put in hard work and time to help drive your mission forward. Every hour they put in and each day they spend supporting your organization takes you one step closer to your ultimate goal. But how are you tracking that time?

Having a dependable method of tracking time ensures that you can not only accurately measure the success of your volunteer efforts, but are able to report that impact back to supporters, stakeholders, and others in concrete terms.

But you shouldn’t stop at only tracking your volunteer hours. You can also collect data points from other volunteer engagements. For instance, having comprehensive volunteer profiles with names, volunteer history, skills, and more, help keep your supporters organized while also providing context to your relationships with them. The more you know about your volunteers, the more valuable you can make their experience with your organization. 

Time and time again, volunteer management leaders have found that data-based decision making and strategy planning is the most viable method of growing your organization, engaging your volunteer base, and accomplishing your mission. This guide will walk you through the following reasons why you should track volunteer data, as well as some tips on how to do so:

  1. Strengthen internal processes.
  2. Offer more valuable opportunities and experiences.
  3. Share impact with volunteers.
  4. Demonstrate accountability to other stakeholders.

Tracking volunteer data is essential to the overall health of your organization, especially if you want to grow your supporter base and expand your nonprofit CRM. Ready to learn more? Let’s jump in.

1. Strengthen internal processes.

Tracking volunteer data is a surefire method to strengthen your organization’s internal processes. It’s simple, the more data you track, and the more accurately you track it, the better your organization can function. This is because your team members and tools are working off of concrete metrics to help drive actions and meaningful engagements.

In order to track data successfully, many volunteer management leaders turn to dedicated nonprofit software. The best volunteer management solution collects data from each of its tools and centralizes it in your nonprofit CRM for use in your other engagements. For instance, your volunteer system should track the following data points:

  • Volunteer registration details, like name, location, skills, and preferences
  • Volunteer hours, whether through an on-site kiosk, a mobile app, or online
  • Volunteer opportunities offered, organized by type of event, the activity done, and skills/training required 
  • Email and phone information, as well as other relevant communications metrics

Because all of your data is in one place, it’s easier for your tools to pull key information and optimize volunteer engagements. For instance, your communication tool can use your volunteer data to automatically personalize an email with name and other relevant details. Supporters are much more likely to open and read an email that’s personally addressed to them rather than to a generalized audience. 

With your tools working together and data flowing seamlessly between them, you and your staff can then spend more time focusing on building volunteer relationships, facilitating training, and creating exciting opportunities for them.

2. Offer more valuable opportunities and experiences.

The volunteer data you track can also help you improve volunteer relationships by offering more valuable opportunities and experiences. 

For instance, look to your volunteer management database to determine what types of past opportunities volunteers found most appealing, as well as the ones that didn’t attract as many. Use that data to plan future engaging events that your supporters will actually want to participate in.

Take this a step further by promoting valuable opportunities to specific targeted volunteer groups. When you collect key information on your volunteers, you have a comprehensive record of their personal passions, preferences, and skills. Use that data to promote specific events and activities to volunteers that are most likely to respond, whether that’s based on their personal relationship to your mission or any specialized skills that they have. 

This is a type of data-based marketing and is an efficient way to create more targeted content and increase volunteer registrations. When volunteers are provided with opportunities that align with their passions, goals, and skill sets, it’s more likely that they’ll sign up. In fact, many volunteers say that they are most likely to sign up for an opportunity if they can leverage specific skills or personal expertise. 

To do so, consider segmenting your volunteers based on common data points. For example, look to your nonprofit CRM and group volunteers who have experience talking on the phone with customers or clients: 

  1. Look at your volunteer database and compile a list of those who are in that professional field or have indicated customer service as a skill. 
  2. Segment those volunteers within your volunteer database and export that group to your (ideally integrated) email communication tool.
  3. Brainstorm the types of volunteer opportunities that align with this skill. For instance, if you need volunteers to phone bank for a political advocacy campaign, make sure this is being specifically promoted.
  4. Create targeted content advertising those specific opportunities. This content should also reference the skill at hand. Saying something along the lines of “Your expertise in communications will be invaluable to our effort,” in order to entice supporters. 

It is important to preserve the positive, meaningful connections you have worked so hard to build with volunteers. Having data at your fingertips can make it easier for you to reach out to them quickly and more valuably. 

3. Share impact with volunteers.

Along with strengthening internal processes and improving volunteer engagements, one of the biggest benefits of tracking volunteer data is having a concrete method of demonstrating impact to volunteers.

Often, the reason why a volunteer stops working with your organization isn’t that they stopped caring, but because they just aren’t aware of how meaningful their participation is. While sending a general volunteer thank you email after the activity is an easy way to show appreciation, utilizing direct data will help you go the extra mile. 

Make sure that along with your appreciation email, you also send a follow-up email summarizing the full impact of the volunteer and the event as a whole. This email should include data like:

  • The specific activity that the volunteer aided in
  • The number of hours spent during the volunteer opportunity 
  • Any special skills the volunteer used
  • Other relevant metrics to the opportunity, like “X families received meals”

As a volunteer, seeing that your effort brought 100 hours of meaningful work is much more valuable and tangible than just saying, “Thank you for your hard work!” In fact, the current national value of a volunteered hour is $27.20. That means 100 volunteer hours is equivalent to $2,720. 

4. Demonstrate accountability to other stakeholders.

According to Galaxy Digital’s article on tracking volunteer time, your volunteer hour logs are a key tool to demonstrate accountability. We touched briefly on this when we discussed how we show impact to volunteers; however, there are other stakeholders you have to consider, like potential funders or sponsors. 

For instance, many businesses and other for-profit organizations are often involved in corporate social responsibility. This describes when corporations give back to their community in some way, whether that’s with a donation to an organization or by providing employee volunteers. A common one that you may encounter are matching volunteer grants

Volunteer grants are financial donations given to an organization provided by a company to match the number of volunteer hours done by their employees. This can be something like, if an employee volunteers at an eligible organization, the employer will grant $25 per hour. In order to participate in these types of programs with a company or business, you’re going to need a solid way to track those hours. Otherwise, how else will you be able to receive the grant?

This type of accountability often also has to be shown to other institutions that provide your organization with volunteers. For instance, if you work with universities, schools, or other community programs that require a minimum number of volunteer hours, it’s essential that you have a reliable way to track that data. This way, you can pull up those important metrics whenever necessary. 

Tracking data is also helpful for your nonprofit if you’re applying for any special grants or requesting a sponsorship. Sometimes, other organizations won’t want to partner with yours without some sort of proof that your volunteer efforts are meaningful and valuable. Being able to show the hours put in is an invaluable metric to have within reach. Many grant-giving organizations even require organizations to track and report specific volunteer metrics. 

To summarize, your volunteer data is an extremely valuable resource, so it’s crucial that you are able to track it effectively and accurately. Not only can tracking data clean up your internal processes and keep your volunteer engagements optimized, but it’s a great way to contextualize the impact of your hardworking and passionate supporters. This shows both volunteers and your other stakeholders the value of your organization, inspiring them to continue working with you towards your mission.

This guest blog comes from Addison Waters. Addison is a Content Writer at Galaxy Digital, the best volunteer management software for managing, tracking, and engaging volunteerism. Addison holds a Master of Creative Writing from Durham University.

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