It’s no secret that volunteers are vital to nonprofit organizations.
Nonprofits know they need volunteers to host events, spread awareness, and solicit donors.
Yet, many nonprofits don't give enough weight to the fact that volunteers tell a compelling story about a nonprofit and that story can help them win grant money.
When nonprofits share volunteer data in a grant proposal, they prove their impact. This increases the chances of winning the grant and taking their organization to a new level.
You already know that volunteers are the backbone of your organization. But, if you aren't leveraging your volunteer data in your grant proposals, you are missing out on key funding opportunities.
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This article will explain why volunteer data matters to grant funders, what kind of data grant funders look for, how to create an effective volunteer data collection plan, and lastly how to present volunteer program stats and metrics in your grant proposal for maximum impact. Let’s get started!
Why Volunteer Data Matters to Grant Funders
While grant funders care about your investors and other support, they also have a vested interest in your volunteer data.
Volunteer data showcases dedication, community, and loyalty
Your nonprofit's total number of volunteers and volunteer hours show grant funders that people are dedicated to your organization and that you have cultivated a successful community of supporters.
It’s easy to write about your nonprofit’s mission, but it is a different task entirely demonstrating the support you have generated around that mission. While showcasing donation numbers is one piece of demonstrating support, including volunteer data gives you an opportunity to paint the fuller picture.
For example, sharing volunteer hours and volunteer satisfaction survey responses show you have dedicated volunteers that genuinely enjoy and care about the work they are doing shift after shift.
Demonstrating that consistency and commitment of your volunteers helps establish a compelling story about your nonprofit; you are doing work that inspires people to come back and give their time day after day.
Volunteer data demonstrates impact
Grant funders want to know that the organizations they fund are making an impact.
Reporting your total number of volunteers shows grant funders your organization has the support it needs to thrive.
Furthermore, sharing volunteer hours shows how many hours worth of impact your nonprofit has had in your community and has the potential to have in the future (by way of their generous grant).
Even if your volunteer program is relatively small, the value a few volunteers can have is significant and it helps maintain an important human piece of your organization’s operational anatomy. Especially if those volunteers are part of Corporate Volunteer Grant Programs with their employers, their value can increase by double or more as corporations match their hours with donations.
Overall, you have a greater chance of winning the grant if you can showcase that your organization is making a difference through tangible, holistic volunteer data that illustrates the magnitude of your impact.
Volunteer data measures value
Although volunteers don’t get paid for their service, their time still has critical monetary value.
According to the 2022 Independent Sector Value of Volunteer Time report, the national average value of a volunteer hour is roughly $29.95.
By attaching a monetary value to volunteer hours, your organization can show:
- The value your volunteers provide your organization
- The value of your organization’s contribution to the community
Volunteer data can also be used by grant funders to evaluate nonprofit programs and their efficacy. This data matters to grant funders because it gives them a tangible way to measure an organization’s dedication, impact, and value, all of which contribute to a compelling case for grants.
What Kind of Data do Grant Funders Look to See?
Sharing the following type of volunteer data will help grant funders get a better idea of how your organization is making an impact. Here are some key metrics to include:
- Total number of volunteers. Show how many people are actively invested in the success of your organization.
- Volunteer hours. Share exactly how much time volunteers spent helping your organization serve the community. You might have some superstar volunteers which make for particularly compelling case studies on the impact of your organization and the passion of your community.
- Monetary value of volunteer hours. Show how much value your volunteers add to your organization. Monetary value also makes your organization eligible for certain matching grants.
- Volunteer donation rates. Share the percentage of volunteers who become donors. This highlights their support for your nonprofit’s mission and vision. How many of your volunteers become donors? What are their donorship rates over time?
- Volunteer survey responses and volunteer satisfaction. Show grant funders that your volunteers have positive experiences working with your organization. This also demonstrates that your nonprofit values feedback and growth.
- Tangible volunteer impact. Provide measurable data demonstrating your volunteer impact. Data like the number of houses built, classes held, individuals served, or meals provided is helpful for grant funders.
- Volunteer retention. Give grant funders an idea of how your organization will be able to grow and continue to make an impact.
- Volunteer conversion rates. Show how much time, energy, and money goes into acquiring and training new volunteers.
Sharing this information in your grant proposals gives grant funders a clear picture of your impact and potential for growth.
How to Create a Volunteer Data Plan and Set Yourself Up for Success to Collect Key Metrics
Sharing all this volunteer data is easier said than done.
It's clear that including key volunteer metrics will improve your grant proposal. But, you can't share this data if you don't have a plan in place to collect it.
Here are steps you can take to create an effective volunteer data plan to collect important metrics for your grant proposals:
Step One: Look over your current data
Before you start creating a data collection plan, see what data you already collect. This will help you pinpoint what data might be missing and give you areas for improvement.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a volunteer profile for each of your volunteers?
- Does your volunteer profile include their full name and contact information?
- Do you have a method for tracking volunteer hours?
- Do you have a formula set for determining the monetary value of your volunteer hours?
- Do you keep track of donations made by volunteers vs. non-volunteers?
- Do you send out volunteer satisfaction surveys?
- Do you have other tools for gathering volunteer input?
- Do you have a way to measure volunteer impact?
- Do you know how many volunteers your organization retains each quarter and each year?
- Do you keep track of recruitment and training costs for new volunteers?
- Do you already collect all the volunteer data that you need to present in your grant proposal?
Step Two: Note any volunteer data gaps
After answering the questions above, you will be better able to note any volunteer data gaps.
If you answered no to any of these questions, you know that you have a data gap you need to address with your plan.
These are areas where you are not collecting the data you need for your grant proposals. Your plan should include ways to rectify these gaps, allowing you to accurately collect and share this data.
If you answered yes to any of these questions, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those areas are good to go. Take some time to analyze exactly how your organization is collecting this information.
Start by asking yourself:
- Is there room for improvement?
- How confident in the data are you?
- Are there steps you can take to increase the accuracy of the data?
Just because you currently collect this data doesn’t mean that you are doing so effectively. As you craft your volunteer data collection plan, be conscious of ways you can improve and streamline your process to make it more efficient—there are lots of tools that enable you to automate the data collection process to save you time and strife. More on that below.
Step Three: Create a data collection plan
Your data collection plan needs to address every gap you noted in step two.
Here are some tips to help you create a successful data collection plan:
- Use an app for check-in. Paper check-in and check-out can make it difficult to track volunteer hours efficiently. Use an app or a web-based tool that allows for easy check-in and hour reporting reminders.
- Calculate the monetary value of your volunteer hours. Use the 2022 Independent Sector national average value of $29.95 or their average value for your state. Multiply that number by your total number of volunteer hours. This will give you the total monetary value of your volunteers’ time. Alternatively, look for a tool that does this automatically within their platform.
- Create a detailed onboarding process. When you acquire volunteers, make sure your onboarding process walks new volunteers through how to make a volunteer profile. This process should also track the time spent completing training modules.
- Send automated surveys. Using an app or a segmented email chain, send automated volunteer satisfaction surveys. Have them set to send immediately after a volunteer checks-out after an event. This way you won’t forget to send these surveys out.
The most effective way to check all these boxes and improve your data collection is to implement a volunteer management solution.
For instance, if you don’t currently have a system to track volunteer hours, use volunteer management software with hour reporting.
Even if you don’t use software, it’s vital for you to create a plan that allows you to collect the data necessary for an impressive grant proposal.
Step Four: Revisit your volunteer data plan regularly
Creating a plan to address gaps in your data collection is not your final step.
You also need to keep an eye on this plan and adjust it whenever necessary. This way, you can ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
Maybe your mobile check-in solution worked at first, but now your volunteers are forgetting to use this system. Monitoring your plan will help you notice this right away, so you can take steps to address the issue. For instance, you can send push notification reminders to volunteers before an event.
Audit your volunteer data plan on a regular basis so you know it’s continuing to give you the data you need.
Presenting Volunteer Program Stats and Metrics Effectively in Your Grant Proposal
Now that you are able to collect the data you need, you need to share this information effectively in your grant proposals. Here is how:
Focus on the impact
Numbers without context or impact are just numbers. You will have more success if you explain how your volunteer hours translate into impact.
Share the specific number of trees you planted or backpacks you provided with the help of these volunteers. These tangibles will mean more to grant funders than bullet points with hours served.
All of the metrics included in your volunteer reports should highlight and connect to your organization’s impact.
Include visual elements
Visuals are more memorable and engaging than plain text. Help grant funders connect with your information by using charts, infographics, and even videos. Use free design tools like Canva to create easy, fast, and great-looking visuals from templates that match your organization’s brand.
Most people don't want to sift through large paragraphs of text to find information. Showcase your data through visual elements that catch the eye and hold the attention of the funder.
Use grant management software
One of the best resources you can turn to when consolidating your volunteer program stats and boosting your grant proposal efforts is a grant management software.
The right grant management software will:
- Identify grants that are a good fit for your nonprofit
- Provide templates and step-by-step instructions for including volunteer reports in your proposals
- Remind you of grant deadlines
- Integrate your current volunteer management software solutions
- Seamlessly transfer your volunteer hours and other key data
- Allow you to track your grant application progress
If you’re finding it difficult to keep things organized when grantseeking, you may find this post on grant management software helpful to read next.
Wrapping Things Up
Your volunteer metrics have the potential to take your grant writing to a new level and tell a more holistic and compelling story about your organization’s impact.
Before you apply for your next grant, test and adjust your volunteer data collection plan.
Then, using grant management software, share and leverage this information in your grant proposals.
When grant funders are able to see this data, they will be more likely to award you a grant which will help you continue to do great work for your community.
For access to grant management software and more powerful grant writing tools, sign up for a free 14-day trial with Instrumentl today. If you enjoy what you see, use the code CIVICCHAMPS50 to save $50 off your first month.
This article is a guest post by Geng Wang. Geng is the founder of Civic Champs, an intuitive and impactful software solution for volunteer management and engagement. Civic Champs is a certified B Corp and their award winning nonprofit tools have been recognized by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, IDEO, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.