4 Best Practices for Managing Volunteer Data

As a volunteer management leader, you likely already know the importance of data. From tracking how many hours have been spent on an activity to ensuring your volunteers’ personal information is secure, managing data is a part of many of your everyday tasks. However, it can also become overwhelming as your program and volunteer base grows.

Whether you still record hours by hand or depend on a volunteer management tool for help, you should have a dedicated place where you store your volunteer data. This way, you have concrete metrics and points to refer to when planning any future volunteer events or communicating with volunteers. 

From the capabilities your volunteer database has to the way you use your data, it can be difficult to navigate the ins and outs of data management. But with the right volunteer management strategy, you’ll find yourself engaging with supporters in more valuable ways, creating the foundation for long term support to grow your program over time.

This guide will walk you through the following tips and best practices for managing volunteer data:

  1. Collect the necessary volunteer data
  2. Integrate your nonprofit system
  3. Make decisions backed by data
  4. Show impact to supporters

Your volunteer data can not only help you better understand your past engagement with supporters but can also set you up for future successes.

Ready to learn how? Let’s begin.

Collect the necessary volunteer data

So why is data so important to your organization? When data is collected and managed properly, it can provide key insights on current campaigns or volunteer programs, as well as answer questions about past ones. 

To start off optimizing your own volunteer data management strategy, you need to ensure that you’re collecting the right data. For instance, information like your volunteer’s favorite color or band is great to know if you’re working on building that specific relationship but won’t do much for your volunteer program’s efficiency or effectiveness overall.

In order to cover the bases, make sure you’re collecting data from the following places:

    • Volunteer registration form. This is the best place to receive basic information on your volunteers. This is where you’ll be recording their name, any contact details, any skill sets, and other information that’s relevant to the event or activity at hand. You should also be taking note of the type of opportunities certain volunteers sign up for!
    • Hours tracked. This is where your volunteers will record the number of hours that they spend supporting your organization and mission. This is a crucial data point for many reasons, especially to understand the value of your volunteers and demonstrate accountability to your community. After all, it’s unlikely that someone will take your program seriously if you have no data that it’s even accomplished anything. Keeping track of your volunteer hours is also invaluable for applying to and winning grants.
    • Surveys and other feedback. It’s important that your relationship with volunteers is a two-way street. Asking for their direct feedback is a great way to understand how your events are faring and if you need to change anything about your current volunteer program. Post-event surveys are an ideal way to gather these qualitative insights.

By collecting information and data from the sources above, your volunteer database will prove to be an extremely helpful resource that you can continue to refer to when needed. It’s also a great way to get to know your volunteers better and flesh out more comprehensive profiles for each of them. Over time, this data can drastically improve your volunteer engagement and retention efforts, encouraging them to continue supporting your organization.

Integrate your nonprofit system

Now that you’re collecting the right volunteer data, it’s time to start brainstorming how you can use that data to your advantage. For one thing, the more volunteer data, the more personalized and meaningful your engagements with them can be. But how does that work?

This requires both your database and your communication tools. You can incorporate key information in your volunteer email communications. Simply including the volunteer’s name in the subject line can increase the likelihood an email is opened by 26%.

To really maximize the value of your volunteer data, it’s recommended that you integrate your volunteer database with the rest of your other systems, whether that includes additional volunteer management tools, a donation processing tool, and especially your constituent relationship management (CRM) system. With an integrated system, you can use your volunteer data throughout all volunteer management and engagement tasks. 

With your communications tool and volunteer registration tool sharing data, you can take advantage of marketing data automation features and:

  • Send personalized volunteer communications.
  • Automate email and text messages based on certain actions.
  • Offer volunteer event suggestions tailored to the individual.

It’s important to invest in tools with wide integration capabilities, in case you ever want to expand your processes and abilities as your organization grows. For example, if your organization also accepts donations, it can be helpful to use that data in conjunction with your volunteer engagements. After all, your volunteers are also high candidates to donate to your organization. In fact, volunteers are almost twice as likely to donate to a charity than those who don’t volunteer.

Make decisions backed by data

One of the top benefits of an organized and comprehensive volunteer database is being able to use it to learn from the past and plan for the future. By having a comprehensive view of former volunteer events and engagement tactics, you can better gauge which strategies were successful and learn more about the types of volunteers you attract. 

Making decisions backed by data is a surefire way to improve engagements with volunteers and ensure you’re offering them the most attractive opportunities. Your volunteer management system should not just help you access your volunteer data, but also analyze it. Some solutions even offer a comprehensive dashboard view of the entire program. 

managing volunteer data

This screenshot from Mobilize’s article on top volunteer software is an example of how a system can display and break down volunteer data. With the right solution, you should be able to:

  • Gain a comprehensive view of real-time data from volunteer events
  • Calculate the success of certain engagement strategies with data analysis reports
  • Better plan events by incorporating past successful tactics 
  • Learn which events attracted more volunteers and which didn’t

Volunteer data is extremely valuable, especially if you know the right ways to apply it. With data analysis and reporting capabilities, you’ll be able to make better decisions for your organization and bring your volunteer engagement tactics to the next level. 

Show impact to supporters

This article on donor retention states that “the real benefit of acquiring new donors is retaining them over the long term.” This same thought process should be shown to the volunteers for your organization. 

The reason why volunteers register for an event and put their time and effort into it is that they’re passionate about the cause. If they don’t sign up for future events, it’s unlikely to be because they suddenly stopped caring. In fact, it’s probably because they just don’t know how much of an impact they previously made.

One of the best uses of volunteer data is to demonstrate impact. For example, a comprehensive database of tracked volunteer hours provides a tangible representation of how much your program has accomplished for your mission. Saying “We’ve done a lot for our cause” is way less meaningful than saying “We’ve put 1,000 combined volunteer hours into making this possible.”

As soon as a volunteer completes an event or your organization reaches a milestone, sending them a summary of their impact and using concrete data (like volunteer hours and other event-specific details) can really show volunteers how impactful and meaningful their role was. This is a great way to show volunteers just how much their participation meant, and thus motivating them to continue supporting your cause. 

Along with showing impact to supporters, having a tangible representation of your volunteer program’s accomplishments through data is also helpful if you want to apply for grants or start a corporate partnership. This shows the other party that your volunteer program has already achieved a lot and that the grant/partnership will be worth it.

Wrapping Up

Managing data is a crucial part of any volunteer program leader’s job. It’s the driving force behind stronger volunteer relationships and long-lasting support, ensuring your organization builds the foundation for growth and success. You just need to know how to collect the right data and how to put it into action.