Volunteer Timekeeping & Records

  • 13 Dec 2023 4:36 PM
    Message # 13290657

    I am considering changes to my institution’s practices around recording volunteer time and how volunteer time is categorized. Two related topics are the practice of timely and accurate recording of a volunteer’s time and activity, and how the activity is recorded in our PastPerfect 5 database and reported in an annual volunteer report.

    My questions:

    How do you strike a balance between collecting information and making the process easy for staff and volunteers?

    What information do you collect and record about volunteer service?

    [For context Chippewa Valley Museums focuses on the history and culture of a large portion of northwest Wisconsin, with volunteers serving to greet the public and run admissions, give school tours, help with archives documents and curatorial objects, build exhibits, and run events, among other things!

    The reason we want to review volunteer timekeeping is because people frequently help the museum without being compensated, often in a manner we think of as volunteering, but a record is not always made of such support, whether because of forgetting to record it, or a lack of a common understanding of what situations warrant a record of volunteer support. The categorization and description of volunteer activity is worth thinking about because it comes up frequently whenever there is an activity that is on the edge of our standard ideas of what each category means, because of the activity content, who supervises it, or the context of why and when it is done. Having a written account of categories in a volunteer program manual I will be developing could save us time revisiting the issue and could improve consistency for comparing volunteer records between years.]

  • 14 Dec 2023 4:04 PM
    Reply # 13291079 on 13290657
    Deirdre Araujo (Administrator)

    Thank you for bringing this up for discussion, Timothy!

    Updating your manual will go a long way toward clarifying these issues.

    Here are some thoughts which may be relevant to this topic:

    When I'm helping division leaders understand why every contribution should be counted and acknowledged somehow, I focus on either the false economies in budgeting or the organization's exposure to risk. Sometimes, volunteers find these explanations helpful as well.

    Not all museums can afford workers' compensation insurance for their volunteers. Still, most general liability policies require an articulation of who is allowed to be behind the scenes, to engage with the public, etc., and what protocols are in place for health and safety. (I have to update this with the insurance provider each year.)  While individuals can be covered under the Good Samaritan law, the institution itself may still be liable.

    Like your impromptu helpers, we have several emeritus staff who have generously taken retirement to make room for advancing younger staff. They're still passionate about our mission and often mentor new employees or provide historical context for current practices.  In their minds, they're gifting us their time and talent. Walking the museum floor and wandering behind the scenes, I may bump into folx serving this way. I use this opportunity to invite them into telling the most accurate story about what it takes to make the museum function effectively.

    Most, though chagrined, are willing to comply when I 'catch' them -- but I make it a celebration. If they still find it challenging to follow all the guidelines of the volunteer program, I talk to staff in their interest area to get a sense of their schedule and contribution, then record it on their behalf.

    In terms of tools, Better Impact has a phone app that volunteers can download to record hours, which can simplify things. We use an ENVOY system to register volunteers on campus, which pings me when they log in - if I see them on the floor, I can enter their info myself. In general, Emeritus staff earn free access to the museum floor and programs; however, in their exit interview, HR will clarify the difference between general access and active participation in the museum's work, then refer them to me if they'd like to do more. I encourage a minimum 6-month hiatus before they re-engage as Emeritus volunteers. Happy to discuss further off-line if you wish.

    All the best,


  • 15 Dec 2023 12:59 PM
    Reply # 13291406 on 13290657
    Samantha Arceneaux (Administrator)

    Many activities can be filed under the volunteer job description. Typically, the job description lists the things/requirements they have for a specific job. Then recording what they did only requires the job title.

    For volunteers with special projects, you might list them under the department they are working in, and the project they are working on.

    I used to have a volunteer whose only job was to record everyone's volunteer hours in our database. We didn't have timekeeping or scheduling with software like Volgisitics. Volunteers recorded their hours on a time card when they entered and exited the volunteer office for work. So a volunteer entering all the hours in the database was needed and appreciated.

  • 29 Dec 2023 8:12 PM
    Reply # 13295234 on 13290657

    Thank you for your responses. I appreciate hearing that other groups face similar questions. Former employees wanting to continue helping is something we experience as well, and they make a great impact. Insurance is a good thing to think about. One of our volunteers has entered volunteer hours records in the past, so I agree that it can be helpful.  

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