Over the last year or so, we've seen an increase in the number of charter schools using OurVolts to track parent volunteer hours. What makes OurVolts the right volunteer tracking software for charter schools? We did a little research to find out.
Parent Involvement Improves Charter School Performance
Studies have shown that getting parents involved in their children's education at a school level makes kids more successful in school and life. As a result, many charter schools have parent volunteer requirements - anywhere from 10 hours a semester and up. In some locations, a certain number of volunteer hours from parents is required to maintain a charter school's status.
Parents volunteer for a wide range of duties, including administrative and promotion activities, bake sales, field trips, gardening, after-school programs, and more. Some parents even participate in school cleanup activities. These community activities enrich the lives of parents and students, who participate and grow together.
How Do these Hours Get Tracked?
Volunteer Coordinators are the heroes of time tracking. Wielding sign-in sheets, forms, and spreadsheets, these parents organize their colleagues and make sure that each requirement is met. Some schools allow parents to submit their hours online through Google Forms or other simple tools - and a growing number is starting to use OurVolts.
OurVolts provides a simple, online and mobile interface to allow parents to track their own volunteer hours - thus removing the burden from the coordinators. Coordinators can focus on supporting volunteers, instead of tracking them.
Some of the schools on OurVolts, such as the Waldorf-inspired Stone Bridge School in Sonoma Country, CA, track family hours. Some of their families have tracked hundreds of hours over the last year, across a dozen projects and activities. They are using the OurVolts Group Plan to aggregate project totals and show all hours at a school-wide level.
Other schools which have a lower time requirement, but a large number of parents, such as the Peachtree Charter School in Dunwoody, GA, use the OurVolts Basic Plan. The Peachtree Charter School has also done a wonderful job of integrating Volunteer time tracking into their website, so parent can enter their hours at the same time as they find out what's for lunch in the cafeteria.
For both of these schools, and dozens of others, OurVolts provides a simple, affordable solution that makes tracking easy. This is very exciting for us at OurVolts, as we enjoy seeing the success of volunteer projects at schools an other organizations across the country.
Further Reading: Enhancing Charter Schools through Parent Involvement (University of Southern California Center on Educational Governance, 2010)
After working with some of the best volunteer organizers that use OurVolts, we've developed two new features which helps you manage your volunteers easier. Again this wouldn't have been possible without the volunteer organizers voting for these features.
Individual Volunteer Hour Approval
For many organizations, it's great that volunteers can track hours, but it's all just as important to make sure to keep records as accurate and accountable as possible. If the hour approval feature is enabled, volunteer hours submitted will need to be approved before being added to the graphs or logs. After a volunteer submits an hour, the volunteer coordinators will receive emails notifying that hours need to be approved. Once the hours are approved, volunteers will no longer be able to modify their hours. Watch a video demo of this below:
Configurable Profile Fields
Previously, volunteers could optionally fill out a profile with their first name, last name, and phone number. Now you can actually specify as many fields as you want and if they are required before a volunteer can log hours. All of this happens right in the hour log so if you're using the website embed, the volunteer never has to leave your website.Watch a video demo of this below:
Delete Volunteers from your Site
Volunteer Managers can now delete users instead of just "blocking them". The volunteer hours will not be included in any graphs or logs.
Ability to Change Volunteer Site Owner
If you want to change the owner of the site to another volunteer, you can do that! Just click on a volunteer and mark them as the new owner.
Unique Filenames during Exports
Ok this is a nerdy request that many of you don't care about, but it's super important. When you export any report, we make sure that it has the date and time marked on it so you know when that export is from. Nerdy, but really cool.
We need your help to make OurVolts the easiest to use volunteer time tracking tool for nonprofit organizations. Please help us by filling out a short, 5-question survey about your experience with OurVolts and where you would like it to go in the future!
Go to the survey.
As fellow community organizers, we know how busy you are, so as our way of saying thank you, one lucky person who fills out the survey will be randomly selected to receive a free Dedicated Deadheader tshirt, donated by the first OurVolts project site, Friends of the Morcom Rose Garden in Oakland, CA.
Thank you so much!
James and Anca
Grassroot organization coordinators and OurVolts Founders
We are excited about getting mobile enabled for existing users of our volunteer time tracking system, and we are making improvements every week. If you have an iPhone, Android, or other smartphone, check out the mobile version of our site, ourvolts.com - it should automatically detect that you are accessing the site from your phone and adjust accordingly. We hope that having a mobile way to track your volunteer hours will be useful to those of you who are always on the go!
For all of you out there with smart phones, we have some good news -
OurVolts can now be used for logging volunteer hours on your mobile phone! We just developed a mobile version of our website that allows volunteers and volunteer managers to log and track their volunteer hours from the comfort of their personal phone. To check it out, go to our website ourvolts.com on your smart phone, and the website should automatically detect that you are accessing it from your smart phone. It will load as the mobile site on your phone, and you can start logging your volunteer hours!
Also, our volunteer tracking system website now has a few updates for volunteers and volunteer managers. On the volunteer manager dashboard, there is easier access to managing site volunteers and editing profile information, as well as a better user interface on the project site page.
Would you like to see a mobile application for logging volunteer hours? Is mobile technology (for smart phones and tablets like the iPad and HP touchpad) the wave of the future? Would having a mobile option for tracking volunteer hours encourage and promote volunteerism? Would mobile time tracking make the lives of those coordinating volunteer projects easier?
Paper time-sheets are a thing of the past. There’s no nicer way to put it - the use of paper time-sheets is costing your organization time. This time could be better spent recruiting volunteers, or finalizing details on projects, or giving volunteers some valuable one-on-one feedback.
All data from paper time tracking must eventually be entered into spreadsheets or a database if you want to use the information in reports for funders. These steps are unnecessary when using online time tracking tools like OurVolts.
Here are some good reasons for using mobile technology to logging volunteer hours:
- All ages (especially youth) are increasingly making use of smartphones and tablets, rather than logging into laptop or desktop computers.
- One of the few advantages of paper is that it’s portable and can be carried around with you - the same is true for mobile.
- Hours logged in real time are more accurate.
- Mobile apps have an appealing “cool factor” that could provide incentive to your volunteers.
- The use of QR codes could be incorporated into mobile time tracking, making the entire process easier.
- Empowers volunteers to log hours on their own.
Examples of mobile time tracking (not for volunteers):
Examples of mobile time tracking (for volunteers):
Do you have a need for mobile volunteer time tracking? Write to us and tell us about it! Do you have a mobile technology for logging volunteer hours and want be listed here? Contact us!
OurVolts has just added over 50,000 new national, regional, state and municipal parks!
No matter where you are in the country, our new map feature can help you locate the best possible use of your volunteer time.
It’s super easy. Simply go to “Find a Site” on the top menu. Next to the site map, enter the site name or your zip code and the distance. Choose from the list at the bottom of the map and get started.
Say you begin volunteering and fall in love with a park that does not have an administrator. Would you like to be in charge of caring for it or coordinating the volunteer efforts there? Click the “Claim a Site” button to become the administrator.
We here at OurVolts want to help you build a better world. Now get out there and start volunteering!
OurVolts is Adding New Features Today!
You have a burning desire to be of service, don’t you? How will you find a place to volunteer? If you’re looking online, it may be a time consuming process to search through Google for sites in your neighborhood. Even when you’ve found a place to put your efforts, you may not be sure if anyone else is managing, coordinating or contributing.
OurVolts has added new features to the “Find a Site” page!
We made finding a volunteer site in your neighborhood a cinch by adding a Google map. Volunteer locations in your area are now searchable by zip code and distance. If you have a specific place in mind, you can search for it by entering the “Volunteer Site Name” to see if it is already in the OurVolts database. Which sites have current volunteers and which sites need some love? Could your local park use a coordinator or administrator? OurVolts can now provide those easy answers for you. Connect with your community, and together you can contribute improvements to your neighborhood.
What is an online time tracking system?
As the internet becomes more useful and available to people across the world, volunteer-based organizations with modest resources have the opportunity to use cutting edge technologies for growth and management.
A management tool that can be particularly helpful is an online time tracking system. Online time tracking systems allow agencies, municipalities and groups to easily share data. This data can be accessed remotely and the program does not need to be installed.
If You Are A Volunteer Coordinator:
Most online volunteer time tracking systems will allow you to manage multiple projects. Giving volunteers the opportunity to enter their hours themselves could save you valuable time. Reports can be generated from the data and presented to staff, community members and funders. Encouraging friendly competition and creating a space for volunteers to be instantly recognized could motivate volunteers to see a project to completion.
In addition to time reporting, the tracking tool may allow:
• online applications for volunteers
• database of contact information
• data to be embedded on your own website
• automatic schedule reminders
• tagging volunteers with specific criteria
• impact tracking
• reviews of volunteers
If You Are A Volunteer:
Entering your own volunteer hours into an online time tracking system is an empowered way to increase your own social currency. You may have the option to share this information with prospective employers and college admissions offices. This tool may allow you to self-schedule and invite other volunteers.
If you’re interested in knowing more about online time tracking, take a look at examples of how other organizations make use of them.
What is social media?
It’s the new hot topic. Marketing experts blog about it, journalists grapple with it and the consumers get addicted to it. But what exactly is it? Social Media is a relatively new form of communication that is characterized by interactive, collaborative content. It differs from traditional media in that it allows for more feedback and consumer participation. Examples of popular sites are: Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, Google+, Ning, Tumblr, Orkut, Meetup, Bebo and Friendster. Social Media can also be seen as a disruption of old hierarchical models; consumers can interface with each other and with the site itself.
Why should volunteer organizations use social media?
Social networking sites like Twitter and Google+ are the new word-of-mouth. Facebook has more than 750 million active users. In fact, if Facebook were a country, it would be the third most populated in the world, right behind China and India. These websites can quickly increase your numbers.
In addition, photo and video sharing sites like Flickr and Youtube can be an excellent way for organizations to provide volunteer recognition.
How can we best utilize social media?
Each service has its own personality. It’s best to start with one or two at a time; be sure to update regularly. Neglected accounts won’t do much for you; an ancient status or post might give the impression that your organization is no longer open or active.
Facebook is infinitely useful, for many reasons: volunteer recognition, call for volunteers, spreading the word about events, community building and establishing relationships with other organizations.
Creating photo albums of volunteers is a way to recognize their hard work. Tagging them in the photos (with permission, of course) is a way to spread the word about your program and perk the interest of potential volunteers. The Friends of San Jose Rose Garden definitely know how to engage their volunteers with good photos. Calls for volunteers on work days can be put out by using the “events” function of Facebook. Creating an event can also be used to invite volunteers to parties or meetings. Build community by asking questions in your status updates and initiating discussions - it will allow volunteers to get to know one another. Your program can build relationships with other like-minded organizations by sharing their content and using @mentions to promote them.
Flickr is another way to recognize your volunteers by posting photos of them. These photos can be easily shared on other sites as well.
Tumblr, a blogging platform, can help establish your organization as an expert voice in your field. Your blogs should be unique. Try not to closely mimic other articles on the web. Allow volunteers with a gift for storytelling to blog about their experience and the impact that your organization makes. These volunteers wanted to share their in-depth thoughts about why they volunteer. Youtube can also be used to establish expertise, through the use of instructional videos. Our friends at Planting Justice made video lectures on Sustainable Self Governance.
Twitter is a superb place to gather content. Following knowledgeable people and relevant publications allows you to scan through your Twitter home feed and keep abreast of breaking news and current trends in your field. Your content from Flickr and Tumblr can be shared on Twitter with bit.ly links. Red Cross of the National Capital Region maintains a very active Twitter, where they share their events and utilize hashtags to reach a broader audience.
No matter how you decide to approach your social media strategy, you can’t lose. Any effort you make will increase in your organization’s online visibility.