For Catholic schools, it’s easy to view a paper-and-spreadsheet volunteer process as free, as in there is no cost to the school. With information gathered from dozens of interviews with school principals, office staff and school volunteer coordinators, we’ve found that there is, in fact a cost to ‘free’…
The volunteer process would typically look like this:
- The school posts volunteer opportunities on its website, which is usually done by an IT person. This person maintains the volunteer database and provides regular reporting of hours to volunteer administrators. This person is actually cost no. 1.
- The school office staff would review the volunteer hours data provided by the IT person and maintain information on an Excel document, highly tedious, laborious work. Cost no. 2.
- Parents self-monitor and submit their own hours. By parents’ own admission, this is a huge hassle and, thus, is not done accurately. This creates a gray area, leading to a missed $ opportunity for the school. This is not a cost per se, but the missed $ opportunity should, in fact, be a bigger concern.
Cost of the IT Person to support the volunteer process
A reasonable cost for an average IT person is $60 per hour. A typical elementary school uses the IT person for 2 hours/month (x 10 months) to support the volunteer process (doing the work noted above). With these numbers, the cost of an IT person to support the school’s volunteer process is approx. $1,200 per year.
Cost of School Office Staffer
The office staffer receives hours data from the IT person and normally tracks parents and their volunteer hours, usually on Excel. A reasonable cost of an office staffer is $18/hour. From our conversations with schools, the average office staffer spends a minimum of 5 hours/month to track parents’ hours, so 5 hours x 10 months = 50 hours/year. At a rate of $18 x 50 hours, the internal cost of tracking parent volunteer hours is approx. $900 per year.
Missed $ Opportunity for the School
A paper/Excel-based volunteer process requires parents to manually record and submit their hours. Based on volunteer sign ups at functions and events, schools estimate about 25% of parents over-report hours, by about 5 hours. This is mostly due to the hassle factor and not any purposeful intent to get away from doing more volunteering. However, as noted earlier, schools have no structure in place to match submitted hours to actual volunteer tasks. Trying to have an office staffer to reconcile parents’ hours to actual tasks would take a huge amount of time, which explains why schools don’t do it. The end-result is that schools aren’t able to charge back for the incomplete hours and miss collecting on the volunteer monies.
Typical elementary school (K-Gr.7): 240 students
25% of parents not meeting hours: 60 parents
Average # hours missed by parents: 5 hours
Average $ value of volunteer hour: $20
Using the above figures, a typical elementary school misses collecting approximately $6,000 per year on volunteer monies (60 parents x 5 hours x $20). For a large high school, this figure can come close to $20,000 per year. Those are significant $s that the school is missing out on.
The Annual Cost of the ‘Free’ Paper and Excel volunteer process…
Cost of IT staff to maintain volunteer info on website: $1,200
Internal Cost of school office staff to track hours: $900
Missed $s for the school due to under estimation of missed hours: $6,000
Total costs and un-collected $s: $8,100
There are numerous alternatives to a paper/Excel volunteer process, ranging from free or low-cost online sign up forms to comprehensive volunteer management solutions that include things such donor management and contact management. Of course, OnVolunteers is one of these alternatives, and falls somewhere in between the two noted alternatives (i.e. starts at $29/month).
So, if you have a paper-Excel volunteer process, we suggest you go through a similar exercise as above and see how much it’s costing you, we think you’ll find ‘free’ isn’t so.