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There's nothing easy about running a nonprofit. It takes a heroic effort to raise funds, hire and retain talent, and ultimately, deliver on your mission. Maybe you're working toward helping the environment; reducing poverty; improving education; or advocating on behalf of a religious, political, or spiritual movement. In any case, it's inevitable that some of your efforts will be more successful than others.
So, how do you determine which programs are the most beneficial to your organization? While it can be relatively straightforward to analyze the positive impact of a specific program or campaign, it's not always so easy to understand the true costs of the work your team performs. That's where time tracking comes into play.
Rather than simply tracking time for compliance or "because someone told you to," successful nonprofits take advantage of the incredible data created by tracking employee time. And they are better able to deliver on their mission and effect meaningful change.
By tracking employee time, nonprofits are able to understand the true costs of any project or program. From writing a newsletter to calling donors to creating a social media awareness campaign, time tracking reveals the number of hours — and associated costs — of any activity. This data, when viewed across different programs or even funding sources, empowers managers and others with newfound transparency into how the organization is performing.
Yes, of course, employees, funders, and the people you serve can see the results of your efforts (for example, dollars raised or trees planted). However, without time tracking, there is limited visibility into how many hours your team spent, and at what cost to the organization.
By analyzing time and costs of specific programs and activities, it becomes easier to manage budgets and to more effectively allocate staff time. When used properly, time tracking empowers the right people to work on the right projects for the right amount of time.
It's important to provide accurate and comprehensive reporting to funders. This is not just what was accomplished but also the financial impact these programs have on the organization.
Time tracking makes fund and grant reporting easy. Simple, one-click reporting on costs and even what work was done (this can be general, specific, or the exact task) can free up valuable time for your administrative staff. It allows your team to spend their day focusing on other, more effective work.
With what may be challenging times ahead, it's critically important to run an effective organization. That's not only so your team will be able to do more with that they have. It's also so you'll be able to show your members, community, and funders that you are in fact using their money wisely.
What is the ideal number of employees for each of your programs? How many team members should be fundraising? How much time — and at what cost — does it take to train and get new employees on board? And what about projects that might require work outside of your team's primary skill set?
Is it more effective to keep design work in house or should it be outsourced to a third party? Or what about administration and accounting? If you don't already have one, do you need an office manager? How much time are your team members spending on administrative tasks outside their core job description?
These questions are virtually impossible to answer without the data provided by tracking employee time. As long as your time tracking platform has basic reporting on program costs and a simple way for your team members to enter their hours, the answers to these questions should become apparent almost immediately.
Time tracking is not about monitoring what your employees do. It's about understanding processes so that they can be improved, and you can more effectively deliver on your mission.
From the data hidden within your nonprofit's timesheets, the larger operational picture becomes much clearer — freeing up your time to focus on strategy, on vision, and above all, on achieving your mission.
Check out ClickTime's donation program for time tracking.
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David Klein is a San Francisco-based marketing executive who focuses on technologies that empower people and businesses. He is currently the director of marketing for ClickTime.
Image: Blue Planet Studio / Shutterstock
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 International License.