It is often said that time is money. This old and cliched adage can help school administrators tackle a common and irritating problem: the proper management of a school's volunteer network. Volunteers are essential to a school's proper functioning, and they can be parents, alumni, members of the community or even retired teachers. Some schools require that their families volunteer a number of hours a year (30-50 hours a year is a typical number). This volunteer system can be quite tricky, especially in smaller schools who depend more on parent and community volunteers than larger (and generally more affluent) schools. Is there a proper system which schools can use to better manage and streamline this most important constituency ?
Time is money
The reason why schools have volunteers is two-fold. Firstly, it encourages a sense of community building and buy-in, as their presence helps fuse the family's lives with that of the school. It helps schools coalesce and unite together. Secondly, and more pragmatically, it provides labor for the school. In a sense, time is money, and this is all the more true in small schools who need assistance as much as possible. Some schools have even allowed parents to pay in exchange for their "share hours" of volunteer work.
Preparation is key
The more efficient solution is to determine exactly what the parent's contribution is going to be. This requires a bit of preparation, but school administrators should start by converting everything to a dollar amount. Take the following as an example:
What fig. 1. shows is that a family who is missing 10 volunteer hours can easily pay the school an equivalent amount, in this case, $137.30, and it will cover the hours they were not able to perform. The family should be sent a bill at the end of the cycle( as defined by the school's business office). This an only be done if there is an agreement signed by the parents up front. This requires volunteer management and a sizable amount of preparation on the part of both sides.
Value of an hour's worth of volunteer work
None of the accounting on fig. 1. can work if there is not a knowledge of what an hour's worth of volunteer time is worth. In 2014, it was estimated that the national average was $23.07 . This figure should be altered according to the market price of the tasks being performed, and if there is a peak demand (e.g. more people will be needed to help with the school's auction than simply the canned food drive).
There are some volunteer events which are more important than others. As was mentioned above, a school's auction or gala dinner might require more volunteers than a food drive. When parents are oriented to the school, they are usually offered a number of ways to volunteer. Should they all rush to sign up for the "general volunteer activities", this may not leave time for "peak demand" activities. A solution involves weighting hours, which can allow schools to alter the labor flow according to their needs. Activities can be either deemed "general activities" (helping in a field trip, having a school clean up day, stuffing envelopes...etc) or "peak activities" (such as helping at the school's auction, gala, or larger fundraising event). See figure 2 for an example:
This differentiated approach will allow the school to ensure that there are sufficient people for important activities. If not, parents can simply pay off their volunteer hours. Note in Fig. 2. that the value of peak hours his , by definition, higher than general hours. It is up to the school's business department decide on how much.
Relationship with Marketing and Branding
Management of school volunteers affects the people in the school, more importantly, staffing. Promotional efforts could be used around parental volunteer activities, but schools should avoid offering a "share hours" to prospective parents since this would be tantamount to providing a coupon, and this has a tendency to diminish an organization's overall brand value ,. However, recent research from Kasem Bundit University in Thailand shows that lowering the price may not affect brand equity all that much if there is a previous level of involvement with the school . This means that a coupon would work if the parent was first associated with the school in some way... perhaps as an alum.
Proper management of a school's volunteer network, and making sure that everyone knows that in a sense, "time is money". Differentiation of volunteer hours will also help make sure that there are enough volunteers to help schools when needed. Lastly, volunteers have a direct effect on the product of the school and, therefore, its marketing. But be careful not to alleviate parental volunteer need with coupons, since this may have a negative effect on a school's brand equity.
- Value of an hour's worth of volunteer work: http://grantspace.org/tools/knowledge-base/Nonprofit-Management/Employment-Volunteering/monetary-value-of-volunteer-time