Southwest of Des Moines, Iowa lays Winterset, a small community of just over 5,000 residents; Winterset High School has 550 students total in grades 9 through 12. Nearly a quarter of those Winterset high schoolers participate in Silver Cord, a student volunteer program that encourages students to give back to their community.
Student council advisor Jessica Gibbons started Silver Cord in 2015. Students can opt-in to Silver Cord and begin the program the summer of their 8th-grade year. Those who complete 160 total volunteer hours during their high school career are awarded the Silver Cord to wear and be recognized at graduation for their service.
Not only does Silver Cord benefit the community, but it also nurtures leadership and citizenship skills in students. The program is self-directed, so every student must keep track of their volunteer work on their own.
TRACKING HOUR: PAPER FORMS vs NOBLEHOUR
Like many volunteer programs in their early days, Silver Cord used paper forms to track volunteer hours. If you work for a nonprofit or you’ve volunteered for one, you know what these forms look like. They might have separate columns for the date, time in and out, the activity or task name, and a signature for a manager or supervisor. Paper forms sound like an easy solution for tracking volunteer activity, but Gibbons found that with her students, it got messy pretty quickly.
“The kids would take them out to volunteering events like to dig or pick up trash, and the paper forms would come back covered in mud,” says Gibbons. “So I think that it’s just totally practical to move to a computer system.”
Enter NobleHour, which replaces paper forms with online tracking and approval of hours. Not only does NobleHour make it easy for individual student volunteers, it streamlines the process for program advisors like Gibbons, who have to verify and oversee everything. Paper forms were manageable when Silver Cord had fewer students in the beginning. But now, with about 125 students in the program, Gibbons needed an easier, standardized system to keep things organized.
“It was all paper forms and spreadsheets and binders…the students would turn them in at the end of the year and then I would spend a full day organizing them, and then spot-checking their hours to verify,” says Gibbons. “NobleHour saves me a lot of time.”
STUDENTS STAY ORGANIZED
NobleHour helps keep the students organized, too. NobleHour organizes all their important information into one easily accessible location. Imagine putting in 40 hours of volunteering only to find that you’re missing a paper form that verifies that time worked. In that case, a student would have to “find all those signatures again, or not have those hours,” explained Gibbons. With NobleHour, students can track their hours and have community partners approve them online, without having to deal with physical forms. It also comes in handy for students applying for scholarships.
“My seniors still have their old paper forms from their freshmen and sophomore years, and they have to keep coming in and taking pictures of them for scholarships, like NHS (National Honor Society),” says Gibbons. Newer students who have only experienced using NobleHour can rest easy knowing their information is all in one place.
TARGETS AND REPORTS
NobleHour’s convenience and ease of use goes beyond tracking hours. In Silver Cord’s case, students can find volunteer coordinator information as well as check progress on their hours. Rather than having to tally up their hours near the end of the year with paper forms, NobleHour’s “Targets” feature helps students easily stay on track toward their goal.
One of Gibbons’ favorite NobleHour features is the reports. Gibbons often uses her reports to drum up excitement from students and parents on Twitter. Whether it’s sharing current progress on a project, or high-performing students for the month, she often sees a great response on social media.
“I think it’s a great tool, as opposed to paper, to be able to see the impact in hours and dollars. When I post something on Twitter from NobleHour, people are blown away,” says Gibbons. “I think that that very specific and tangible idea of hours or economic impact is really important. I wouldn’t have time to run those kind of reports as often, or to know who the top performer was or anything like that without NobleHour.”
“I always tell people that you guys, yes, there is a real-life person on the chat that can help you!”
STELLAR CUSTOMER SERVICE
When you’re used to using paper forms, transitioning to an online platform can be difficult. Plus, NobleHour is continuously working towards meeting user needs with new features and updates. Having an expert readily available to help you through those changes can be handy. In Gibbons’ case, the ability to live-chat with someone at NobleHour immediately has been great, especially when issues come up that need to be dealt with right away.
“With students, they either need to get it taken care of right then, or they’ll forget about it and they need it really taken care of in 3 months when they remember,” says Gibbons. “I always tell people that you guys, yes, there is a real-life person on the chat that can help you!”
Customer service isn’t just there to react to problems that occur, either. NobleHour’s customer service found proactive ways to help Gibbons: organizing information for the grant committee, creating a video to onboard new students, or fielding questions from new students about to join the Silver Cord program. Great customer service support can help users use NobleHour to its fullest advantage.
NOBLEHOUR ENCOURAGES INDEPENDENCE AND RESPONSIBILITY
Allowing students to take responsibility for getting volunteer information on their own was what initially drew Gibbons to NobleHour. The students are able to reach out directly to the opportunity host.
“That part is really important to me,” says Gibbons. “Direct communication makes them more likely to attend the event. I’ve never had issues with kids not showing up to an opportunity because they have directly contacted the coordinator. The connection is there.”
Even though NobleHour is a digital platform that can be used on a PC or smartphone, it’s helping students, nonprofits, and volunteer program advisors stay organized and stay connected. Silver Cord students can focus on giving back at city parks, nursing homes, and community gardens…without having to worry about losing precious paper forms. NobleHour has it covered.
Since 2007, NobleHour has proven to be the volunteer management solution for organizations across the nation. Our plug ‘n play software connects companies, schools and individuals with nonprofits. Volunteer, measure the good you’re doing, and share it with others. It’s that simple.
With offices in Lakeland, FL, and Portland, OR, the we are dedicated to empowering good in communities across the country.
By NobleHour Staff:
Director of Marketing
Allison is the Director of Marketing for TreeTop Commons, and its products; NobleHour and Collaboratory. A Portland native, Allison volunteers regularly for community nonprofits that support sustainability programs, and at her childrens’ school teaching art literacy.