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The Complete Guide to Streamlining Your Volunteer Program with Software

Nonprofits and charitable organizations often rely heavily on volunteers to accomplish their missions. However, effectively managing a volunteer program requires coordination, communication, and organization – which is where utilizing dedicated volunteer management software can make all the difference. In today’s digital age, volunteer management software provides invaluable tools to recruit, track, reward, and retain volunteers.

What is Volunteer Management Software?

In its simplest definition, volunteer management software is a web-based application designed specifically for coordinating volunteers. It provides nonprofits and community organizations with specialized features to organize volunteers for fundraisers, community outreach, disaster relief, events, and day-to-day operations. Robust volunteer management software centralizes all the tools to not only manage volunteers, but also engage them long-term.

Benefits of Volunteer Management Software

When considering whether to implement volunteer management software, it helps to understand the key benefits it offers to nonprofit organizations and volunteers alike:

For Organizations

  • Recruit new volunteers based on skills, availability and interests
  • Easily communicate with individuals or groups of volunteers
  • Coordinate volunteer activity across multiple locations
  • Schedule volunteers for shifts and roles while avoiding conflicts
  • Track volunteer hours for recognition and reporting purposes
  • Maintain orderly records and run insightful reports
  • Share photos, videos and organization updates to engage volunteers
  • Send email, newsletters, surveys and automated messages
  • Integrate with social media for simplified content sharing
  • Access anywhere via web browser or mobile device apps

For Volunteers

  • Browse and sign-up for volunteer opportunities matching skills and interests
  • View schedules, shifts, and duty details
  • Receive essential communications and reminder notifications
  • Check hour totals and milestones achieved
  • Connect with fellow volunteers
  • Participate in organization discussions
  • Stay up to date on the latest news and events

In summary, implementing purpose-built volunteer management software allows nonprofits to organize chaotic manual and paper-based processes into automated and centralized systems for volunteer administration. Intuitive interfaces also provide volunteers transparency and self-service tools to manage their own activity.

Core Functionality

While volunteer management software platforms offer differing suites of features, most provide a set of core functionalities:

Volunteer databases The heart of volunteer management software is the volunteer database which securely stores comprehensive profiles for each individual including personal information, demographic data, skills, availability schedules, assignments, hour logs, communication preferences and more.

Opportunity management Post new volunteer duty descriptions, openings, shift dates/times, location details and attach files. Automate shift sign-up emails sent to matches in the volunteer database based on skills and interests.

Calendaring & scheduling Visually schedule volunteers on calendars and embed schedules to distribute internally or on websites. Automation prevents double-booking volunteers for overlapping events.

Communication tools Bulk email active volunteers, share newsletters, manage contacts, and track correspondence. Some platforms offer two-way messaging between admins and volunteers.

Time tracking Volunteers can self-report hours, which are validated before being added to logs. Manual hour entry, spreadsheet imports and automated timesheets using geolocation or QR code scanning streamlines hour tracking.

Dashboards & reporting Admin and volunteer dashboards display summaries, activity feeds, customizable reports and insights in real time. Reports are exportable for sharing with stakeholders.

Added Functionality

While all volunteer management software covers the basics, nonprofit organizations have unique needs and more advanced solutions provide further functionalities:

Custom branding & integration Match software style and terminology to existing branding for seamless user experiences. Integrate volunteer portals directly into websites. Allow single sign-on using existing credentials.

Online forms & surveys Beyond profiles, create any custom online form, survey or questionnaire for volunteers to submit information that syncs with their record for reference.

Skill-based assignments Tag volunteer records with unlimited skills and qualifications. Intelligently match and recommend the best volunteers for each assignment using defined prerequisites.

Coordinate large groups Schedule hundreds of volunteers down to 15-minute increments. Group messaging and mass notifications facilitate communications.

Disaster response Mobilize trained volunteers efficiently in the wake of emergencies. Access offline functionality during internet outages using mobile devices and datasets.

Gamification Incentivize volunteers by awarding points and badges for milestones reached. Leaderboards add friendly competition between volunteers.

The right volunteer management software becomes a centralized command center for nonprofit administrators to align willing helpers with organizational needs for greater community impact.

Getting Set Up with Volunteer Management Software

Once your nonprofit chooses the ideal volunteer management software platform, a well-planned rollout and adoption process helps ensure success:

Kick things off by importing your existing volunteer data rather than manual entry. Take time to segment volunteers by past involvement, skills, and activity preferences.

Clean up and consolidate volunteer opportunity listings that will go live in the new system. Expand details to inspire interest and provide enough specifics.

Develop a communications plan to notify volunteers. Convey the improvements coming their way to get buy-in. Slowly transition components vs. forcing an overnight switch.

Set expectations on how the updated tools will be used. Establish policies for staff vs volunteer access and training. Identify key metrics to gauge adoption.

Incentivize volunteers to complete expanded profiles and register for new opportunities. Recognize power users to motivate peer usage.

Continually fine-tune volunteer management software configurations and transactions. Survey users for feedback to address ongoing enhancements.

Following these best practices helps nonprofit organizations get the most from their investment in volunteer management software. Don’t leave utilization to chance – actively train, support, monitor and promote usage across the volunteer network.

Empowering Volunteers with Technology

At their core, volunteers donate personal time and talents for community service without expectation of compensation. Providing user-friendly technology tools shows value for their efforts while helping to maximize positive impact.

With dedicated volunteer management software in place, administrators gain insights and efficiency gains simply not possible using manual tracking and generic software. And volunteers gain convenient self-service access to manage their own activity seamlessly from any device. The result is a win-win scenario fueling nonprofit growth through empowered and informed service.