4 Ways Technology Can Streamline Your Volunteer Program
Volunteers can power almost every aspect of your nonprofit, from fundraising to program management. Technology can also power every part of your nonprofit, including your volunteer program.
Often, the largest obstacle to starting an effective volunteer program is dedicating staff hours to recruiting and managing volunteers. Fortunately, with modern nonprofit technology, you can automate many rote aspects of volunteer management to find new supporters faster, onboard them, and prepare them with the necessary tools to get started.
To illustrate technology's role in your volunteer program, this guide will explore four ways nonprofits can streamline their volunteer management with software.
1. Automated communication
Throughout a volunteer’s time with your nonprofit, you’ll need to get in touch with them for various reasons, including scheduling shifts, communicating responsibilities, and thanking them for their hard work.
While there are times when your volunteer manager will need to communicate with volunteers one-on-one, many messages can be automated. These include:
- Application received confirmation
- Application approval/rejection messages
- Welcome series messages
- Shift reminders
- Post-event and project thank you messages
The majority of your communication will take place through email and text messages, but you can also automate communication on public platforms, like your website. For example, you can integrate your website and CRM to automatically update volunteer positions when they are filled. This way, potential volunteers will know what roles are available in real-time, streamlining your recruitment process.
2. Improved schedule management
Volunteer managers looking to upgrade from basic spreadsheets can speed up the scheduling process with volunteer management software. Many volunteer management solutions come with calendar features that allow nonprofit managers to perform various scheduling tasks, including:
- Creating recurring tasks
- Mass editing tasks
- Providing an overview of all volunteers
- Reconciling volunteer hours
- Mass assigning tasks
Comprehensive volunteer scheduling software can also lead your volunteer manager to identify new opportunities. For example, NXUnite’s guide to Volunteers for Salesforce outlines the following use cases for the platform’s volunteer scheduling features: “You can add relevant activities outside of regularly scheduled shifts to the calendar as well, such as scheduled training activities and appreciation events.”
NXUnite’s guide also emphasizes allowing volunteers to view their schedules ahead of time, letting them prepare for their shifts, communicate potential disruptions, and coordinate shift swaps as needed.
3. Self-service capabilities
The more you can empower your volunteers, the more time you will save your volunteer supervisors. Additionally, allowing volunteers to manage aspects of their engagement will make them feel like a more active part of your nonprofit, which can improve their retention and dedication to your cause.
Use your volunteer management software or CRM to build member portals where volunteers can access self-service tools. For example, you might create an online space where volunteers are able to:
- Choose shifts. Your volunteers know their schedules best. Post-shift openings and let them choose the times and dates that work best for them. To keep your schedule balanced, you may assign new volunteers their first shifts, then let them manage their schedules after becoming more experienced.
- Access training materials. Make onboarding materials and policy reminders easily accessible by uploading them to a shareable online space. New volunteers can then get a headstart on training by reading onboarding materials in advance. Additionally, all volunteers can quickly look up policies for canceling shifts, bringing friends to volunteer with them, alerting supervisors about potential medical concerns, or any other scenarios that may occur.
- Answer other volunteers’ questions. More senior members of your volunteer team can help welcome and train new volunteers. Build online message boards that allow supporters to ask questions and get answers from experienced volunteers. Encouraging your volunteers to talk to one another outside of their shifts can also cultivate a nonprofit community, and these friendships can keep volunteers invested in your program for years to come.
Some volunteer management solutions will come equipped or integrated with self-service tools. If you need help finding a platform with pre-built volunteer self-service features, try looking for a flexible solution that can be customized for your purposes. For example, Fionta’s guide to Salesforce Experience Cloud explains how platforms like Experience Cloud can be used for multiple purposes, including nonprofit volunteer management.
4. Quick recruitment
You can attract more volunteers to your cause by improving your recruitment process’s efficiency. Additionally, responding quickly to a new volunteer applicant helps form a positive first impression, which can be essential for building long-term volunteer relationships.
Technology, such as email messaging tools, volunteer management software, and HR hiring solutions, can streamline your recruitment process. To provide examples, here are a few ways your team can use technology in recruitment:
- Identify potential volunteers. Many potential volunteers are already in your donor database. Consider the necessary qualifications for your volunteer roles, then search your CRM to find supporters who would likely be interested in the positions. While making open calls for volunteers can help you grow your organization, targeted volunteer recruitment can be especially useful for positions that require specific skills, such as animal handling, graphic design, or first aid.
- Screen applicants. Enterprise-level nonprofits often receive more volunteer applications than they can review in a reasonable timeframe. HR screening software automatically analyzes applications for various must-have requirements to speed up the initial review process. For example, you might set your software to check that all required entry fields have been completed, ensure applicants are 18 or older, or even check for specific skills.
- Automate onboarding. All volunteers should receive some level of onboarding to welcome them to your nonprofit and prepare them for their volunteer position. Expedite the process by creating interactive video lessons they can work through at their own pace. You can also use eSignature tools to share documents like waivers online before their first volunteering day.
Throughout this process, you can also use technology to direct volunteers to helpful resources, such as the previously discussed self-service tools. Of course, make sure that volunteers know who to reach out to if they have specific questions.
Technology can create better volunteer experiences for your nonprofit and your volunteers. Use your software to improve communication, day-to-day management, and logistics, so your volunteer managers can focus on fulfilling your initiatives, connecting with supporters, and brainstorming volunteer appreciation ideas to thank everyone for their hard work.
About the Author:
Karin Tracy, VP of Marketing at Fionta
Karin Tracy, VP of Marketing at Fíonta, is a seasoned designer and marketer with a passion for serving nonprofit organizations and being a small part of bettering the world. She is a certified Pardot Consultant and Marketing Cloud Email Specialist, a fan of automation and reporting, a lover of animals, and devourer of popcorn.
At Fíonta, Karin drives marketing efforts for all internal and external projects. Her direct service work is focused primarily on marketing strategy and automation for Fíonta’s MCAE (Pardot) clients.