The lifeblood and sustainability of nonprofits are in the volunteers. Whether it’s providing support to vulnerable people in the community, fundraiser galas, or disaster relief aid, many nonprofit organizations have a largely mobile volunteer base. Technology has opened doors for growth, efficiencies, and mobility in ways not seen before, including volunteer management.
To manage, recruit, and retain members, organizations must bridge the gap between fixed-location and field personnel. This requires implementing the proper tools to enable effective communication and engagement among volunteers, allowing them to better focus on serving their communities.
What is volunteer management?
Volunteer management is also known as volunteer engagement. It includes recruiting, tracking, engaging, and retaining volunteers in an organization.
Volunteers are the backbone of nonprofit organizations that provide meaningful services to communities. Typical volunteers can be individuals or groups of students, families, professionals, or retirees who want to give back. Volunteer opportunities can be both short- and long-term.
Roles can range from clerical work, event support, and logistics to field work. Additionally, many nonprofits seek skills-based volunteers, such as:
- Phlebotomists, nurses, and nurse assistants for health causes (e.g., blood donations)
- Volunteer firefighters
- Construction workers and field technicians for home building
- Occupational therapists for elderly and people living with a disability
- Social workers and counselors
The importance of effective volunteer management
Because volunteers are so essential to nonprofit organizations, it’s crucial to ensure they remain happy and engaged. Preventing burnout is just as important for retaining volunteers as it is for retaining employees. Proper volunteer management can increase morale and satisfaction. Happy, engaged volunteers contribute to a positive public image and often recruit others who share a passion for the cause. Thus, volunteer management should be a strategic part of an organization’s overall development plan.
Elements of successful volunteer management
Volunteer management is more than just identifying and training individuals or groups. It helps nonprofits recruit, manage, and retain volunteers (and increase productivity and effectiveness).
Here are some components of successful volunteer management.
Recruitment involves promoting opportunities, screening, training, and onboarding volunteers. When developing and staffing volunteer programs, it’s important to identify individuals who are passionate about your mission and cause. But reaching a broad audience of prospective volunteers means recruitment can be a difficult hurdle, especially since most nonprofits spend only 2% of their budget on these efforts. It can be even more challenging for organizations with limited resources.
Once you identify interested volunteers, it’s essential to place the right people in the right roles. Furthermore, it’s vital to execute an efficient training process. These help make the difference between a good and a phenomenal nonprofit. However, role assignments and training can be difficult to execute and track. Traditional systems don’t provide real-time visibility of capacity, individuals’ skill sets, or other important information needed to effectively onboard and place volunteers.
Communication is key to everything from staffing volunteers to engaging them. Proper communication enables nonprofits to train, inform, and track volunteers. It also helps you to obtain volunteer feedback in the long term. Disparate communication systems, though, often lead to logistical failures. Such failures include late arrivals, understaffed events, or a lack of up-to-date information in the field.
It’s critical to make volunteers feel connected to both the cause and your organization. Volunteers who stay for the long haul decrease your turnover, and thus, your need to continually train new volunteers. When volunteers feel connected, they’re also likely to attract even more help.
This is why nonprofits need to obtain and assess volunteer feedback regarding strengths and potential areas of program improvement. But feedback request forms sent post-training or post-event can often go unseen or be ignored. That’s valuable, actionable data from volunteers that your organization may not be capturing.
Ready to make your entire team more effective?
Deskless productivity cloud for volunteer management
Investing in efficient technology solutions is vital for a successful volunteer program. Imagine streamlining your volunteers’ shift scheduling, time tracking, performance evaluation processes, and more—all in real time. It’s all possible, regardless of where work is completed. Automating these coordination and management efforts frees leadership and volunteers to complete other essential tasks. With mobile workforce management—also known as a deskless productivity cloud—your organization can reap the benefits of streamlined volunteer management to ensure a successful program, backed by powerful software capabilities.
Manage complex volunteer scheduling
A deskless productivity cloud helps eliminate time-consuming manual processes—like entering schedules into a spreadsheet—and effectively reduces clerical work. Volunteers do not have to come into the office, call, email, or text to obtain or alter their schedules. This increases productivity throughout the scheduling process.
A deskless productivity cloud enables volunteer coordinators to:
- Create, change, and view schedules in real time
- Request last minute help based on availability
- Process time-off requests
- Schedule recurring shifts by automation
- Communicate essential information instantly
- Forecast future volunteer staffing needs
- Staff events based on travel time
In turn, volunteers can view shift times, changes, and last-minute cancellations in one, centralized place. A mobile workforce management platform also makes it easy for deskless workers to enter and change availability and preferences, as needed. Hence, nothing falls through the cracks. That means avoiding no-shows, late-comers, or a lack of volunteers when extra hands are needed.
Easily recruit and retain volunteers
An annual survey cited both volunteer recruitment and retention as top challenges among nonprofit organizations. The recruitment process requires high levels of outreach, networking, and onboarding of volunteers. With mobile workforce management software, organizations can reach a broader audience to promote their opportunities to targeted demographics and to those who value their mission.
HR can make recruitment decisions based on individual interests, skills, availability, commute times, and more. They can also distribute cancellations, safety updates, training materials, and performance criteria from one data repository. Volunteers will be scheduled at the right time and place, which results in increased retention and happier clients and volunteers.
Seamlessly integrate with other systems
When evaluating options, choose software that works with your existing workflows and systems. An effective deskless productivity cloud should integrate with a variety of other tools to make volunteer management a breeze. Instead of relying on disparate systems to coordinate, schedule, manage, and track volunteers, mobile workforce management software conveniently stores all of your data in one, succinct place.
Increase visibility into volunteer capacity
Traditional field service software doesn’t offer as much visibility into the field as a deskless productivity cloud. It also doesn’t include the necessary capabilities to accurately measure volunteer capacity. With a deskless productivity cloud, volunteers can more effectively track their time, record their duties, and capture other important notes relevant to their roles. Management staff can view the time and place that volunteers complete shifts, ensuring accountability. In addition, full transparency into hours worked and scheduled helps avoid volunteer burnout.
Improve communication with volunteers in the field
Obtaining shift assignments, client addresses, organization updates, and more digitally is convenient for volunteers who don’t work from an office. With mobile workforce management software, volunteers don’t need to juggle emails and texts to communicate with team members. A mobile- and desktop-integrated platform enables real-time communication of company news, logistics, and client information—all centrally stored.
Volunteers can utilize their mobile devices to capture important information. Details, such as health and vital stats, traffic updates, building entrance information, and key contacts, are captured and instantly available to other volunteers and supervisors.
Better engagement with volunteers
Volunteers want to feel connected to leadership and management within the organization. Mobile workforce management software can collect volunteers’ feedback, concerns, and suggestions for program improvement. An engaging deskless productivity cloud also allows volunteers to choose their areas of interest, as well as preferred shift times and dates. Volunteer coordinators can become better acquainted with volunteers and better optimize the program. The result? Engaged, satisfied volunteers who feel like valued members of the overall organization.
Support and manage volunteers with deskless productivity cloud
Skedulo’s deskless productivity cloud improves volunteer recruitment, retention, and engagement through streamlined communication and transparent scheduling. Regardless of your organization’s mission, you need the proper tools to help you track, monitor, and analyze your volunteer teams and their performance for increased productivity.
To learn more about how Skedulo can provide tools to streamline volunteer management and help you to serve more communities, book a demo today.