Although it may be hard to believe, our current struggling economy, high unemployment rates and slow job growth have an upside. According to the 2011 Volunteering in America report by the Corporation for National and Community Service, volunteerism is on the rise as individuals respond to both the lack of jobs and growing needs within their communities. Individuals are giving back to their communities in numbers that are increasing annually.
Further, the professional skills of this new wave of volunteers are impressive. Gone are the days when volunteer staff was comprised of college kids looking to gain experience and retirees. Many of today’s volunteers are professionals with degrees and experience. Given this, it is more important than ever for nonprofit organizations to find ways to manage, utilize and maximize these amazing resources.
Managing volunteers effectively is imperative for any nonprofit. Including training for volunteers to introduce your organization, your projects and your expectations is an important first step. Identifying a person or a department to supervise the volunteer experience is also a critical part of any nonprofit structure.
Ensuring that there is a point person for volunteer questions, skill and schedule matching, and program evaluation is the final part of a complete volunteer management picture. However, it is important not to overlook the importance of software to organize your volunteers and their experiences.
Management Software is a Must
So when you are considering your technical capabilities, remember to include software that allows you to manage your volunteers. Optimizing this aspect of your organizational capacity is a critical part of any efficient nonprofit.
It is important to select software that will match volunteers and opportunities in a manner that maximizes the experience and the results. Software that has the ability to create a detailed catalog of volunteer interests, availability and skills will allow your staff to be more efficient and effective when working with volunteers.
For a nonprofit, an effective software system will include the ability to track volunteer involvement in addition to donors, clients and other supporters. This information and its details are important to developing an organization that fully integrates all the information that can contribute to your success.
Determine Your Needs
When researching volunteer management software packages, it is important to create a checklist of capabilities or features that you feel are critical to effectively managing your volunteers. A sample list of important tracking or management capabilities could include, but not be limited to, the following:
Contact information (email, direct mail, phone numbers)
Interests and special skills
Volunteer participation in hours by project or event
Total number of volunteer hours completed by month/year
Evaluation or comments by staff
Your software should allow you to sort each category individually and run reports based on combinations of each field. For example, a report that creates a list of volunteers within a certain zip code with graphic design capabilities and an interest in working on events.
The ability to manage volunteer relationships can exist alongside the management of donors and members, but there should be specific language within the software description that indicates that it has volunteer management capabilities. Researching the many offerings can be challenging, but knowing the features that you need will help you narrow your options.
Manage Volunteers provides a searchable list of dozens of software packages related to volunteer management. This list includes brief descriptions and links to each company website.
Both of these resources can be a great first step in your investigation to find software that both suits your present needs and that can help you to expand your organizational capacity in the future.
Capterra helps you find and compare any kind of software for your business. With over 300 business software directories, from project management software to church management software, Capterra enables you to filter results based on your needs as well as view ratings and reviews submitted by your peers.
Shari led Online Marketing and Communications at VolunteerMatch from 2010-2015. After working with nonprofits for 9 years, she moved over to the corporate sector and is now leading Inbound Marketing for a tech company in San Francisco.