Software for Volunteer Management: What We Want Now
A few times a month, I get asked: “What’s the best software for volunteer management?”
My most common response is “It depends on your organization’s goals and needs for data management.”
And, then I refer folks to Chapter 6 of our free Essential Guide to Managing Volunteers at Your Nonprofit where I drill down into software requirements in more detail.
But the real deal is, I’m always a bit reticent to make a recommendation. I know many of the software providers personally and want to be supportive in a field where it is challenging to keep a business afloat.
So, instead of critiquing my hard-working colleagues, I’d rather not rock the boat.
Unfortunately, this silence doesn’t serve anyone.
Software providers need to know what their audience’s most pressing needs are. Volunteer managers need tools that work hard to support their current business needs. And, trainers and consultants like myself need to have a tool they can recommend that can carry out their management recommendations with ease.
So, it’s not without a fair amount of trepidation I wrote this post.
But it’s a post that needs to be written. It’s time to honor all of the conversations we have inside the VolunteerPro membership community and outside it about how we need to grow as a field.
And, having the right tools for this moment is vital to our ability to build momentum forward.
So, here goes …
Software for Volunteer Management: Our Wish List
Last month, there was a fair amount of healthy discussion around the pros and cons of various volunteer management software platforms in our VolunteerPro community forum.
The consensus was that most volunteer management platforms were frustrating to use and that the ideal platform did not exist … yet.
In addition, during our free masterclass series I presented a few weeks ago, one of the primary frustrating things participants said they wanted to ditch that was draining their energy was … data entry!
So, rather than spending time on building a world-class experience for volunteers, many leaders are wasting precious time with data entry and reporting requirements.
This seemed like a pity to me. We can do better, can’t we?
So, I suggested that we take the bull by the horns and brainstorm a “wish list” of ideal volunteer management software features.
If we were building something from scratch, how would it look and feel? What would it accomplish for us? How would it make our lives easier, not more challenging? How could it help us save time?
Below is the list we arrived at. It’s an amazing list of innovation and vision for the future.
And, if a software company were to implement most or all of these, they would no doubt capture market share.
Here’s what we came up with …
Time-saving Automations for More Efficient Volunteer Management
- A smartphone app with location services and push notifications, so that when a volunteer arrives on-site, their phone reminds them to start and stop logging their hours (or does it for them).
- Kiosk and internet connectivity.
- A robust Customer Relationships Management (CRM) system with the ability to design email drip automation by audience segment and tag, as well as lead scoring and predictive sending for prospective volunteers based on user interaction with email communications (so the system would communicate with both current and prospective volunteers for both long-term and episodic roles).
- Deep data integrations with commonly-used fundraising and donor management systems (e.g., DonorPerfect) and social media platforms with the ability to track volunteers, members, donors, major donors, board members, etc.
- A way to easily customize volunteer pipelines and audience segments (with lists, groups, and tags) with the ability to catalog, group, and flag data.
- Database storage and archiving
- Document storage (so instead of having a database with apps and info and a separate space for all other volunteer files, we could store everything in one location).
- Online eCommerce capacity and access for fiscal and online payments.
- Volunteer facing tutorials and live support chat for software users so staff doesn’t have to create training for volunteers to use the system.
Better Reporting for More Effective Volunteer Impact Metrics
- Ability to pre-set different in-kind values to different volunteer assignments for impact tracking.
- Robust queries for volunteer hours, needs, assignments, in-kind, location, program, etc.
- Audit trail – tracking when things were changed in the system and the ability to report.
- Customizable visual data dashboard to track volunteer program trends.
Tools to Build Community & Connection with Volunteers
- A password-protected log-in experience for volunteers that includes on-page alerts, a place to track hours and sign up for shifts, a library of important documents, a community forum, an event calendar (that can be subscribed to), and an online course library (video, downloads, and comments section) with the ability to add access to new courses as pre-requisites are completed.
- Ability to send both email and group text messages (like Slack channels for volunteers).
- Ability to attach different assignments to multiple locations or programs.
- Volunteer-driven profiles with the ability to update demographic and contact data from the user side, including adding photos, adjusting the level of privacy, setting alter preferences, etc.
- An online community forum with volunteer profiles (like a private Facebook group, but inside the platform).
- Robust learning management system with the capacity for video, audio, and text-based courses, quizzes, and the ability for volunteers and leaders to track progress and completion of pre-requisites before new opportunities are available in their account.
Opportunities for Volunteer Leaders to Take Charge
- Levels of administrative access, with multiple system users, so that volunteer leaders can set events and shifts for their fellow volunteers.
- An interactive calendar for volunteers to easily sign-up and adjust their schedules with reminders and the ability to subscribe to the calendar.
- Checklists and process checkpoints for volunteers, and volunteer leaders with reminders or a tickler.
Updated User Experience for Easier Volunteer Integration
- Simple, easy navigation.
- Modern, simple user interface and navigation with good design, fewer clicks, and the ability to brand and customize pages with drag and drop functionality.
- Well-designed website landing page builder to list volunteer opportunities, free downloads, active volunteer log in, etc. in an engaging way
These are a few of the ideas our team and membership had for ways to improve the functionality of software for volunteer management. What do you think?
Admittedly, some software platforms do some of these things.
And, realistically, no software platform, whatever its purpose, is perfect. There are tech capabilities and production cost constraints that sometimes make the ideal impossible to achieve.
But, wouldn’t it be amazing if we tried?
Imagine how much time we could save leaders of volunteers so that they can move from manual data entry to automation and user data management.
Wouldn’t it be great if volunteer managers could spend more time supporting volunteers and their leaders and less time in front of a computer?
Looking for Software Now? Try Our Free Software for Volunteer Management Planning Worksheet
In case you missed it, we created a free worksheet to help you identify and prioritize your key volunteer management software requirements and make decisions about your next investment.
Also, be sure to read Chapter 6: Volunteer Management Software of The Essential Guide to Managing Volunteers at Your Nonprofit to learn more about how to select the right platform for your nonprofit.
It’s Your Turn: What’s Missing from Our List?
What features do you think are missing from this list? Add them to the comments below.
And, if you are a software company that meets all (or most) of these requirements (or they are on your roadmap to be completed in the next 12 months), we invite you to post a link in the comments section below.
Free [Worksheet] Volunteer Management Software Requirements
Identify and prioritize your key volunteer management software requirements.