We explore volunteer management systems, explain how to use them efficiently and effectively, and look at some of the best systems currently on the market
Volunteers generously provide labour and time to support communities, help people in need, raise much-needed funds, and generally improve society. They are the backbone of the non-profit sector and organisations should always aim to make the process of volunteering as easy and seamless as possible.
That’s easier said than done. Many organisations have limited time, finite resources, and ever-growing demands. Attracting, recruiting, and managing volunteers can be challenging, particularly on a limited budget. Organisations must work with what they have, often recruiting and onboarding volunteers with archaic processes and make-shift resources.
Many organisations manage volunteers with Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, perhaps even the old-fashioned pen and paper. Sometimes Post-it notes carry the names and numbers of would-be volunteers, and scraps of paper harbour essential scheduling information.
Organisations are aware that they need to change, that they need to embrace the digital. But they often assume that effective digital volunteer management will be complex, difficult to install and use, or simply too expensive.
That may have been true in the past, but modern volunteer management systems have evolved. The market currently offers something to organisations of all shapes and sizes, regardless of their time and resource requirements.
There are free options, low-cost options, pay-per-volunteer options, bespoke options, standardised options, and everything in-between. There is a system to improve every organisation, as long as the organisation is willing to do some initial research.
And we are here to help. In this article, we explore the basics of volunteer management and offer organisations a guide to using volunteer management systems. We then explore the top systems currently on the market and look at which system might best suit your needs.
Volunteer management is an all-encompassing term for recruiting volunteers, tracking volunteers, communicating and engaging with volunteers, and much more. Volunteer management is anything that involves interaction between an organisation and volunteers.
Effective volunteer management has myriad benefits. It allows charities to improve their relationships with volunteers, streamline internal and external processes, improve overall return on investment, and make the full use of the skills and services that volunteers provide.
Volunteer management also allows charities to think long-term, building a more strategic and positive relationship with individual volunteers. Positive relationships improve retention rates, as volunteers are always more willing to return to charities they enjoy working with.
A volunteer management system is a tool that helps effective volunteer management. The systems support the recruitment of volunteers, communicate and co-ordinate with volunteers, work out a schedule for volunteers, and much more.
Volunteer management systems provide one centralised place for streamlining processes. Various organisations use the systems, including schools, hospitals, museums, and so on. But the systems are particularly used in the charity sector, where managing volunteers is vital.
Each volunteer management system offers different functionalities, often aimed at organisations of different sizes and usually at varying costs. But common features include:
As you’ll see below, many of the options on the market offer much more advanced features, all of which can improve volunteer management. But every volunteer management system should offer some version of the above features, albeit in different forms.
Each volunteer management system will provide different benefits to different organisations, often depending on differing objectives. But organisations can still expect some broad benefits, especially if they are currently using pen and paper. Some of the benefits include:
To pick the best volunteer management system for your charity, you should first consider strategy. Volunteer management systems can perform myriad tasks, from improving communication to better reporting, from increasing engagement to supporting recruitment.
It is essential, therefore, that charities first decide what they want to achieve with their volunteer management system. That means thinking about strategy.
For organisations with ample resources, you might consider putting together a full strategy, with research backed up by insights and analytics. But you do not need to be that in-depth. Organisations can start by simply asking themselves some questions, such as:
By simply answering the above questions, you can start to develop a strategy. Perhaps you have noticed some weak areas, or perhaps some blind spots have unveiled themselves. Or maybe you are doing well in a particular area and you want to double-down on your success.
The volunteer management system can help you meet your goals, regardless of its simplicity or complexity. Below we take a look at some of the areas where volunteer management systems improve the processes of organisations.
Recruitment is the first step in volunteer management. Organisations need to recruit the right number of volunteers that they can effectively manage and ensure that those volunteers possess the right skills for the job at hand. That’s harder than it sounds.
Volunteer management systems can help you create profiles that will attract the right skills and talents, create pages that can attract more volunteers, and keep all previous information in one centralised place to continually attract the right volunteers.
In addition to the above, the scheduling features of a volunteer management system will help to improve and streamline the selection process. That means that charities are not simply onboarding the right people, but they are onboarding the right people for the right time.
After recruiting volunteers, charities need to engage with them in a way that feels welcoming, informative, and meaningful. Communication is key. One issue that organisations commonly face is the sheer number of channels with which they communicate with volunteers.
Some volunteers e-mail, others phone, others use WhatsApp, while others use social media chats. Volunteer management systems ensure communication is centralised.
Systems can incorporate many of the above channels – SMS, e-mail, etc. – and transfer the information to the centralised platform. In addition, some volunteer management systems allow users to automate communications, which can free up time for employees.
Organisations need to engage with volunteers. That means going beyond communication. That means finding out their primary skills and talents. That means ensuring the tasks they perform make the most of those talents. That also means engaging with their schedules.
Volunteer management systems allow charities to match skills. The system will help organisations to effectively engage with volunteers who have the necessary talents to perform the tasks at hand. Matching volunteers with appropriate tasks is mutually beneficial, allowing charities to improve productivity while ensuring the volunteer is not taken for granted.
In addition, volunteer management systems allow feedback from volunteers, which allows the organisation to improve internal processes and better engage with volunteers.
Tracking numbers, hours, skills, recruitment, and attrition rates can be time-consuming when organisations do not have in-built reporting. Volunteer management systems often have tracking functionalities that help your keep abreast of all your volunteer activities.
That’s important for organisations, as it frees up time and resources and makes feedback much easier. But tracking is also important for the volunteer. Tracking helps volunteers understand what has been achieved and the difference that they have made.
Volunteer management systems track volunteer efforts in one centralised place. They can generate reports that show patterns, illustrate the time spent on various projects, show improvements, broadly demonstrate impact, and much more.
Reports help volunteers quantify impact, which can be a massive incentive for them to continue volunteering. Tracking and reporting encourage long-term relationships, allowing the volunteer to feel useful to the community and valued by the charity.
Tracking and reporting are especially important in terms of recognition. Organisations need to practice acknowledgment, ensuring volunteers do not feel forgotten or underappreciated.
Perhaps organisations could send out a simple thank-you note to volunteers, or perhaps they want to throw an entire event dedicated to the hard work of their volunteers.
Either way, volunteer management systems can help. Some systems, including ones mentioned below, offer functionalities that promote volunteer recognition, such as thank you messages and online badges recognising hard work that appear on the system.
Now that you have a broad understanding of the benefits of volunteer management systems, along with how they work and how you could use them, we can turn to the systems themselves. Now we can explore some of the best options on the market.
Remember, when choosing a volunteer management system, that the system aligns with your goals and your strategy. You are not necessarily picking the best overall system, but rather the system that works best for your organisation.
General: Better Impact is well-known among volunteer management systems. It boasts its own database and online training space, as it allows you to create individual profiles for your volunteers and create e-learning modules. Better Impact also offers what it calls ‘enterprise functionality’ for multi-site organisations where volunteer management is decentralised.
Functionalities: The functionalities of Better Impact include:
Price: The prices for Better Impact are as follows:
General: Assemble is another popular option for volunteer management systems. The modern-looking software has various options for customisation, including a drag-and-drop editor, customised sign-up forms, and branding options. Assemble also boasts strong automation credentials and an emphasis on reference checks and compliance.
Functionalities: The functionalities of Assemble include:
Price: The prices for Assemble are as follows:
General: TeamKinetic appeals to charities of all sizes, with its various user options. The platform aims to encourage charities to grow, develop, and nurture their volunteer networks, using myriad personalisation and customisation options, with an emphasis on effective real-time reporting and the recognition of the hard work of volunteers.
Functionalities: The functionalities of TeamKinetic include:
Price: The prices for TeamKinetic are as follows:
Overview: Volgistics is well-suited to small decentralised organisations, as it has multi-site capability, allowing charities to manage groups of volunteers at different sites. It does not have database integrations, but its bespoke reporting may allow for data uploads. It can also be scaled to suit larger organisations.
Functionalities: The functionalities of Volgistics include:
Price: The prices for Volgistics are as follows:
General: Volunteero is a volunteer management system for charities of all sizes, with pricing focussed on the number of volunteers you are using. Volunteero prioritises ease and efficiency, with drag-and-drop options, real-time insights, and easy form management.
Functionalities: The functionalities of Volunteero include:
Price: The prices for Volunteero are as follows:
There are plenty of other options on the market, all of which offer myriad functionalities that may suit your charity more than the above options. Some additional research at this stage will prove hugely beneficial further down the line, but some of the more well-known and popular systems are as follows:
Each of these offers different functionalities at different prices. Do a little research, always keeping long-term goals in mind, and find the volunteer management system that best suits your needs and objectives.
Volunteer management systems can vastly improve your charity’s operations, increase productivity, streamline processes, help to forge lasting relationships, and so much more.
All of the above options have a deserved reputation as credible, reliable, and effective, but charities need to choose the one that best reflects their aims. Understand your goal, find out what you want to achieve, and then balance those objectives against the systems on offer.
We hope you have found the article useful. For even more information and some elaboration on the specific qualities needed for effective volunteer management, please check out our webinar below.