Episode #004: Why Volunteer Software Matters with Tony Goodrow

Welcome to the Volunteer Nation Podcast, bringing you practical tips and advice on how to build, grow, and scale volunteer talent. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson. And if you rely on volunteers to fuel your charity cause or movement stay tuned, I made this podcast just for you.

I am super excited to welcome my friend, Tony Goodrow, to the Volunteer Nation Podcast for a chat about volunteer management software. And why we might want to just ditch that spreadsheet. There are so many reasons why we need to begin to build our digital maturity as volunteer involving organizations. And we’re going to talk all about it In this episode.

Tony is the CEO of Better Impact and has been helping leaders of volunteers for over 20 years. He has presented workshops at volunteer sector conferences on five continents, pioneering the relative impact model of measuring volunteer ROI and is the founder and producer of the volunteer management hybrid conference, an annual event in partnership with Alive and Volunteer Management Professions of Canada, reaching over 1000 leaders in the volunteer sector.

His most cherished experiences as a volunteer include raising the funds to provide 1000 water filters to families in Peru and being the founding chair of 10 bed residential hospice in his hometown inspired by his mother’s personal hospice experience. I can’t wait to introduce you to Tony and for you to hear this fantastic conversation.

TOBI: Okay, Tony, welcome to the pod.

TONY: You Are welcome. It’s great to be here. Thank you.

TOBI: Our very first guest. What do you think about that?

TONY: That’s awesome. I feel honored.

TOBI: Well, you know, you and I have known each other for a really long time. I’m trying to think back. I, I feel like it was Points Of Light Atlanta, like a decade ago or something I know.

TONY: Yeah. Which seems like a whole other world now.

TOBI: Yeah, it totally does. It totally does. So before we get into this, you know, I’m going to have you introduce yourself, and then we’re going to get rolling and really get into volunteer management software because I feel like folks, a lot of folks aren’t there yet. And you know, we just finished our Volunteer Management Progress Report survey, and I’m putting together the report right now.

And, you know, while we’ve seen an uptake in tech adoption, you know, I mean for online applications forms, you know, online volunteer application forms only about 70% of organizations are using online forms. And contact databases, it’s like 64% and shift scheduling less than 50%, only 48%. And I’m thinking, you know, we’ve got this, this world of folks that haven’t caught up with, you know, how we do business, which is on our smartphones.

TONY: Right. You know, And even, even that 70% that have an online application form, you know, a lot of them just take that information and then manually type it into something else. So it is an, it is an essence double entry, but that’s just not necessary.

TOBI: Yeah. Just not necessary. And we’re going to get into this in more detail, but you know, things that make you go “hmmm.” You know, and you and I both run tech companies. So we have tech stacks that we work with, different tools we work with.

So we were both working in the digital space. So, you know, we’re obviously converts and believe, but, but I just know in my own company, just all, you know, just increases efficiencies in so many ways. So, you know, while you and I know each other and we’ve known each other forever, I feel like I can’t even remember when we first met, but it was probably over beers at a Points Of Light, I’m thinking. So, but tell the audience a little bit about yourself in the work you do.

TONY: Sure. So I’m the CEO of Better Impact, and we’ve grown from what was a team of two 20 years ago to now a team of 25 with offices in four countries. It’s, it’s something that I really, I kind of fell into like many leaders of volunteers. We didn’t leave university thinking that’s what they were going to do, but they discovered it and they fell in love with it.

And, and that’s, you know, where they’ve continued their, their career path. For me, I was running a small website development company, just building little websites for small companies and my hometown. And then I came across some circumstances that had me become the founding chair of a local residential hospice. And as the tech guy around the table in the early days, I set out to find what volunteer management software we would use. And this is a little over 20 years ago, so none of it was web based at the time, but because I was building websites, I could see the world was headed towards the internet. And so that we, we should have something that was web-based for that hospice, not desktop based.

So quite foolishly actually, I volunteered my staff’s time, you know, just a couple of us at the time that we would build something and donate it to the hospice. But as we got into scoping out what it ought to be, we realized A.) this was way too big a project for us to, to build and donate to just a one organization. And then, and then secondly, that we knew that technologies are going to evolve over time. So this isn’t a one-time give and then walk away, we’d have to keep doing it.

Well, I also fell in love with the idea of building volunteer management software instead of websites to sell widgets. So we shifted and, you know, we, we built started build the software to sell and just donated a license to that hospice.

And so we’ve been, that became a shift in the company that eventually we stopped doing websites over a decade ago. And our full focus is building software platforms that help nonprofits. Volunteer management has been our stronghold, as you know, and, and we’ve now moved into donor management and simple member management as well.

TOBI: Oh, awesome. I did not know that. So when did you start moving into the other spaces?

TONY: Two years ago.

TOBI: Okay. Okay. So this is sort of a new expansion for your company.

TONY: Oh, it is. Well, we recognize that a lot of our core, the core bit of our platform in volunteer management, just being able to manage a profile, have custom fields associated with the profile, be able to communicate with this group or that group. Well, that’s a common need in donor management software, just like it is in volunteer management software. So in essence, we had a bunch of the platform already built.

TOBI: Well, the other thing is volunteers are donors, and donors are volunteers. So it’s nice to have an integrated system. So you’re not sort of stepping on each other’s toes when you’re communicating and cultivating. Yeah. That’s really clever.

So recently, and getting back to the topic of why we’re here today: so recently, you know, we ask a lot, you know, went through the volunteer management progress report, but through, you know, we do member surveys in our membership and we’re constantly asking people, you know, what are your challenges?

And of course, volunteer management software is, comes up all the time. I get asked about it all the time. Like I would say, even inside our, you know, insider’s group, our free Facebook group on VolunteerPro Insiders, I would say every other week somebody is asking, you know, what, what software do you use, et cetera.

And recently I got asked, “So, I would like to know, and I would like you to train us on how to better use spreadsheets to manage my volunteers.” You know, now I felt like it was like, “I would like you to share with us how to better use an ox and cart to go down to the grocery store to get my groceries.” And I’m like, I’m not going to teach you how to do that because that’s olden times, you know?

TONY: I was thinking, my daughter’s turning 16. Could you show her how to to ride a horse instead of drive a car? That was what was going through my head. So yes, I hear you. Yeah.

TOBI: So, you know, it is, you know, and so I, you know, with all due respect and love to our audience, and we’re going to get into maybe what are the barriers to adopting new tech a little bit today, but with all due respect to our audience, you know, and, you know, folks are still, you know, we’ve got to move out of this space and you know, it’s not about getting more efficient about using tools that are obsolete.

You know, there is a, there is a place for IT spreadsheets, of course, but it’s not for building relationships, which is what’s, you know, in collecting data and keeping data safe. That’s not what a spreadsheet does. So the wrong tool for the wrong job really.

TONY: A lot, it was a good tool at one point. Yeah. Because nothing else existed. Exactly. But now things do, so it’s time to look at those things.

TOBI: So Tony, given that question and given my response, and I also know that you wrote recently wrote a piece, a thought piece on nine reasons to ditch spreadsheets. And so we’ll link to that in the show notes, but I thought maybe let’s start with what prompted you to write a piece like that.

TONY: So I came across something, I believe it was associated with the CVA and their membership. And it came out of there anecdotally that spreadsheets were the third most prevalent tool for storing volunteer profile information. And to me, that represents a significant number of organizations that are working with something that is essentially holding them back.

So we understand that because it’s free, it can feel like it’s the best value for an organization. And, and further that because it’s free, sometimes it’s harder to make a good business case as to why organizations should go out and spend money. You know, there’s all these pressures that we don’t spend money on administration, which is a whole other interview conversation then. Right?

But, but if you can spend money that actually increases the efficiency of the organization, it’s good value and therefore ought to be done, but there’s such pressure on the nonprofit organization not to spend it on administration. I think there’s an immediate default that says, look, if there’s something free, we should just simply use it. Even it will, it’s not as good.

TOBI: Right. Right. So the CVA, just for folks who don’t know, that’s Certified Volunteer Administration, it’s a credential for leaders of volunteers and it’s administered by the Council for Certification in Volunteer Administration. And they recently did a research study on tech adoption and volunteer managers and some of that still yet to be published.

But we actually, in our other podcast, I I’m a co-host on the Time and Talent Podcast with Jennifer Bennett at Volunteer Match. We interviewed the researcher of that study, Mark Hagar. So I will also link to that podcast in the show notes and folks want to learn more about that research, but that is, you know, they, they really went into detail about why, you know, why aren’t we moving forward here? So it’s interesting stuff.

So you had a response to that. So we’ll, let’s, let’s talk about a few reasons why, you know, it helped prepare people to make that business case at case. And I feel you, even on professional development, the cost versus value discussion comes up a lot.

And you know, if people can, you know, when it comes to professional development, if people can get there on software, if people can get there faster and more effectively and keep more volunteers involved and engaged, it’s, you know, that’s the value over the cost.

TONY: You know, I’ve, I’ve talked about this a little bit. And if, if, if an organization could double its administration cost, but let’s say quadruple, the number of trees at planted, if, if that was the, the, the sector it was in, well, wouldn’t that be actually possibly a great expense to take on and then have that much impact, but Hey, that’s a whole other topic, right?

TOBI: Yeah. And you know, there’s actually been some interesting Ted talks on, or at least one, I’ll try to see if I can find it on the idea of administrative overhead and why it’s important. You know, we need infrastructure in our organizations to be effective. You know, we’ve got to support our people who are our most valued asset.

So, well, let’s jump into this, let’s kick off and just maybe share a few reasons why, you know, why people should make the shift and, and move from manual volunteer tracking to something more automated.

TONY: So obviously there are lots, and I’ve only talked about nine that’s in that article. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll focus on just maybe two or three today. And the first one is around engagement. Consider if you were looking for a new bank and you went to, you saw two banks on the corner and, and one of them gave you an online platform that you could use to move your money around and pay your bills. And the other one didn’t.

Which bank would get your business? I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s not even, it’s, it’s such an obvious question, right? We know where we’re going to go to do our banking. And it’s because we appreciate the convenience of it. We appreciate having some control over our own processes in our, in our lives. And I recognize people probably bank more often than they volunteer, but nevertheless, it’s the same point.

Volunteers appreciate being able to have some control and participate in the, whatever it is that they’re doing. So a spreadsheet is not going to allow you to do that. A spreadsheet is like having that bank, that doesn’t have an online platform. And then of course, when we, because we’re looking to engage volunteers, just getting them in that process means we’re actually engaging them at a higher level than if we did all that data entry work on our, on our own.

And then of course, there’s a reason that the banks have embraced online banking because it saves them a bundle. And of course they’re interested in, in, in cost savings to make more money, but, but for a nonprofit organizations in, you know, we should be interested in time-savings of leaders, of volunteers and anybody in the team, because then they can go off and do other things within the organization that helps the organization need its mission more easily and further.

So efficiencies matter to a nonprofit, I guess everybody knows that. So it’s, it’s about this by going online, we get to engage our volunteers more and we get to save time ourselves, which makes it better for our organization.

TOBI: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I, I’m a volunteer, people. People who know me and follow me know I’m a master gardener. And throughout the past couple of years, most of my master gardener volunteering has been online. And so we do a gardening tips Facebook Live, when it’s gardening season it’s every Saturday morning, in the winter it’s once a month.

And we just had one last weekend and we were talking about seed starting in ordering seeds and et cetera. And every time I do that, I go on the portal and I log my hours and I need to do, you know, eight hours of CES, continuing ed education to stay certified. So I went online all last, the cup last couple years, logged my CESs watched videos.

So I was an active volunteer and feel connected via tech to my fellow volunteers, even though I haven’t seen anybody in person, literally I think one time in the last two years, and yet we’re ma you know, I’ve put in, I think over a hundred hours last year. And I feel a sense of, you know, just from the perspective of the volunteer, I feel a sense of satisfaction when I can watch my hours rack up.

Now I’m a little Type A so I’m probably, but there is some biofeedback almost going on when you’re able to like log into your portal and go like, oh, and their portal, by the way is super simple. It’s not, you know, they’re not doing like heavy duty, but they have a bit of a tech stack.
They do a newsletter every month and, you know, we have, we can go in and interact in a forum with folks. So, you know, but from the volunteer side, I mean, I think people don’t realize that volunteers are consumers, you know, and like nowadays, if your bank doesn’t do, like, for example, if I can’t deposit my checks through my phone, I would not work with that bank.

You know, so, you know, volunteers are consumers. Our expectations of speed, of response and ability to get things done and get ability to get problems solved is so much faster than it used to be back in the day.

TONY: After the engagement and the efficiency, I would throw one of the next ones in to consider. This is security and privacy. Let’s face it. Most non-profit organizations and charities are not ISO 27,001 certified.

And, and just for those that haven’t become familiar with that term, it’s a level of certification that looks at not only the technology and organization has in place, but all of its policies and procedures around keeping data secure, private, available, accurate, and most are, are any good VMS system themselves have become ISO 27,001 certified.

It’s one of the questions probably worth asking about, but it means that although the data’s not being stored on your laptop, it’s being stored out on the cloud, it’s actually being stored in a far more secure environment than it would be if you were trying to just start internally.

TOBI: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you’re logging into cloud-based software, let’s say, you know, you had a spreadsheet on your laptop and your laptop got stolen, or let’s say, you know, you have it in your, you know, you might store it in the cloud, but somebody logs in and shares it, you know, you know.

I think we do, especially nowadays with COVID and, you know, some folks are keeping records on whether or not people are vaccinated or, you know, there’s some pretty sensitive information sometimes kept online that, you know, volunteers want to feel like is, is kept safe, you know?

TONY: Sure. And some people might argue that they can password protect their spreadsheet, but you do a quick Google on breaking an Excel password and you’ll find that there are products out there that can do that in less time than you and I have talked about the security angle of this. So it’s only pretend security.

TOBI: Yeah. I also think for disaster recovery, I mean, nowadays we have so much more, you know, we have wildfire. I mean, it’s just like insane, wildfires, hurricanes, et cetera, et cetera. If things are captive, your kept on a physical computer and, you know, you have a hurricane come through, then that’s the end of that, you know?

And so, you know, I mean, I have to tell you I’ve thought about it. I mean, I would never like run a software company. Like, does it ever has just an aside question, does it ever keep you up at night? Like how much data you’re responsible for, with all of your clients and customers, because that would keep me up at night, but I’m sure you have, like, you know, you have like huge, you know, tell me about that.

TONY: I will say it, it doesn’t keep me awake at night because of the team that I’ve got, that I have so much confidence in, you know, our lead architect. He brings this up periodically, particularly when meaning is a senior management and the sales and marketing people are there as well. And, and it’s, “well, I know you want that new feature, but security programming comes first” and it always has with him. And because of that, I get to sleep at night.

TOBI: Yeah, yeah. You know, plus the servers, you know, the backup, all of that, the data is kept safe. So, but yeah, I like, I would never be able to sleep, but I’m glad you can, you know, it’s good. And all your customers can, too.

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TOBI: Anything else you want to share about, you know, why folks might want to make that leap off of that spreadsheet and onto something more automated?

TONY: Well, you know, just from a real top-level view, I think any decision that helps an organization get, get closer to achieving its mission should be seriously looked at and, and, and adopted in every way, in every way possible.

Because that’s really what it’s all about is achieving somebody’s mission. And sometimes it’s a battle because of budgets or other reasons or priorities within the organization, but it’s, it’s a, it’s a, it’s an exercise worth undertaking because we know the difference it can make in an organization when they move from spreadsheets to something like this. And I think you use HubSpot, am I correct about that?

TOBI: No. I use Active Campaign.

TONY: Fair enough. You know, there’s a number of products out there, but can you, could you imagine trying to do what you do with the lean team that you have if you were doing it all off spreadsheets? I know, but that’s, that’s the whole thing you see as businesses.

It’s easier for us to justify look, I’m going to spend all this money, but look at all the money I’m going to save. And it’s a challenge in some not-for-profits and charities to make that leap. But if in the end it helps us get closer to our mission. And in fact, does save us money when we look into the long look into the bigger picture, then of course we should be doing it.

TOBI: So, I think it’s true that folks don’t really realize how much time is spent by the volunteer coordinator. I remember I was working with doing a volunteer program assessment for a client and interviewing different staff. And I, it was interviewing the volunteer coordinator and I said, you know, she was very strapped for time and was spending, you know, like lots of days and nights, you know, like 12-hour days.

And I’m like, what, what are you doing in this time? And she said, well, part of it is managing the spreadsheet and you know, it was an arts and culture organization. So, they were plugging volunteers into shifts at venues, et cetera. And she was like, I have to get the, the scheduling in place. And I’m like, well, wait a minute, you’re doing this with a spreadsheet. Why aren’t you doing this with a software tool? And why aren’t the volunteers self-scheduling?

Like, I don’t get this, you’re spending like, you know, how many hours a week, you know, and we just think about volunteer retention and how complex the volunteer manager’s job is in terms of relationship building. And if you’re deploying your precious hours every week to doing data entry, even if you’re having a volunteer do that, a data entry and management. I mean, it’s just not efficient. It’s not a good use of time when it comes to relationship development with your volunteers.

TONY: Right. And I, and I’ve heard that argument before: it’s okay, I have a volunteer do it. And it makes me cringe inside because what you’re really saying is you don’t value that volunteer’s time.

TOBI: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and they could be redeployed for something a little more like how about being part of your welcome team, making welcome phone calls, leading your training.

TONY: There is an opportunity cost to deploy any volunteer in any position. So, you’ve got to recognize that as well.

TOBI: Yeah. I think that’s something folks don’t really recognize very often. That’s really smart. So, you know, we’ve talked a lot about some digital space and I, and I know this for some folks who are still using spreadsheets, you know, it, it, this may be a little bit of tough love we’re sharing today, but it’s only because gang, we, you know, Tony and I’ve been in the field for a long time, you know, a long time.

And we are both so dedicated to having our organizations really thrive and be able to attract and retain, you know, volunteers from all ages, you know, folks that are like, I want to find young, younger volunteers. What tech are you using? Well, none. Well, there you go.

You know, so, you know, that’s why we are having kind of this tough love conversation, but, you know, I like to be empathetic, too, with our organizations that are struggling to find a way, what do you think is, are some of the biggest roadblocks that are keeping people from moving forward and really adopting tech and specifically volunteer management systems?

TONY: I think this year it has to do with the pandemic. You know, in many organizations they’ve had to scale back on their workforce and that’s created, you know, less bandwidth for them to explore new things to do. And, but I see that recovering as well because sooner, cross our fingers, we are moving towards the end of this.

And I can tell you there’s an uptick in inquiries. So that that’s assigned to me, that organizations are, are, are getting some of that bandwidth back to be able to look at things. I think the, the challenges are around two areas on a, on a broader scale than just what’s going on currently.
And it is some people fear change. Some people, their, their job as a leader of volunteers has for so many years been about typing numbers into spreadsheets that they don’t, they don’t yet see what it could really mean if they dropped all of that in favor of doing something else, right.

And, and opening up new doors. Like I got to tell you a quick sidebar story about Andy Fryer and where he used to be a leader of volunteers. You can put a tag to, to Andy because he’s worth following at, at Oz VPM. But when he was a manager of volunteers at a hospital, he started and there was about 400 volunteers and a, a team of four leaders. And by allowing the, the leaders to stop doing things like data entry and find a new ways, they expanded their influence of the, as in terms of a volunteer program at the hospital, grew the volunteers to over 800 grew the staff to over eight or nine people because they got into actually managing and not just doing data entry.

So, but some people are a little hesitant to adopt a new change like that. And, and I think that’s one of the barriers, but boy, once you get over that, change that over that, that, that fear of something new, which, you know, can affect a lot of us. Once you get past that the door is open, but you do have to commit to trying to get past that.

And then the other is that of, you know, trying to wrangle the funds out of the out of management, I think, and I, you know, I hate to say this, but I think a number of organizations still, because volunteers are “free”, that the leaders of volunteers aren’t given the right resources to actually engage those, those volunteers. So that it’s, they seem to, in terms of budgetary allowances, it feels to me like the volunteer departments are kind of the last to get expanded in their budget.

But if that’s the case that it gets even worse in my mind, because it means these organizations that really depend on volunteers and probably stand up at their annual meeting and say, volunteers are our biggest asset don’t actually put their money where their mouth is and then support the volunteer department the way they should.

TOBI: Yeah. Yeah. And I think it, you know, it’s, it’s a perennial challenge. We hear it every year in the volunteer management progress report every year buy-in from leadership is, and resources and support are, are challenges that come up.

And I think organizations need to start thinking about how they resource volunteer services in different ways. You know, thinking about, you know, do, does volunteer services, for example, get part of a piece of the pie when it, when it comes to overhead. Is there, are there special ways to do fundraising specifically for that function?

You know, is there a way to, you know, if volunteers or donors, if people are tracking that, of course it’s sort of cart before the horse, if you don’t have the software set up, but if you know, you know, how much of your individual donations are, are coming from volunteers, is there a way to prorate that out in terms of, you know, how much support volunteer services gets?

There’s so many different ways, making sure volunteer services and volunteers are providing service to a specific program when the grants are written. That needs to be, that, that, you know, for example, volunteer management software should be written into the grant as part of the equipment or supplies that are needed. You know, there’s just so many ways to make sure this happens, but I think you’re right. It really is about in a lot of ways also about the mindset of the leader.

You know, I remember, you know, as an entrepreneur, we go through different evolutions, you know, and I remember when I had to start working, start working on my business, instead of in my business, you know, earlier, early on, it was all about this like getting the, you know, getting the consulting done, getting the training done, et cetera, et cetera. But, you know, I was ignoring all of the things that I had to do to do strategic planning, to manage my budget, to do et cetera, et cetera.

And so, I made that shift. So, it’s incremental in some ways how we move into leadership in our minds. And then a couple of years ago, I said, you know, you really need to start thinking like a CEO. And so, for an entire year, my mantra was “Think like a CEO” and it has changed radically the way I approach, you know, the work I do, you know, and I think it’s improved our business.

And so, I think, you know, similarly for volunteer managers to really think of yourself, regardless of how other people perceive you and your organization, think of yourself as a leader and how are you going to be that strategic consultant inside your organization around human resources deployment.

TONY: Yeah. I really liked that idea. And you’ve given me a, it, when you were talking about grant applications, you tweak the thought in that, you know, so many of them ask how many volunteer hours are going to be part of the project that we’re funding. So really those volunteer hours are an asset to that grant application and they couldn’t get the grant application without the volunteer hours.

So really a piece of that grant ought to be supporting the hours that, that end up getting contributed into it so that they get the grant, right? And then to your point, like thinking like a CEO and, and it’s, you know, maybe not the term that a leader of volunteers is going to adopt for him or herself, but it is thinking like, not an administrator. Remember, I mean, the old term as administrator of volunteers, well, let’s get rid of that idea. And the idea of leader of volunteers takes on a whole new vision as to what this role would really be.

TOBI: Yeah. I think it’s really interesting too, how software does bring about, you know, we brought on all kinds of, we have, I don’t know how many different softwares in our stack, I would say 20, at least maybe 30. Some we use daily. Some we use once in awhile and over the years, you know, I brought one on and then the next one on, in the night, and it’s always a growth spurt. You’ve, it’s, it’s challenging.

You’ve got to get, you know, you’ve got to, you got to fumble through, there is absolutely a messy middle, but you know, it does change your processes sometimes for the better. And, you know, it’s just kind of interesting the mindsets it can also change. And sometimes you don’t know fully what the impact is going to be. It’s almost like you have to have a little faith that it’s going to be, you’re going to get to a better place.

Before we wrap up. And I wanna ask you, you know, how people were going to ask what, how people can get in touch with you, et cetera. But before we wrap up and I actually didn’t include this on my outline, so I hope you’re okay with me asking, but you know, maybe one thing,
if people were to take one baby step towards, you know, consider taking a deeper look at whether or not volunteer management software would be right for their organization, what’s one baby step they could take for, or where to move forward.

TONY: I would say reach out to your volunteers for someone who has worked in a company that has recently put in any sort of CRM package and that they had some involvement in it. This is not, people will immediately think this is a, they’re looking for an IT person and that’s not the right fit at this point. It’s, it’s about working with someone who understands a before and an after, and knows that organization because they’ve been a volunteer there and can help articulate the journey and, and, and just assist along the way with anything that might be possible.

But just, you know, if you’d have, you’ve got a pool of a hundred or more volunteers, you likely have somebody that has gone through this journey that you’re considering. Why not engage them in the process?

TOBI: Yeah. So for folks who don’t know what CRM is, it’s customer relationship management system. So it might be, you know, an Active Campaign. It might be Convert Kit. It might be HubSpot. There there’s a market, too, there’s a bunch of them out there, but they’re used basically for more sophisticated relationship management and emailing, You know, automated emailing, whether it’s a broadcast email or automated email series. You know, we use a lot of that at VolunteerPro.

I couldn’t, you know, I can’t sit there and individually email every single person. I mean, we have thousands of people that follow us. There’s no way I could do it, but I can yet build relationships with people. I think that’s one other thing that keeps people back as they feel like it’s not a human touch. And I said, well, I have people I’m in touch with people around the world who feel connected to me. I know because I get emails from folks all the time.

I get emails from folks and I’m like, well, how does that happen? Well, it happens completely digitally. I met my husband on EHarmony and we fell in love online. Gang, relationships can happen digitally. Let’s not kid ourselves and saying, there’s no human touch there. Of course there is. So that’s sort of a myth that, that I think culturally.

TONY: And, and, you know, my immediate response to, to that would so take all of the time that you’re not having to key into a spreadsheet and go talk to people. So by using a higher level of tech, you save yourself some time that you actually get to build more in-person and one-to-one relationships.

TOBI: I mean, it, you know, okay. Gang. So we, I hope that, so to our listeners, I hope those of you who already have volunteer management systems in place, I hope this solidifies your commitment to using them in the most effective way possible. And for those of you who are still using spreadsheets, I hope this just inspires you to do, like Tony said, talk to your volunteers and talk to people who’ve had experience.

And if you don’t have a huge volunteer corps yet, then talk to other volunteer resource managers, reach out to folks and say like, who’s adopted new software and how did it go? And how did things, you know, do expect a messy middle. It’s always, you have to learn how to use something. You have to figure out how you’re going to integrate it into your work queue and into your, you know, but it’s going to be different. It’s going to be less time, et cetera.

One other question, before we close out, what are you most excited about in the year ahead?

TONY: Working with people face to face. Listen, don’t get me wrong. You and I are having this interview, obviously from two different locations. We’ve gotten quite used to working this way, even before the pandemic, because we’ve got offices in four countries. We’ve been kind of used to having these kinds of meetings in the past, but at least we could, could gather in our small teams wherever we were.

And you know, it’s, it’s coming up on two years now. There, there are members of, of, of my team that I have not seen in two years, some of them right in our, the same town that, that the head office is in, and then others around the world that I’ve never gone this long without seeing people. It’s actually getting back together to be able to work together. That’s, that’s my biggest thing.

TOBI: Yeah. I mean, just like being able to, like, you know, I’m looking forward to seeing you clinking a beer, sitting down, just chit chat and I’m using, I’m looking forward to hugging people. Like I’m a hugger, you know, can I just have people, you know, so, and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with our field.

You know, there have actually been several, lots of organizations who’ve actually taken this sort of lull in volunteerism, cause it has been a bit of a lull to adopt new texts. So I’m curious to see and excited to see when it starts taking off how much traction that gives them.

So in closing and thanks everybody for joining us, I’m, it’s just been such a pleasure to talk to you, Tony, and thanks to our audience for listening. And, and I know it was a little bit of tough love, but you know, gang, we just see, we see the bright horizon out there and we want to see our field get there.

So Tony, how can people learn more about your company, your product, get in touch with you and all include links in the show?

TONY: Sure. So we have regional websites, but I’ll make it simple and just put out BetterImpact.com. Because from there you can get to any of the regional sites and Canada, Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Ireland, et cetera. And of course, just if they’re interested in that blog piece, better impact.com/ditch it.

TOBI: I love it. And we’ll link to it again in this show. So Tony, fantastic. Thank you so much.

TONY: Thank you. I really enjoyed getting to connect with you for this long again.

TOBI: Yeah. Yeah. It’s been wonderful. And I look forward to seeing you in person.

TONY: Let’s do it.

TOBI: Take care. Bye bye.

Volunteer Nation is produced by Thick Skin Media. Be sure to rate, review, and follow the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. For more tips and notes from the show, check us out at TobiJohnson.com. We hope to see you next week for another episode of Volunteer Nation.