June 25, 2024

Episode #116: New Ways of Thinking About Volunteer Data & Tech with Chris Martin

In this episode of the Volunteer Nation Podcast, host Tobi Johnson is in Manchester, England, speaking with Chris Martin from TeamKinetic. They explore new ways of thinking about volunteer data and tech, covering topics such as the role of AI, open data, reusable personal credentials, and techniques for efficiently tracking volunteer hours.

Chris shares his journey from being a physical education teacher to becoming a tech entrepreneur, detailing how TeamKinetic aims to simplify volunteering through innovative technologies. The discussion highlights the need for the volunteer sector to adopt advanced technologies to streamline volunteer engagement and encourage seamless participation, as well as TeamKinetic’s service model and their commitment to social good. 

Volunteer Data – Episode Highlights

  • [01:46] – Chris Martin’s Journey into the Voluntary Sector 
  • [02:48] – The Birth of Team Kinetic 
  • [03:50] – Challenges and Successes in Volunteer Management 
  • [09:13] – The Importance of Community in Volunteering 
  • [12:29] – The Role of Technology in Volunteer Management 
  • [21:08] – AI and the Future of Volunteer Management 
  • [32:37] – The Potential of Open Data in the Voluntary Sector 
  • [36:09] – Revolutionizing Volunteer Data Management 
  • [36:37] – Creating Transferable Volunteer Profiles 
  • [37:19] – Oversight and Governance of Volunteer Apps 
  • [37:43] – The Future of Wallet Technology in Volunteering 
  • [40:07] – Adapting to Consumer Behavior in Volunteering 
  • [43:12] – Personal Data Stores and AI in Volunteering 
  • [44:28] – Collaborative Ecosystem for Volunteer Management 
  • [53:03] – Innovative Approaches to Volunteer Hour Tracking 
  • [56:52] – Embracing Technology for Volunteer Engagement 
  • [01:01:13] – Looking Ahead: Exciting Developments in Volunteer Tech

Volunteer Data  – Quotes from the Episode

“If we can create an environment where you have some basic standards, it’s a better consumer experience. It’s a better business to business experience. We can do amazing things with that data. When you start to aggregate every bit of volunteer data, every bit of opportunity data, that data set becomes really powerful.” 

There’s some privacy questions to be dealt with here. And I think there’s also a real conversation for the sector around that kind of stuff. How should we be using that tech? What kind of profiling is appropriate? What kind of data should we be holding on volunteers to enable us to communicate with them, but also enable them to opt out or opt in as I see fit.” 

About Chris Martin

Chris is the CEO and founding member of
TeamKinetic, overseeing the very first developments through today’s application with over 450,000 volunteers. 

TeamKinetic is a digital volunteer engagement and management platform. Our mission is to make volunteering ‘easier’ for everyone, all the time. Volunteering is a rare, universal, and valuable good that unites us all. It is the glue that holds our societies together in everyday life and in times of crisis. 

We achieve our mission by helping our customers to:  

  • Mobilise your volunteers through effective digital and real-life engagement  
  • Manage your volunteers in a simple online system 
  • Measure the impact your volunteers generate and help you tell your stories
  • Motivate your volunteers with meaningful recognition 

While studying for his MSc in Sports Science at Leeds Metropolitan University, Chris started his first business servicing local authorities and other large institutions with online tools to facilitate the delivery of exercise programmes. Some of these tools would form the basis of TeamKinetic volunteer management software. As a volunteer and a beneficiary of other amazing volunteers, Chris’s passion for making volunteering ‘easier’ and more accessible continues to guide his work today.

About the Show

Nonprofit leadership author, trainer, consultant, and volunteer management expert Tobi Johnson shares weekly tips to help charities build, grow, and scale exceptional volunteer teams. Discover how your nonprofit can effectively coordinate volunteers who are reliable, equipped, and ready to help you bring about BIG change for the better.

If you’re ready to ditch the stress and harness the power of people to fuel your good work, you’re in exactly the right place!

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Episode #116 Transcript: New Ways of Thinking About Volunteer Data & Tech with Chris Martin

Tobi: Welcome everybody to another episode of the volunteer nation podcast. I’m your host, Tobi Johnson, and we are on location in Manchester, England. I decided to mix it up a little bit. So, this week I’m doing some broadcasting from England and today I have a special guest with me, Chris Martin from team kinetic. Hey, Chris.  

Chris: Hey, how are you?  

Tobi: Good. So, Chris’ company was a sponsor of an event I was here at with the Association for Volunteer Managers, AVM. We called the big help out where I was doing training on volunteer recruitment. And during that training, I did some focus on, as part Just a small part of the larger day training on really how to optimize your web pages for better volunteer engagement. We also talked about social media, email marketing, et cetera, but it got Chris and I talking about what you could do beyond the nonprofit website. 

What are the things that are coming up on tech that we need to be aware of that might be opportunities for us? To save time that may not be that expensive that may make things more Efficient and effective and easier for our volunteers There’s just a lot on the horizon that maybe you as a volunteer manager may not be aware of yet But that may be coming down the pike soon So that’s why I thought Chris could join us and talk about it But let’s kick it off Chris with just telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do.  

Chris: So, my name is Chris Martin, and I was one of the founders of a company called Team Kinetic. We build volunteer management and engagement software. We’re pivoting to the engagement rather than the management. And we’ve been going for 15 years, primarily here in the UK. We’ve had a few international clients, but our primary business has been here in the UK. And yeah, I’m sort of that combination of Someone that loves volunteering but sort of a tech evangelist, which I think is a good combination at the minute where we are in the world.  

Tobi: Yeah, and I’ll link to your company page and anything else you want to mention later. Thank you. But tell us how you got into the voluntary sector because you and I’ve been talking, and I know you. 

Chris: I there isn’t a straight line into the voluntary sector is what I’ve learned over the years. And my journey isn’t as unusual as it may be felt whilst I was living it. But I was a PE teacher and I often tell people when they ask me what I do, I’m an out of work PE teacher. So that’s a physical education teacher, I guess, and I was working in that space, and I set up a small company doing sports coaching and that company got bigger and bigger. 

I didn’t know where my coaches were working on a week-to-week basis, and I didn’t know what they were getting paid. And that’s a real problem when you’re trying to run a business. And we were in about 150 schools across the greater Manchester area. So, I built myself a little database to try and manage that process. 

I showed that to my client at the time, which was a city, the city council, the municipal council. And they said, oh, we’ve got volunteer projects that we’d like you to get involved in. What do you think you could turn that into something that might work for volunteers? At the time, Manchester had a reputation that was very strong for volunteering around event volunteers. We had a big international event in the city where they recruited 10, 000 volunteers for the event.  

Tobi: Wow.   

Chris: So, it’s just post Atlanta in the Olympic games. And they were dining out on that reputation, should we say, Manchester, they were very proud of that reputation. But when we were brought in to find out a little bit more about what was going on. 

It turns out that it was a spreadsheet with 200 names on it. So somewhere along the way, in about 3 or 4 years, they managed to lose 9, 800 volunteers. And it was like, okay, well, why did that happen? What went on? And we, you know, all the classic stuff, post event legacy is never quite what it’s made out to be. 

You know, once the event’s finished, everyone sort of disappears back off to their normal jobs. But the Olympic Games in London was around the corner. London wwasgoing to come and look at what Manchester had done, and Manchester were a little bit embarrassed, I think, by the, what had happened.  

Tobi: Right.  

Chris: So, they found a little bit, I mean a little bit of budget, it was a couple of thousand pounds, and asked us if we could do something. We looked at what was out there at that point, it was 2007, Facebook was still good guys rather than bad guys. Yeah. The iPhone was new.  

Tobi: Yeah. I mean, I remember I had a flip phone.  

Chris: Exactly. There you go.   

Tobi: I was just starting to text in 2008.  

Chris: Yeah. I mean, the app store was 12 months old is that, and there were about six apps in it. 

Tobi: Oh, do you remember the app with the little fish, and you could feed the fish? Yeah,  

Chris: Exactly. I like the one where you could, like a pint of beer and you drink it, and the beer would go down as you’re drinking it on the screen. You know, this is the level of tech we’re working at. And it all seemed so, it all seemed so happy and healthy back then, you know, it’s been an interesting few years since then. 

It’s hard to believe it’s only been 15 years, but we looked at what was in the market, and it was very traditional. You’d generally have to go and see somebody, you’d fill in a piece of paper, or you may have a web form, that web form would then be emailed to someone. And I know we’ve been saying this, there’s an awful lot of organizations that are still doing this. 

Tobi: Yes, they are. 

Chris: That was the norm everywhere at that point. And we thought, well, let’s take a different approach. Let’s put the volunteer at the center. of their experience. Let’s put the, let’s give the volunteers much agency over their decision making. Let’s let them make choices based upon their preferences and let’s give them an account fundamentally, which they can manage. 

Okay. It seemed great. We had a very modest target of trying to recruit 300 volunteers in a two-year period. And we recruited two and a half thousand in a two-month period. Wow. And it was like, Oh, This works. This works. And at this point, I had been a volunteer. I’d been a PE teacher and a sports person, I’d been involved in clubs, and I volunteered. 

So, I had a low-level understanding of what it was to be a volunteer. I’d worked on events, managing volunteers. I had some basic knowledge, but I didn’t come from the sector. I had to come from that sort of charitable, cause driven, voluntary space. And we stumbled onto this product, because that’s what it became. 

And the city council were like, ooh, this does work. And they were kind enough to introduce us to the university, and they bought the product. And they were kind enough to introduce us to Glasgow City Council, and they bought the product. Before you know it, it is much easier selling tech than being a PE teacher and being out in the rain in Manchester on a windy Tuesday afternoon with 30, 30 kids that don’t want to play football. 

I was getting to an age where my legs weren’t quite looking as good in shorts as they used to. We, I made the choice like, okay, we’re going to, we’re going to go and do this and we’re going to, apply this product and it was a very slow, cause I wasn’t a tech entrepreneur and I still don’t feel, again, like the imposter syndrome, I still don’t feel like a tech entrepreneur. 

Tobi: Yeah. 

Chirs: But I stumbled into this market. I stumbled into this niche, and it turns out, you know, when you wake up in the morning, you work in this space, you feel good about yourself. Yeah. So, it’s not a bad place to be.  

Tobi: Yeah. Yeah, I get that leaving the sports scene. I think I shared it with you. I played soccer my whole life football for those of you in the UK and by the way, shout out to all the folks who were at the event yesterday. We had some fabulous super fans. Oh, it’s great brilliant, but yeah, I remember when I left soccer. I was wearing two knee braces, and two ankle braces I was playing co rec and I was like, you know what? It’s time to retire.  

Chris: When the recovery period is ten times longer than the game, you know that it’s time to maybe hang up your boots and start thinking about darts.  

Tobi: I will not give up. I still have my boots. I still have my socks. I still have my shin guards. I can’t get rid of them. I don’t know. Maybe I’ll start coaching one day. Anyway, well, tell me a little bit. So, you’ve come and I agree. I don’t, I feel, you know, I didn’t start out as a tech entrepreneur. I started out as a consultant trainer, et cetera. And then in 2015, when we started VolunteerPro, I just saw a need for people to be connected and to have on demand information for just in time strategy. 

Yep. You know, in just in time implementation and then to build a community of people across different cause impact areas and within cause impact areas and be able to really form a sense of community. There’s something really powerful about community and being able Myself in an entrepreneurial, you know, I’m a part of a mastermind group, which is the community I’m part of that I invest in for myself. 

Just, I’m just coming off in Cambridge for two days, masterminding with the community that I joined. I love that mastermind. 

Chris: I love that.  

Tobi: It’s so good. And you walk away and some of the biggest things you learn are about When you’re in community, and that was a theme for yesterday, really, of our recruitment, sort of an overview is it just strengthens you and gives you more confidence. And so, coming into and starting to do tech, you’re really driven by the mission of tech, not the tech itself.  

Chris: Exactly that. Yeah.  

Tobi: You know, you kind of get into tech because you know, it’s a tool that can bring about the result you want.  

Chris: I’m old enough to remember when tech was this utopian future, which would create these amazing communities that would be to the benefit of humankind. I feel that the last 15 years has seen that picture change a little bit. Yes. The tech has maybe been used some darker. Uses and been weaponized a little bit against some of the communities and communities being used to the tool against itself. But what we did when we started with Team Kinetic as a product is we realized very quickly that the sector was quite poorly equipped to deal with tech vendors. 

It doesn’t have the skills or the knowledge often within the organizations to make informed choices. And that was a worry for us. We often said we came to this sector five years too early because we weren’t talking to people. They would glaze over or turn white in fear of some of the things we were suggesting and that massively changed with covid. 

But it was very much our, the sort of, the mission of the company was to make volunteering easier. That’s, and it’s still the mission of the company. It’s written on the wall in big letters in our office to make volunteering easier. It’s nothing, we’ve added a couple of words to make volunteering easier for everyone. 

So, our initial mission was to make it easier for the volunteers. And put the volunteer at the center, but we realized that was only one aspect. We had to make it easier for the organization. We had to make it easier for the volunteer manager. And that’s where all our design decisions are based, all our design decisions are born out of that mantra. 

If it’s not making it easier, if it’s adding complexity, it needs to have a good reason to be there. Yeah.  

Tobi: Yeah. That’s so funny. I had a slide. You must’ve been surprised. I like that slide. Yeah. I have a slide in my training that says, you know, your decisions should make volunteering easier. 

Chris: So, there was that one. The other one I just the lady sat next to me, Rachel from the RDA. And you were talking about how you start the conversation. And I said, we call this the first date problem. And he went, and this is like the first date issue you have where you don’t want to share too much. 

And she literally looked at me. I was like, I told you. So, it was nice yesterday to know that we’re, you know, we’re not, we’re on the same page. We’re on the same page.  

Tobi: Well, you know, volunteerism during COVID, we sort of had people who were doing it in very creative ways, and some people were shutting it down, and we’re building back, but we’re having a hard time building back. 

But, you know, I made the case, and I’d love to hear your point on this or point of view on it, is that community and volunteerism is more important than ever. Yeah. And volunteers are struggling to get connected with organizations. And I think for the most part, not for a lack of trying or a lack of intent, but you know, we all have PTSD from COVID. 

I believe that we’re suffering globally from a global malaise and fatigue, but volunteerism can actually build resilience. It’s good for our health. It’s good for our mental health. And so, if people get involved in volunteering, it may help us recover from COVID faster. I’m putting that out there, but for you, what, for you, what does community and volunteers mean to you and why is it important right now? 

Chris: So, I digressed before, but what I was trying to get to be we realized that within the sector, there were, you know, volunteer managers often work in isolation. They work with volunteers, so they’ve often got people around them, but not their peers, as such. Right. There’s a loneliness to the job, and isolation often from other elements of HR the business, just because of the nature of the people you work with and the thing you do. 

We work hard with our customers to create a sense of community. So, within our product, there’s a pay-to-pay network where they can ask each other questions. We run masterclasses that are led by our customers and led by ourselves to get conversations going. We are partnering with the Association of Volunteer Managers because we think we want to lead the sector in a better state than we found it. 

So, in that sense of community, our people. The volunteer managers, the people we sell to, we felt that there was a job to be done to try and bring that together where we could and use our position as a tech provider to increase that knowledge in a way that was safe and hopefully that people could trust us as a building trust with the audience. 

And we’ve got a piece of work coming out in a couple of months’ time, which I’ll share with you, which is our volunteer managers digital toolkit. So, there was that piece, but then going back to the wider piece on the community piece. I mean, volunteering, this is ours, I’m lifting it pretty much verbatim off what we have as our executive statement on our website, which is it’s one of humanity’s oldest traits. 

We’ve been doing it since the dawn of time. It’s the reason we’ve progressed. The social reason we progress beyond the animals is because we can work together socially. It’s a reason we survived as a species, doing things for each other, not for money, but for free, because it’s for the benefit of society. 

And we hold that. That thought very deep in what the way we try and operate as a business. And we try to reflect that into the things, you know, you mentioned just about social proof. The ability for volunteers to leave positive feedback on their experiences and we use that like a happy trip advisor to show other volunteers that. 

So, when volunteers go to our opportunity page, they can see feedback left by other volunteers, but only the happy stuff. The negative stuff we send out to the administrator. We’re experimenting at the minute by allowing volunteers to make themselves discoverable by other volunteers. The social network element is fraught with danger. 

So, when I say experimenting with, we are experimenting with it just now. But this idea of volunteering leased community trust. And we’re in a time at the minute where we’re never more polarized. But we’re in a dangerous time. I think, you know, I don’t want to set the podcast on a dark, like down a dark road, but we’re in a dangerous time. 

And that is because there’s forces at work that are pulling us apart and trying to polarize us. And I think if you spend time working with somebody, doing a job, even if their views and beliefs are quite different to yours, but you’re shoulder to shoulder with them, doing something for the wider good of your community, there’s nothing more impactful to making you realize that’s just another person who shares your views. 

They may share your values if they don’t share your beliefs. And having that understanding of each other’s shared values is really powerful. And that’s what volunteering really can bring you. There’s lots of research around the Scandi countries and around various parts of the world where you have that strong history of volunteering and where you have that, that strong social value around community, there’s a high level of trust in that community. And we, you know, trust is a really difficult thing to measure, but you know, if you haven’t got it, because Things get very hard. It makes things very hard to do. Yes. 

Tobi: Yeah, I mean, Stephen Covey wrote the book, the Speed of Trust. Right.  

Chris: I’m going to have a look at that because I’m, trust is a big thing for me. I like, yeah, I like the concept.  

Tobi: It’s a management book, but I’ll put the link to it on the show notes page. But it basically, the basic premises is that your company is more productive when your employees trust and of course, throughout the, because you’re not withholding information, you’re freely sharing your cost of doing, business goes down. 

And you’re, you know, you’ve been able to be open and candid about your issues. You’d be able to come together and solve problems together. I love this idea, though, that you say you can share values, not necessarily beliefs. Yeah. So, the value might be, you can think about, for example, a very. Clear value of a lot of people’s family, right? 

And you could say people on the left side of the spectrum politically people on the right side of the spectrum politically Would both say and probably equally that they value family Of course, and but the belief around how that again gets implemented may be different. How that manifests are quite different sometimes you know, but people can come together if it is around a shared cause around, it helps people come together and then also realize that their bias, they recognize their bias. Sometimes people don’t recognize their bias until they’re faced with it.  

Chris: Of course. There’s a conflict with their understanding. 

Tobi: Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, you know, I’m a racist or I’m a this or I’m a that. You just don’t do that because that’s not how you see yourself. But you kind of go, huh. Yeah. Huh. This person’s different than I thought they’d be.  

Chris: Of course. And then you still don’t compute that as, oh, maybe I had a stereotypical vision of this person in your head, because you don’t see yourself through that lens having it pointed out to you.  

Tobi: Yeah.  

Chris: That self-realization is, you know, again, who wins an argument? Very rarely does anybody win an argument. If you point things out to people and tell them they’re wrong, you immediately become defensive.  

Tobi: Yeah.  

Chris: Whereas if you have that lived experience of working with somebody from a different community or culture you’ve not worked with before. But it turns out, well, they’ve got family too and they also believe in our community, and they want to see the park tidier and prettier and they want to see this local swimming club being sustained, you know, then we share more than we share more in common than we are. 

Tobi: I had an experience of this last night. I was watching a show on TV here called the lady parts.  

Chris: Okay. No, I’ve heard of this show. 

Tobi: So good. 

Chris: It was only satellite channels in the hotel, was it? Yeah. 

Tobi: Yeah. It’s a British TV show. It’s a little bit, it’s you know, a little bit budget, I think. And it’s called The Lady Parts and it’s all okay. It’s a drama series, but it’s a comedy. Okay. It’s a dramedy, but it’s mostly comedy, and it’s Muslim, young Muslim women, they’re hipsters and they’re in a band. And first of all, women with head coverings, you would never think, okay they’re in a band, they’re out looking for a band manager, you know, they’re out promoting, they’re having inner conflict, you know, and then, you know, just, I realized like how little I know about this community and then the diversity within one woman’s in full, of course, one woman has, you know, has no head covering. 

So, the diversity across Muslim women, I was just like, I was just immediately taken by it. So, I watched a couple of episodes and I’m like, oh, I’m learning about this community. I don’t know this community. So immediately, like I am self-reflective in this way. So, I’m realizing my biases are being questioned. 

Chris: It’s great TV though. It makes you do that.  

Tobi: So, it was really interesting. Good stuff. You know, I just love it when I’m on TV and like that show would never appear in the US never in a million years.  

Chris: Give about two years ago, Netflix, anyway. 

Tobi: But it’s true, but you know what, let’s switch gears and talk. We’ve been talking a little bit general, and this is what a great conversation about like just grounding us in why do we do this in the first place, how your company it has, it’s sort of. You know, basic vision and foundation and kind of springboard us into a conversation about sort of beyond the nonprofit website, what do we need to be thinking about? 

And we’re going to take a quick break from talking about beyond the nonprofit website. And afterwards, I swear, gang, we will get to talk about the future of tech. So, stay with us. Don’t go anywhere. We will be right back. 

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Tobi: Okay. Welcome everybody. Thanks for listening. I’ve been having this fantastic engaging conversation with Chris Martin from Team Kinetic, and we’ve been talking about just building community via tech and beyond the nonprofit website. 

You know, he helped Bring me to Manchester and we were doing work and training a full day on volunteer recruitment techniques and strategies, and I thought it’d be great to have this conversation about going beyond tech. So, let’s start with the one that everybody always wants to talk about, which is AI. 

When we think about going beyond the nonprofit website. Yep. What do organizations, particularly volunteer services departments, volunteer managers, volunteer leaders need to think about when they think about AI? What’s what? How can they use AI now and what can they expect from AI in the future?  

Chris: AI, let’s be clear, is in its infancy, and we’re still working out all the use case examples of where it can be used. This idea of just using AI is a bit of a tricky one because it kind of requires a context to use it against or in. And I think what you’ll start to see over the next few years is it becomes a part of lots of other products you’re already using. 

So, it’ll become embedded here, there, and everywhere. And it’ll just become part of your day to day There’s obviously tools out there now, such as Google’s Gemini and OpenAI that you can use, and you can pop information into. So, if you wanted to rewrite your opportunity descriptions, they’re useful for things like that. 

We’re looking at taking our data set, our existing data set of over a million opportunities that have been created on our platform and using that to train the AI. So, it makes more appropriate suggestions for volunteer managers as they’re trying to write good opportunity. The other thing that AI is going to be quite useful for is this idea of aggregating data, and we’re all used to Google. We’ve seen, you know what happens there. But the idea that rather than you having to rely on a Google to do that, that you can do that within a data set. I mean, you were talking before the podcast about this idea of open data and this ambition that we can have a data set of volunteering that is more shareable, more interoperable, that we can use data in a way that It’s to the benefit of the wider sector and it’s less proprietary. 

And I know that’s quite an anthem to certain organizations that don’t like to share. If anything, if you haven’t learned anything from the tech boom over the last 20 years, it’s that you need to grow the pie bigger all the time, grow the audience bigger, because in a world which is becoming more global and more big data centric, your little charity, even if you’re a big charity, it’s really difficult to make a splash is we’ve got to work together. 

We’ve got to bring our audience together to get the maximum impact. So, I can see AI having a really important role to play in one helping to sort that data out and then to helping us. Access that data in a way that becomes useful to a volunteer. And the kind of things we’re looking at is Alexa, Google Home, sort of what we would call the natural language approach, where you can just talk to the tech. 

And the same with the messaging approach, where we’re looking at how you may be able to use messaging applications like WhatsApp and iMessage to interact directly with that data set to the point where you don’t even need you get a message through your iMessage. It says, these are some opportunities we think you might be interested in. 

What do you think? And you can answer back saying, oh, the opportunity on Tuesday looks interesting. Great. Here’s some information about it. Do you want to sign up? Yes, I do. Oh, great. We’ll see you on Tuesday. And then on Tuesday, you get the reminder to say, we look forward to seeing you on Tuesday. Oh, by the way, just upload your driver’s license so we can confirm it’s you before you turn up. 

That’s the level we want to get to, where. There’s no person involved in that at the other end. That’s all powered by a bot. It’s all powered by a robot. Did I say robot? It’s all powered by the software, but the volunteers had a completely natural interaction with it and turns up on Tuesday. 

And it’s, it takes the volunteering to where you mentioned yesterday in your course, meet the volunteer where they are. They’re not in your app. They’re not even on your website unless they’re really keen to get there in the first instance. They are on these messaging apps because it’s in everybody’s phone, everybody’s pocket, everywhere in the world. 

Obviously, there are ethical questions to be dealt with here. Yeah. There are some privacy questions to be dealt with here. And I think there’s also a real conversation for the sector around that kind of stuff. How should we be using that tech? What kind of profiling is appropriate? What kind of data should we be holding on volunteers to enable them, enable us to communicate with them, but to enable them to opt out or opt in as I see fit. I’d say we’re at the start of this journey though.  

Tobi: Yeah. Yeah, we use AI right now inside the Volunteer Pro Community. We’re talking about this earlier. Yeah, we have an embedded AI widget inside our pro top community, and it crawls all our transcripts from all of the webinars, trainings, et cetera, anything that’s on video format in our course library, in our replay library of trainings. And you know, I’ve been, you know, volunteer pro has been around since 2015. So, there’s a lot of content and it’s really hard. What we were finding is because we have such a plethora of content, people are having a really hard time finding things, and it’s nearly impossible to index that because it’s random data.  

The first iteration, and we still have this widget in the community as well, it’s called Wisdom AI, but the other widget, I can’t remember, but basically you can type in and it will take you to that part in the video, even that by keyword, I want to hear about using social media for volunteer recruitment. It will take you to where I talk about it in the video. You click on the video and I’m using those keywords. So however, the AI bot takes it to another level because it aggregates, like if you type this in chat, GPT style, it will give you a written answer. 

Yes. And then it will link to. Yeah, where so they can go in deeper. And we also upload our This podcast, so this podcast will be in there, if people go, what has Chris Martin said on AI, it’s going to people, it will create a chat GPT, and people will be able to read it and they’ll be able to go to the source. 

So it’s interesting how the iteration of using your interface as a user with the information to be able to access information just in time and just the right information. Yes. You know, and not right now, like open AI and chat GPT, it’s not accurate, you know, it’s not, it’s still a bit jarring. You still got to go somewhere to do it. It’s not quite that flow that you know, my, my mom isn’t going to do that. Right.  

I could see in this case, we know our members are getting accurate data because it’s only my data. Yes. As far as I think it’s accurate. You know, so they’re getting from the expert or from any of our guest experts. 

Yeah. I could see this at some point, if you’re talking about native use, I could see at some point memberships being part of the flow of a chat app or like a WhatsApp or one of these, you know, messenger or whatever, where they’re just talking in and getting the information and knowing where they’re getting it from. 

Chris: I mean, there’s two things, knowing where they’re getting it from, because obviously this stuff is black box, that is still something AI needs to, we need to be more certain about. Yes. You know, the nature of our sector is, shall we say, a little conservative when it comes to tech and it’s nervous about some of these things. 

And some of the environments we’re working in, you know, contain a certain amount of risk. The quality of the information is still something that AI is obviously working to improve. And these big companies are trying to do something about it. So, there’s that, but we part that for a second, sort of the ethics and the quality piece the user experience the inflow piece, that’s the, I think that’s still, that’s what we’re going to see over the next two or three years. 

It just becomes more and more there. Yeah. You know, the devices you have will be more and more plugged into That kind of user experience, you just talk to it, and you just interact with it. Yeah. And it’s HOKs back to you, right? I mean, people are getting used to this with their phone, you know, like fire sticks or whatever. 

Tobi: Yeah. Hey, I want to watch Premier League Chelsea game, you know, gang. I’m laughing because we, I was talking a lot about Premier League football. Y’all know, I’m a fan, you know, y’all know I’m a Chelsea fan. If you’ve been listening and I was talking about it yesterday anyway, but long and short of it, you know, just making it part of your everyday life. You’re just like voice activating your volunteerism. Right?  

Chris: Exactly. No.  

Tobi: Yeah. So I also like the other side of AI, which is aggregating data. Now I will in full disclosure say we do our volunteer management progress report every year. This year. I attempted to try to have AI code the data. 

Chris: How did he go?  

Tobi: It did not go well. I had 600 responses and I said, you know what? I’m going to load this up in a chat. I’m going to break it down because you can’t do them all at once. I broke it down into chunks and I said, please code this using this rubric. And I uploaded my like coding categories and I said, please code. 

And I tried my prompts. Obviously, my prompts weren’t the right prompts. I just couldn’t get it to do it. Now, I’m assuming they’re probably, and especially in academia, they’re probably AI platforms that will do this and do it and you pay for it and all that. I was looking for a free version. I think for that one, Wolfman Alpha.  

Chris: What’s it called? 

Tobi: Wolfman Alpha. Which is one of the first ones. Mathematica is there and it’s probably way out of price range for me.  

Chris: Nope, it’s free. 

Tobi: Free? 

Chris: Free to use.   

Tobi: Dang, I’ve got to check that out. Well, and there is a bit, you know, there’s the human side, the wisdom side.  

Chris: Of course. Well, the AI allegedly can interpret, but where we are right now with AI is It’s their interpretations, then with your oversight of them interpreting to say, they’re right. Yes. And where you put the weighting of the interpretations, you know, they can interpret much more data than you can. They can do it much faster. 

Tobi: Yeah.  

Chris: But you really can draw out the real value. Yes. You know, the AI is nowhere near that yet. So, it’s great if you’ve got 10, 000 bits of useful data, it’s great if you get 15 findings. But it really only matters if you can take the two or three really important findings out of that to, yeah, to focus your energy on. 

Tobi: Right. And to interpret how to use the findings, right. Yeah. And why they’re relevant at all. Yeah. I mean, I find sometimes I’ll use a chat GPT when I’m working on an outline for a podcast for this podcast, just to prompt my mind to think about, you know, I’m doing like six tips on X, Y, Z, or I’m doing this. 

And it’s hard to keep that going fresh. Yeah. And then I’m like, oh yeah, I forgot about that piece. And then I can, I add all my special sauce to it. Sometimes if I’m having a guest, they have a book, I want to hear, I want to, you know, hear the top lines of the book. And I want to think about what other ways of looking at the book that I haven’t thought about. 

So it’s more of an assistant researcher. Yes. Then. A content producer, I would never write a blog post and cut and paste ChatGPT results into a blog post, for example, it’s just not, we’re not there yet. It is interesting. I think the whole idea of intellectual property, and I mean, that’s a big debate, like how, when it’s taking of all of our intellectual property and aggregating it and no one’s licensing anything about it, you know. 

Let’s, given that conversation, let’s talk about open data because, you know, IP, intellectual property and open data appear at first glance to be, you know, contradictory, but you have a different take on it. And let’s talk about open data. We talk about AI, let’s talk about open data and how it can apply to the voluntary sector. 

Chris: So, we’ve been doing this for 15 years and anybody that does know me knows I’ve been withering on for the last five or six years about this silo effect of the various technical technology vendors that are out there. Now you’ve got your big players, your sales forces and your Microsoft Dynamics. 

Then you’ve got your specialist players like us, you know, that, that have these volunteer management systems, you know, trying to be best in class at a particular job, but we’re all doing our own thing. And each of these vendors has its own. Agenda as to what they would like to do and have their own proprietary data And they have their own strengths and their own weaknesses and companies can pick what they want So not for profits can pick what they want and the price point they want to pay and they off they go Which is which has been a big improvement where we were 20 years ago when we first came into the market But going back to what I said earlier, if you don’t have that, if you don’t have that scale, you don’t have that size, you don’t take advantage of all that data, you’re falling behind what’s going on everywhere else in the world right now in terms of what we can be doing as a sector. 

You know, if you’re working in isolation, it’s very hard to be spotted on Google organically these days because there’s a lot of stuff out there to compete with. If as a sector we can Share opportunity data more effectively if we can make it easier for not-for-profit organizations to go from one product to another because there’s some fundamental basics around the structure of the data we’re using, and that’s better for the consumer. 

That’s better for the market. Now, as a vendor in that space, you’re thinking, well, why would you be saying that, Chris? Well, as a vendor in the space, we also see the space Get healthier, get stronger. We want to build an ecosystem approach rather than allowing one big tech organization to dominate. And we’ve seen what happened in search with Google, we’ve seen what happened in word processing with Microsoft. 

It’s not that these are terrible experiences, there’s no competition, and we know when there’s no competition, it strangles innovation.  

Tobi: Yeah, I mean, if you think about Microsoft Word or Excel, those programs haven’t changed fundamentally.  

Chris: Fundamentally, they have not changed. Until Google Sheets popped up and Google Docs and suddenly, oh, now we need to make it so we can collaborate online. But Microsoft could have done that 10 years earlier.  

Tobi: Yeah.  

Chris: You know, they chose not to because there was no competition. So, this idea of open data isn’t to reduce proprietary. If you have a product that does something well. And you’ve got a set of metadata that sits around that, a set of services. 

Great. Keep that fundamentally underneath that, there’s some core things we could agree on. What should a volunteer profile contain as a minimum? What should an opportunity and a volunteer opportunity contain? As a middle as a minimum, and we should. establish those standards with a committee and we should be able to argue and debate and add to the standards and remove from the standards and then all the vendors in the market should be encouraged say encouraged I’m doing that in speech you can’t see that upon yeah to be actively encouraged by their customers to sign up to those standards and by the national bodies that support the sectors should be encouraged to do that. 

Trying to enforce access to the market based on them acknowledging those standards. So that’s been a piece of work that I’ve been building towards. Again, I am a vendor in the space. So, I’m not necessarily the best place to be making this argument. So, we’ve been working with people at the Open Data Institute, which is a charity here in the UK. 

They set up the open banking standard, which lets you move bank accounts and things like that. If we can do it in banking, we can certainly do it in volunteering. would be my argument. If we can create an environment where you have some basic standards, it’s a better consumer experience. It’s a better business to business experience. 

We can do amazing things with that data. When you start to aggregate every bit of volunteer data, every bit of opportunity data, that data set becomes really powerful. If I go to Google and I can find any opportunity anywhere in the country. That change, I don’t have to go here to sign up there and then go there to sign up there. 

On the other side of that, we’re talking about the ability to create a volunteer profile that is transferable. So rather than me signing up to a not for profit and me belonging to them, I should be able to create a profile that contains my criminal check status, my right to work status, my driving license potentially, my previous volunteering history, any formal qualifications I’ve got, all that can live in my phone. 

When I go to What a not-for-profit system. As an app. As in an app, I can opt to share my data without having to sign up again. Yeah. I can opt to share my data and choose which of the data I want to share with the app. And you just uplink, upload it. Just connect, yeah. And say, yeah, happy to share. 

Tobi: So, who would be, have the oversight and governance of this app? 

Chris: Well, that’s a really good question. The way we’re looking to build the app is distributed. The app will be built on a, again, set of open standards. Anybody could build the app, if they wanted to, but the data is encrypted and lives in your phone. The app is almost, again, the method of sharing the data on your phone. 

So, we have Google Wallet right now. We have Apple Pay, which is an early iteration of this, but that’s for your credit card details. Right. It’s the same kind of thing where you could have any wallet technology. And then the wallet technology is, again, is agnostic to the platforms. But the data inside it is in such a format that it can be moved around.  

Tobi: Got it. So, it doesn’t have to be that you went to an app and said, all right, I’m putting this information in this app and then the app must give permission, or you need to give permission for the app. It’s actually in your wallet, in your contact info. 

Chris: Yes, pretty much. That’s the idea. And the wallet technology, you can pick whichever wallet technology you want, because they’re all working on the same framework. They’re all working at the same standards. Yeah. Whichever one suits you, whichever one that you like, you can pick. Obviously, you give them permission because they’re going to be the data controller on your behalf in that situation. 

And then when you get, when you go to a Team Kinetic platform, and it may be, let’s say it’s the Youth Hostel Association of England and Wales, and it says, we support the white technology, and you press a button and share it directly to them guys. There’s no need to do another DBS. There’s no need to do another criminal chat. There’s no need to do it.  

Tobi: And to think that, you know, people go, oh, no, the volunteers will never do this. Well guess what? Just imagine tapping your credit card. Yeah. Okay. Based on the same concept, there’s a standardized way of sharing data from your credit card or your debit card. And the tapping technology is now there, and people have figured it out. Okay. Oh, when it has this little Wi-Fi signal, I can tap it.  

Chris: That’s the one.  

Tobi: And so, it’s a similar thing and you’re owning your own financial data and you’re giving your financial data via the tap.  

Chris: We’re looking at this in the context of volunteering, but this technology is going to be everywhere. This personal data stores, if this technology does become the default, because there are other people that have other ideas about some of this stuff, but I believe that this may be, it has a good chance of becoming the norm. You will have a wallet on your, you’ve already got a wallet on your phone, if you’ve already paid by your card and things, but you’ll have a place on your phone, which It contains your verified passport, verified ID, your driver’s license, your right to work check. 

And it won’t just be volunteering that you’re using this for, you’ll be using this when you get a new job. You’ll be using this when you apply for credit, when you apply for sick pay, and these are all these other things. Yeah. It’s all. So, all I’m thinking is if as a voluntary sector, we should be tapping into that, there’s a trend coming and we should be on the back of it because if we’re not, is it a trick? 

Tobi: Yeah. Well, I think when we think about. The bigger context of, you know, like I showed the slide yesterday on, you know, I love to track Google trends. Yep. Volunteer opportunities near me is the keyword I love to track because I want to see who around the world is typing this into Google. Who is, because this is active user intent, people are ready to join. 

And I want to know how many people around the world every month are ready to join and, or in the US and. Usually, well, we saw a big dip in the data because I look at the last 10 years, the last dip in the data for the pandemic, and then it went up and it’s been very volatile for the last couple years, and just in the last couple months, it’s taken a nosedive. 

And so, there’s different ways to look at this. One is to say people don’t care about volunteering anymore. Now, I find that hard to believe. I do as well. The other thing is to say People are tired from the pandemic. They need a break. Maybe, but maybe not. Maybe volunteering is the exact thing they need to get over the pandemic. 

The third way to think about it is people have tried connecting with nonprofits and they are having a difficult time. So, they’re giving up. And you know, we had a woman in the room yesterday who does research on this, and this is the number one reason. Yep. And the reason they don’t volunteer is because they can’t, the connection can’t happen. 

Chris: My belief on this is that consumer behavior is less resilient. So, the current trend of consumers coming through are expect one click. Yes. They expect to pay now. Yep. They expect it to be delivered tomorrow. Yeah. And the voluntary sector hasn’t. been able to adapt as quickly to that as the, as we would say, normal consumer society has. 

You know, we still in that sort of slightly old school thinking, oh, you got to renew an induction. You have got to have a sit-down visit with us. You have got to do this. You know, we put an awful lot of barriers up to entry, which in a digital world. People are not, you know, the consumer trend is to go the other way. 

Now that’s not to say we can get rid of those barriers because in certain situations you have to do those prerequisites. The tech to some, again, going back to the tech, I know we’ll go back to the tech is why I sell, but the ability to enable a volunteer to make very quick peak decision, you know, you make that decision, that peak sort of experience, you go, I want to do it now. 

And if you miss that window, you’ve lost that person. Yeah, they click away. They click away. Yeah. There’s something more interesting over here. Oh, Instagram. I’m scrolling again. You know, it’s.  

Tobi: Yeah. If you know, it’s, you think that time of motivation when you start a diet or an exercise program or whatever, that first, it, you know, it’s got to be easy to start with, and then you need reinforcement along the way. 

But to get started, get up off your couch is the hardest time to that initial push. And then voluntary organizations can make it easier, remove the skids, remove the speed bumps and keep people the momentum going. But the initial movement from, you know, entropy to, to move it, or entropy may not be the right, Right word. But yeah, from the start to a stop, it takes massive energy. 

Chris: And you need to keep that as tight as possible. Because the energy disperses the further away you go.  

Tobi: Yes, exactly. 

Chris: I mean, going back to the AI conversation, one of the ideas of these personal data stores is you can establish preferences in your personal data store. So, your preferences now don’t belong to Amazon. They don’t belong to these other businesses that are mining your preferences to try and send you stuff all the time. You can establish preferences and then you can choose to share preferences from your personal data store, which would be my preferences. I want to volunteer on a Tuesday morning, and I’m really interested in social care. 

You push that preference out into the metaverse, if you will, for lack of a better description. And it searches that huge data set that’s out there, everything in your location, up to maybe a five-mile traveling radius that meets Tuesday morning, social care, and pushes it back to you directly. Yeah. That’s where we would like to get to, with that AI. 

So, you get the combination of personal data preference setting with a big data set that can be then aggregated in real time. And he pushes that to that person using that AI chatbot and says, Hi, we heard you’re really interested in doing some volunteer work Tuesday morning. Here’s a couple options we’ve got for you. 

Tobi: I can see the upside now if you’re a long-term thinker. Tech companies that specifically in the volunteer management space, you know, well, wait a minute. This data is proprietary. We don’t want to share. We’re in a competition, et cetera. We’ve got a few market forces that are, you know, collaboration is the new competition. 

Yeah. I said this yesterday, that if you’re a smart company, you’re seeing the market forces, you’re seeing the downturn in volunteerism, which could hurt your company in the end, because if voluntary organizations lose trust or hope in the value of tech to help them, they’ll regress. Yes. Versus, you know, folks say, well, wait a minute. 

If we can aggregate and create a larger data set together, there is a larger distribution network. We have a shared distribution network for our opportunities. Yes. So, our opportunities aren’t just on, you know, Volunteer match. They’re not just on team connect everywhere. They’re not just in the local volunteer center.

They’re not just wherever, they’re everywhere. And then that then the organization that’s using the software to manage volunteers actually is getting value.  

Chris: So, the which is what you’re there to do in the first place. So, what you end up with is an ecosystem where organizations could pick the product, they like that suits them to sit on top of that data. It’s no longer the data sits in the product, it’s the product sits on top of the data, and all the products sit on top of the data. You can then devise the product to do the job you want and pick the product that suits your requirements to sit on top of that data, and feed in, and feed out of that data. 

Tobi: Yeah.  

Chris: You’re freeing the data from the product. And again, as an organization, if you decide you don’t like that product, you can change it for something else without breaking that connection to the data. That’s the model. So, it’s collaborative in its biggest sense. It still hasn’t stopped proprietary. 

It still doesn’t stop your specialisms, where you may have a responder app for volunteers going to people’s houses and doing pharmacy drop off. That’s a very niche. You can build an app just for that.  

Tobi: Well, your app can also do a lot of the, which I think is neglected. We put a lot of time and energy and recruitment, very little into nurturing. And, you know, we talked a lot about nurture, email, nurture sequences yesterday and having that embedded in your software and being able to communicate through campaigns, but then with AI actually have AI you could set things up if you had really strong AI in your system, I’m just looking into the future. 

Let’s say, and you have a good day, you know, AI is managing you, is looking at your data and saying, oh these, this group of volunteers have not interacted with the database anymore. Yep. Actually, you can do this now without AI. that they get tagged, they haven’t logged in for, they get a tag, then that starts a nurture sequence. 

Hey, we haven’t heard from you for a while. What about coming in? Or what about joining us on this training? Or what about we got an opportunity for this weekend?  

Chris: Our system automatically flags anybody that hasn’t opened an email for six months. So that’s an example of what we’re doing. That’s not, it’s not really AI. That’s just we just know it’s just a smart system. Thank you. But when you start thinking about the messaging. again, rather than it being an email, which is quite easy to ignore. Let’s be honest. We all ignore emails quite regularly. Whereas that message on your phone or a notification essentially on your phone, you start to communicate at a more personal level. 

Because you know a little bit about that person. The AI tailors every message to that person’s particular tastes. You start to get into that level of personalization and customization to the messaging. 

Tobi: Yeah.  

Chris: That, you know, that person being seen, as we talked about yesterday, at least they feel like that. In terms of the quality of the content.  

Tobi: And it feels less like an interruption and more like a service. Exactly that. Yeah. Yeah. That’s what we want. We want our communications to feel more like a service and less like an interruption.  

Chris: You don’t want white noise.  

Tobi: I mean it’s hard. Yes, we’re selling things, you know we’re selling or non-sales selling when it comes to volunteer engagement as I made the case yesterday. 

Chris: We talk about convincing people to buy.  

Tobi: Yeah. Yeah, it’s you’re influencing people to take action your calls to action You have to make calls to action or people don’t act.  

Chris: Exactly. 

Tobi: But you know, and we do a lot of interruption You know on our website. I admittedly said we have our pop ups; we haven’t set our cookies properly. Our pop ups go up too much, you know, and that interruption irritates people. You have got to wake people up! But people, you know, this just in time self-serve service, but also, you know, facilitated information when people, when you think they might need it or might be interested and that they can go just in time, or they can be nudged. 

Chris: I mean, let’s take this to the next. So, we work with an organization here in the UK called Tempo Time Credits, Tempo Time Credits have built a national, well, near national framework of partners, and they start local, but they also have national partners where you can exchange your hours for real life rewards. So, it’s a time credit system where they have partnerships with the theater and their partnerships with some of the local cinemas. 

And you do an hour volunteering, you get an hour back and you go spend it in the cinema and you get a free ticket. But you take that again into the messaging realm. And the volunteer does their hours, they get a message saying how are you, how did you get on today, they give some feedback in natural language, that’s fed into our system and processed, is it positive, is it negative, can we use that for more social reinforcement for other people looking at the opportunities, that then feeds them back a voucher code on their phone, so they’re not going anywhere else but that messaging app, and they can go to the cinema, Scan that voucher code and go and have that free hour at the cinema that day. 

So, you start to see that user journey is, it’s existing, not on the website anymore. I don’t have to go in the app anymore. Maybe I will go in the app to sign up in the first instance. It’s there on my messaging app and it’s just, it’s like I’m having a conversation with one of my friends.  

Tobi: Yeah. I love the idea too. You’ve glossed over it quickly, but this is a way of story gathering that’s a lot easier for the organization. And if the volunteer wants to share their feedback or even you know, I talked about yesterday about you know, Amazon and star rating social proof. That’s the brilliance of Amazon. It’s social proof and speed of delivery.  

Chris: And it’s everywhere on Amazon’s website. People don’t realize it, but that social proof is everywhere. Yeah. The comment section, the star ratings.  

Tobi: We don’t do it well, but if it’s native to sort of the experience yeah, I had a great time or, oh, I had the best day today. Here’s what happened. And even like voice activated. I was going to say,  

Chris: We’re talking about this now as a text, but let’s be honest, it’ll be camera soon. It’ll be talk to you, you know, cause my daughter, she’s only 10. But she loves voice notes. She doesn’t type anything. She tries to be bad. I can’t stand voice notes. That’s the future. That’s what’s happening.  

Tobi: I know. People don’t even know how to write cursive anymore. I mean, okay. I know I’m sounding old but come on. Like people can’t read. read or write person. Anyway, let’s talk about one other thing. We’ve talked about AI; we’ve talked about open data and reusable personal credentials. 

You know, this is so volunteer centric, which we all know we must move more towards. I mean, volunteers are not interested in our bits and bobs and all our processes. They just want to get it, as you and I have said, make volunteering easier.  

Chris: What we see, if we were to break up the volunteer audience, you’ve got your 20 percent hardcore that are interested in your bits and bobs and do want to do that stuff and will do, jump through the hoops and do the really high risk, difficult volunteering. Those guys are your core audience. To some extent, and this will sound bad, you can obviously get about them because they’re going to go through the pain, you’re going to put them through to get to where they want to get to. 

But if you want to grow volunteering, then we’ve got to move that to that next. Yeah. 30 or 40 percent of people that I like to touch, are interested, do want to get involved, but they’re not going to go out of the way, and you’re, you sit within their leisure space. So, you’ve got to get them, it needs to feel like leisure, it can’t feel like work. 

Tobi: Exactly. Volunteers are not day laborers. We’re not driving up to the big box store and jump, put, throwing people in the back of our pickup truck and heading off. That’s not what it is. It’s a lifestyle thing. You know, people don’t volunteer because they want to work for free. They volunteer because they want to change the world. 

Chris: Love that one.  

Tobi: Yeah. And we are just not we’re orienting things about we need your free labor and they’re like.  

Chris: We need our services moment.  

Tobi: Yeah.  

Chris: Like I said, it’s organizational centric.  

Tobi: Yes.  

Chris: And that you, your organization still needs that. Yes. But it also wants all this.  

Tobi: Yeah. Let’s switch to our final topic, which I think is so interesting. And volunteer managers will prick up their ears on this one because it’s such the bane of their existence is tracking volunteer hours. And some of this is already in place. On your software. So how can we use tech to better, you know, beyond our nonprofit websites with our phones, be able to, or other ways, be able to track volunteer hours in an easier way instead of nagging people to go put them in? 

Chris: Volunteer hours are the golden currency of volunteer management.  

Tobi: Volunteers do not care. Unless it’s a requirement. 

Chris: Exactly, yeah, they hit that mark, and you never hear from them again. Yeah, that’s right. They just disappear. Yeah, the whole volunteer hours thing, we know why it’s important to make it easier for the volunteer manager. We know why it’s important because you’ve got to show that impact. It’s an easy way to understand the volume of volunteering.  

Tobi: And your capacity. Yeah, exactly. And your potential capacity, sort of trend wise.  

Chris: And there’s also what we’ve discovered. do some work with the NHS here in England, the National Health Service, with volunteers going into the hospital setting. 

And again, there’s risks associated with volunteers in that high-risk environment with vulnerable people. And out to the back of a project we were doing in Scotland, we devised a way of geolocating volunteers or what we call geofencing, which was, we would create within our a product, a fence around a location, in this case, the hospital in Edinburgh, and when a volunteer came in with their phone turned on, we would know that volunteer had entered that space using their mapping software built into their phone. 

Then it would ping to let us know that the volunteer had arrived. And when they left, it would ping to let us know that the volunteer had left. So, from a health and safety standpoint, a usual feature. From a, our tracking point, we knew when they were on site, when they were. Yeah. So, it was quite a powerful tool, but it does require volunteers to have the appropriate phone. 

Right. It does require them to have the app on their phone and turn the app on. So, there’s still some work to be done. Yeah. On the usability. But in terms of usefulness. It’s great. We also used it in during COVID where we had event volunteers that were working at some rugby games. And again, we would know who was on site and who wasn’t on site for COVID tracking. So, the technology is not new. It’s the use case for the technology.  

Tobi: Yeah. Yeah. And I think too even we have a way to do this. With remote volunteers as well, because there’s software that, for example, does task tracking.  

Chris: Yes, we have a piece of software that does that also. 

Tobi: So, you could say, well, your shift starts when you log into the software. Yep. Or when your IP, when your IP address connects with our IP address, there you go, we’re starting our hour tracking.  

Chris: We have again, we built it during COVID, where we had volunteer drivers going all over doing food deliveries, medicine deliveries, taking patients to and from hospital. And we’ve continued with that piece of software, looking at how we can, how volunteers can support hospitals. People have been discharged and we’ve basically built an Uber for volunteers, which gives the volunteer a pickup point for the patient. It gives them the route to that person’s home. It gives them a two-way messaging system back to the volunteer manager, should there be a problem with that person they picked up. 

It gives them the ability to say they’ve dropped that person off. And again, that’s all built with that geolocation technology, that geo that geo tracking on their phone. They don’t need to; they don’t need anything extra. They just turn the phone on, say they’re on shift, turn up at the hospital and start taking patients home. Anyways, it’s Uber for volunteers. Yeah. And the thing the volunteers like is it tracks their mileage so they can get paid for their expenses as well.  

Tobi: Yeah. It’s so interesting. I think that is one of the key takeaways, and I can hear people saying, no, my volunteers will never use the tech. 

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah. And I will tell you that necessity is the mother of all usage and all adoption. Necessity is the mother of all adoption.  

Chris: One of the things we found in Scotland, if I can throw in here as well, is, you know, your average 65-year-old now has spent their entire life working with a computer overall. 

 Tobi: Yeah.  

Chris: You know, it’s not like it was, my dad who’s 75 is on that back end of the ones that never did.  

Tobi: Yeah.  

Chris: And as you come down to 70, 65, most of those people in that age category have been using a computer their entire working life. Yeah. So, they may not be tech natives, they may not be on Instagram, Snapchat, and these kinds of things, but they’re not as scared of the tech as we assume. 

Tobi: Yeah, and just because I think one of the biases folks have is when they’re not comfortable with the tech and they assume everyone else isn’t or they hear a few complainers, and they go squeaky wheel means everybody’s a squeaky wheel. No, I’ll give you an example. My parents recently moved to a retirement community. 

We sold their family home. It’s that time of life for them. Yeah. And they’ve been getting in accidents with cars. Oh, geez. And there was a point where, now luckily these were only little fender benders, but it was a clue to us that they really did not have a capacity to drive anymore. It was a tough conversation. 

Yeah. It’s been, there’s a bit of rancor around it. And, you know, we said, look. You can take Uber. There’s a there is also a shuttle from your new retirement facility. It’s a very nice facility. You must plan though, to go, if you want to go to Safeway, the grocery store, you need to plan it on this day, the week, et cetera. And they don’t want to pre plan.  

Chris: There’s also, it’s an issue that generationally that for that generation, the car is a signifier of their freedom.  

Tobi: Yeah, I think for everybody. 

Chris: Well, you say that. Although of the five young people who work in my office, none of them have learned to drive. None of them.  

Tobi: Interesting. I didn’t have a car. I didn’t have a car till I was like 35. 

Chris: Really?  

Tobi: Yeah. Cause I lived in cities. Okay. Okay. Public transport. But be that as it may, we also said to them, look, we’ll set you up with Uber, set you up with Uber. And here’s how you use it. And Uber has such an easy interface that my parents take Uber. 

My parents are in their 70s. They take Uber. Now, they had to learn some things about Uber. No, once you get into Uber, they’re not taxis. They’re not going to go, oh, thanks for taking us here. Now we want to go to the post office. They’re not going to wait around for you. So, they had to learn the limits of Uber. When you make the interface that easy and that convenient. You know, people are like, yeah, I’ll do it because the pain of not doing it is more than the pain of doing it.  

Chris: It brings me back again. I’m going to hop back to the open data conversation. What happens when you free the products from the data is you can make more consumer choice and the ones that have the best interfaces the ones that work You’re not stuck with something that doesn’t quite work anymore You can pick the app that’s been designed best for you, for the job you want to do.  

And not with a fear you’re stuck with that app for the next 30 years. Yeah. You go, okay, that’s work for now. This, if you want to come up with something better, you create a much more interesting ecosystem for developers, for the tech companies, for the organizers. You know, that’s why Uber’s become Uber. 

Because, and right, you know, there’s a couple of, right up. Lift those live. And that’s based on the fact that’s so easy to use. They become ubiquitous.  

Tobi: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely.  

Chris: Absolutely. I’ll do that for you. Money goes well. That also helps.  

Tobi: Well, Chris, this was a fantastic conversation. I hope it gets just folks’ minds thinking if at the very least, it’s not like you’re going to go out, adopt these things right away. And maybe you are, and some of the things are still on the horizon, but as you’re looking for solutions and as you’re thinking about, you know, then, I think the bottom-line takeaway is easier, not harder. 

How can you use tech to make volunteering easier, not harder beyond your website. The phone is where it’s at, where the use of phones is not going down. You know people so now there’s pros and cons to that but that is people’s personal computer. They carry it around and it basically runs their life, and if we’re not meeting them where they’re at on their phones, then we’re not meeting them  

Chris: I think you’ve nailed it. 

Tobi: Yeah, so tell us, where people can find you and well before that I’m going to ask you a question I always ask my guests which is what are you most excited about in the year ahead?   

Chris: Oh, that’s a good question. There’s some, there are some exciting things bubbling around at the minute for us. So, we have we have recently relaunched Our app, our own personal app. So that’s been quite exciting. That’s happened to us. The year ahead. Ooh. Year ahead. 

Tobi: It doesn’t necessarily have to be work related. It can be anything.  

Chris: Okay. Personally, the most exciting thing is I’m going to buy an e bike this year. 

So that’s an ebike, an e-mountain bike. So that’s my personal target I set myself for this year that if I hit a certain set of milestones at work, I would treat myself to a e-mountain bike. But the work stuff is a lot of the things we’ve talked about in this. podcast. I’ve piloted here and piloted there. 

So for me, we, I feel we’re on a bit of a, the next year is going to be really exciting for the product because we’re going to see some of these big things come into the product, which we know we’re 15 years in, it’s quite nice to still be excited 15 years in about the thing you built. But it feels there is some really exciting opportunities about to happen. I feel we may, when we popped up 2007, the mobile phone was that the smartphone was the big thing. And we’ve had 15, 20, 15, 16 years of that. And I feel the AI stuff now is the next step because we’re kind of at peak fault. There’s not much more you can do with it. 

How much better can your camera get on your phone? So, I feel this is the next step is where we’re about to take that. So yeah, that’s a, it’s a big thing this year for us in terms of getting that Yeah. With all this cool stuff.  


Tobi: Yeah. I’m wishing you the best of luck. Thank you. And we want to hear about that, how that goes. Back to my other question, how can people get in touch with you, follow you, learn more about what you do?  

Chris: You can find us at our website, which is teamkinetic.co.uk you can find us at, on Twitter, no, I can’t call it X, I still haven’t got used to calling it X. They’re the two main places we tend to do our customer engagement and we look, we, one of the things that we do offer is a free trial. So, if people are going to have a go at our product, they can come and sign up for free. And if you like the product, when they have that free trial, they get a 30-day money back guarantee. So, there’s no risk. That’s our approach. And unlike most of our competitors, we don’t charge by the volunteer. We have a flat fee, so it’s really straightforward, there’s no surprises.  

Tobi: Yeah. So, do you, your customers are only in the UK right now?  

Chris: A couple of customers in Greece, we have a couple of customers in Australia, and we have one customer in Canada. So, we’d love to, the North American audience, we’d love to hear from you.  

Tobi: Yeah. Excellent. Excellent. Fantastic. Thank you so much for joining me today. You know, it’s been a busy week.  

Chris: It has.  

Tobi: We’ve been having fun here in Manchester. Yeah. But I really want to thank you for being here and thank you for getting the audience thinking about the future. Because, you know, it’s not just about, you know, tech evangelism. It’s about tech evangelism for a cause, for a purpose.  

Chris: Yeah. And even as I said that I felt a little bit bad inside because I, you know, it’s so cheesy. But you’ve hit the nail on the head. The tech has got to do some good. Yeah, as somebody that believes in tech and sees what’s happened over the last few years, I feel that we’ve got to use some of the same tools. Yeah. For the good rather than just being used for the bad and try to readdress that balance and it feels like a great space to do it.  

Tobi: Yeah. Absolutely. And on that, everybody, that’s a great way to end us. If you liked this episode, I hope you’ll share it with a friend and of course rate and review us. I love five-star ratings. I’m just, I’m not going to lie. So, but I’ll be here next week, same time, same place on The Volunteer Nation. 

Thanks everybody.