The Volunteer Management Tools You Should
As with any career, there are tools and techniques that help to get the job done. The best volunteer management tools are difficult to pin down because volunteer managers have a wide range of tasks to complete; however, there are ways you can work to improve productivity, increase capacity and boost communications.
In this blog post, we will review some tools (both free and paid) you can add to your volunteer management toolbelt so that you can manage your time better, keep track of your volunteers and their impact, and engage your community in meaningful communications.
3 Volunteer Management Tools That Can Improve Productivity
Volunteer managers have a long history of multitasking, and with that multitasking comes the challenge of managing prioritization and productivity.
Unfortunately, nonprofits are expected to do more with less, which means nonprofit staff are typically called upon from the start of their careers to do whatever it takes to get the job done. Considering the type of employee nonprofits attract, there are many problems with this approach as it will quickly lead to burnout among staff.
Fortunately, you are not helpless in this matter!
While you might be feeling overwhelmed with which hat to wear, when to wear it, and how to quickly change hats, there are some time management approaches that may help you manage the chaos.
If you want to become better at managing your time, you need insight into your workflows, behaviors, and productivity patterns. This is where time tracking comes in.
Here are some ways time tracking can help you work more efficiently:
- Identify time drains such as low value tasks, unproductive patterns, and bottleneck processes.
- Identify your common distractions, like idle chat in the hallways, disruptions, procrastination, and unplanned tasks.
- Manage your focus and encourage deep work over multitasking, time blocking, finding productivity peaks, and keeping to your priorities.
- Prevents burnout by encouraging you to take breaks, to not work overtime, and to manage your workload.
Since the need for volunteer managers to juggle multiple priorities doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, it’s time to get better at managing your time so that you can focus on building, growing, and sustaining your volunteer program.
Check out some of these recommended time tracking tools, or configure your own method to make the process work for you.
Because of the competing priorities and multiple tasks volunteer managers are responsible for, work-life balance can be difficult to find.
In addition, as mentioned above, common distractions can really hamper your ability to work efficiently.
Learn how to block distractions and set boundaries with these tips:
- Identify your values you can set up boundaries that will help you get your needs met.
- Communication your work plan early, and often. Set up expectations with your colleagues in regard to when you will be available for work discussions.
- Learn how to say no. If someone is violating a boundary, remain assertive and politely state that you can’t add more to your plate at that moment.
- Don’t let common distractions put your work plan off track. Learn how you can avoid common distractions and remain committed to your work plan.
Not even the most skilled volunteer manager can anticipate every situation in which challenges to professional boundaries may arise, but with these tips you’ll experience less stress and more success, and you’ll feel good knowing that you finally have a process for reaching your goals!
If you need help blocking out distractions, check out some apps that can help you stay focused.
Project Management Software
At our organization, we meet every week to discuss our focused project plans utilizing a SCRUM style meeting which is a lean, incremental framework to help us manage complex work.
It also helps us focus on the project at hand and remove any tasks that aren’t relevant.
Airtable, our project management software helps us manage this process. It enables us to collaborate amongst each other, without duplicating effort, wasting time checking in for progress updates, and ensuring all tasks are accounted for and complete.
Some other project management software you can look into are:
Once you choose the right project management software for you and your team and set it up to work for you, I think you’ll quickly find that having this software will make your day-to-day work easier to manage.
How to Increase Your Capacity with These Volunteer Management Tools
Once you envision and plan for the volunteer program of your dreams, it’s time to start building it! And, to accomplish your goals, there are a couple of volunteer management tools that you will need to utilize to support your vision.
In order to build volunteer program capacity, your nonprofit organization must be willing to invest in volunteer management personnel, which means ensuring they have access to paid tools and/or expertise that will help them do their job well.
If you are looking for ways to advocate for your volunteer program, check out this blog post, and then read on for some key tools you will need to make your vision come to life.
Volunteer Management Software
While the decision you make in regarding which software you will utilize is dependent on your organization’s goals and data management needs, there are a few key components you should look for.
I won’t go into too much detail here, and instead will direct you to check out this blog post in which Tobi details a wish list for volunteer management software.
Whether online or on-land, there are various volunteer recruitment techniques that can make your job as a volunteer manager easier.
And, when a broad range of techniques is not considered, you may miss the boat on recruiting dedicated volunteers to your organization.
Some of these techniques will require access to paid tools and/or expertise.
While word-of-mouth marketing likely brings your organization to the attention of potential volunteers, most of those people are going to check out your website for more information before they sign up to volunteer.
So, you will want to work with your marketing or IT department to ensure your volunteer website is up to date with the information potential volunteers will be looking for.
Your organization’s website should at minimum have a section that lets visitors know that volunteers are welcome at your organization and who to contact if you are interested in volunteering.
Social media and other communication methods can do wonders for marketing your organization and the volunteer opportunities you offer in your community; however, they only reach as far as your current network.
This is where paid advertising comes in. One of the biggest benefits of paid advertising is that a single message can reach a large or very specific audience, depending on the medium you select.
Some options for paid advertising include:
- Magazines or newspapers
- Local radio and television stations
- Social media (specifically Facebook Ads)
While paid advertising can open up new worlds of people to your organization, this method will require funding, and the expertise of your marketing team to see results.
Live presentations, recruitment events, and volunteer fairs may not be happing in person now due to COVID-19, but you can still think about ways in which you can utilize this recruitment method in new ways, or in the future.
While live presentations don’t have any direct costs associated with them, you will need to consider any travel, mileage, food, and/or beverage reimbursements you will want to cover for those who participate. In addition, you may want to also invest in offering or participating in public speaking training.
Recruitment fairs do take a substantial amount of time and money if you want to use as a successful recruitment strategy. You will need to create the booth materials- displays, videos, marketing materials, giveaways, etc., and you need to staff the booth with paid staff. While some organizations claim success at these events, others do not, and it’s up to you to decide if the potential benefits of recruiting quality volunteers outweigh the costs.
Boost Communications with Email Marketing
When you are pulled in multiple directions, it’s important that you make your email work for you!
This is where a customer relationship management software (CRM) comes in to help you to automate some of your work.
Your organization’s marketing and/or development department may already have a CRM, so check in with them to see if you can use it to send auto email campaigns.
Here are the basics on 5 volunteer email campaigns that will get you started:
- Opt-in Welcome: Welcome campaigns are often triggered when website visitors opt into a free download (or what’s called a “lead magnet” in marketing terms). They enter their name and email in exchange for something they would find of interest or value. This is something you should look into developing for your volunteer webpage to generate more interest in your organization.
- Volunteer Recruitment: Set up a campaign to follow up on inquiries that were submitted via a webform on your website to alert volunteers who have applied about next steps and even send them some preliminary preparatory materials.
- Volunteer Onboarding: Help induct volunteers into the organization. The goal of this series is to provide helpful information while managing volunteer expectations. It can act as a mini volunteer orientation, complete with short, embedded emails, downloadable handouts, and links to deeper information.
- Volunteer Appreciation: Set up a series that acknowledges and inspires volunteers. This is particularly helpful for far-flung teams that work online. But it is also appropriate for local teams.
- We Want You Back: This series can be triggered once a volunteer has missed shifts or did not complete the training. The goal is to reconnect with volunteers to see if they want to either discontinue or suspend their volunteer participation
If you can’t work with a CRM to automate some of these communications, at the very least work with your IT team to see if you can create settings that will sort and file your email inbox.
Create auto-replies for when you’re out of the office for a day or longer, and in those emails let people know when they can expect a response from you, and who they can contact if they need immediate assistance.
Turn off desktop notifications, and set rules for when you will check and respond to non-urgent emails. Much like social media, email is a distraction and if you don’t set those boundaries you will find yourself lost in a sea of email.
With the myriad of tasks associated with volunteer management, identifying the right tools to make you successful can be quite the challenge.
Now that you have a good idea of some tools that are key to success as a volunteer manager, which of them are you going to start using?
Let us know in the comments!