As any volunteer manager knows, volunteer scheduling is a fundamental part of the day-to-day operations of all nonprofit volunteer programs. Knowing how, when, and where to break down the system of responsibilities for your volunteers will determine the quality of their experience as well as the success of your events.
That being said, for being so essential, the volunteer scheduling process can be a bit of a pain. Not only is it often tedious and time-consuming, but many volunteer coordinators are missing out on opportunities to leverage the power of volunteer scheduling to its fullest potential.
Luckily, the fix to these volunteer program pitfalls is easier than you may think. To avoid common volunteer management mistakes and optimize your volunteer scheduling processes, implement these simple strategies:
- Carefully track volunteer hours.
- Make profiles for each volunteer.
- Keep volunteers updated with mobile messaging.
- Get feedback with volunteer surveys.
- Generate reports to gauge program success.
Whether your program is relying on outdated volunteer scheduling software or you simply want to learn more about volunteer scheduling best practices, we have a solution for you. These tips will allow you to streamline the volunteer management process, launch a strong volunteer program, and reap the rewards of a great scheduling system.
Ready to revamp your volunteer scheduling system? Let’s jump right in!
Carefully track volunteer hours.
Volunteer hours are one of the most important pieces of volunteer data that enter your database.
For one thing, tracking volunteer hours and maintaining accurate volunteer data logs makes it possible to apply for volunteer grant funds. Additionally, to qualify for volunteer-related grants from both companies and government entities, you will need to show your grantors your program’s volunteer hours as a part of your application and as ongoing proof that you are allocating their funds appropriately.
While this careful tracking may take a bit of extra diligence, the investment is well worth the reward. Studies show that in 2019 alone, corporations gave over $21 billion to nonprofits. To capitalize on this massive source of charitable funding, be mindful to maintain an orderly record of volunteer data and hours.
If that wasn’t enough, volunteer hour tracking can act as a guidebook for your volunteer scheduling process. This data shows you who your most engaged volunteers are based on how often they participate, the average number of volunteer hours contributed per month, and the division of volunteer labor across each area of your organization.
This will allow you to reward and recognize your most active volunteers and adjust the division of labor to complete your goals effectively. You can also use hour-tracking to promote your program through your annual report, illustrating to prospective volunteers, donors, and community members to see the scope and effectiveness of your program.
The right volunteer management software can make this even easier, organizing volunteer hours into manageable dashboards and showing you important information about your schedule, such as open slots, overlaps, and recurring schedules, all in one screen.
Make profiles for each volunteer.
In the larger scope of your volunteer program and its organizational goals, you sometimes overlook the individuals that make up your team of volunteers. Remember that each volunteer is unique, and paying attention to their different engagement histories, work experiences, skills, and program needs will ensure that everyone has a positive experience in your program.
This is where volunteer profiles become a major asset for your scheduling and management system! Volunteer profiles are an important volunteer management tool, giving each of your volunteers their own dedicated space where their information can be stored and studied. The data in each volunteer profile can be used to match them with the most relevant opportunities, refine their schedules, and ultimately increase engagement and retention.
Be sure to include this information in your own volunteer profiles:
- Names and contact information
- Personal interests
- Favorite agencies, organizations, and programs
- Skills and experience
- Volunteer hours and hour distribution
- Volunteer impact over time
- File support for important documentation
On top of acting as important reservoirs of volunteer data, volunteer profiles can also help with the scheduling process by allowing coordinators to personalize outreach to each volunteer. Analyze their past engagement history and interests to send them information about volunteer opportunities that they’re more likely to actually engage with.
Keep volunteers updated with mobile messaging.
Every year, mobile use climbs as more people turn to their smartphones to communicate, connect, work, and play. To maximize engagement and ensure that your communications with volunteers are reaching them as efficiently as possible, optimize your messaging for mobile devices.
If emails are a common communication method for your program, consider effective formatting for email communication.
- Make certain images aren’t too large by scaling them down
- Increase the text size for easy readability
- Use buttons for calls-to-action
These are just a few simple steps you can take to improve the readability and experience of your email messages for mobile users.
Additionally, incorporating an automated SMS or text feature in your volunteer management strategy is another effective method to keep volunteers in the loop about important updates, changes, and opportunities in your volunteer scheduling line-up.
Even better yet, a dedicated app for volunteer scheduling will give volunteers a centralized location to check everything they need to know about the program, their assignments, and any other messages you want to send their way. Check to see if your volunteer software tools include email optimization features, widespread SMS messaging, or mobile app support.
Your volunteers are your team, and with these important communication upgrades, you can create an efficient, two-way line of communication. This ensures that your team and your volunteer opportunities operate as smoothly as possible
Get feedback with volunteer surveys.
Volunteer experience surveys are not only a great way to engage your volunteers, but they are also an efficient mechanism to collect precious qualitative data to improve functions across your program.
For example, using the feedback provided by your volunteers, you can tweak scheduling issues that volunteers have expressed negative reactions to. Additionally, you can reassign volunteers based on important factors such as the personal interests and skills that they share in these forms, maximizing engagement for each volunteer and improving event operations.
You may even include a section on the fundraising initiatives that volunteers have worked on in the past, using their experiences to improve future projects or even come up with new fundraising event ideas altogether.
Volunteer coordinators should make sure that they send the feedback survey to a wide range of volunteers with different experiences and volunteer histories. This enables you to get a representative sample of volunteers to ensure that you’re meeting everyone’s needs, not just a certain segment’s.
The content and intent of these surveys are entirely up to you. Whether you’re brainstorming new volunteer event initiatives or gauging volunteer satisfaction on your scheduling system, the beauty of a survey tool is that it can be molded to address any part of your volunteer program’s operations, all while giving your volunteers an engaging platform to speak their minds.
Generate reports to gauge program success.
While there are everyday fluctuations in your data that you should keep in mind, data reports give you a bird’s-eye view to see important, broad trends throughout your program.
Overall program productivity and growth are both easily viewable within a report. And once this information has been collected, it can be studied and acted upon to create actionable solutions against downward trends in your program.
In terms of volunteer scheduling more selectively, data reports can also be used to track volunteer acquisition rates, volunteer retention, and personal engagement and satisfaction scores. This data can be used to pair volunteers with opportunities that suit their interests. This will both make volunteers feel happier in their roles and ultimately lead to greater overall volunteer satisfaction and retention.
Unfortunately, manually tracking and reporting isn’t just difficult, but woefully inefficient. According to AccuData’s article on data hygiene, human error accounts for a significant portion of “dirty data,” or data that has been falsely recorded or reported with error, rendering reportage strategies ineffective.
Luckily, while it may be difficult to compile and share data reports through manual means, there are intuitive, affordable volunteer management solutions that can automatically record, track, and perform reports on any of the data metrics you want to look at. From volunteer hours to volunteer satisfaction, this data can instantly be converted into helpful, actionable forms that your team can use to better your entire program.
To learn more about volunteer scheduling, volunteer management, and best practices to ensure the success of your volunteer program, check out Galaxy Digital’s definitive guide to volunteer scheduling. This resource delves further into the tenets that we’ve just shared with you, exploring some of the most common mistakes made during scheduling procedures. Issues such as poor communication and limited volunteer input are not only analyzed, but solved with software solutions to streamline your volunteer management strategies.
With these tools and insights, you will be able to turn the time-consuming, procedural task of volunteer scheduling into a more dynamic, engaging, and effective volunteer engagement and management technique that you may not have known was at your disposal. From managing dedicated, longtime volunteers with recurring schedules to grappling with newer volunteers who need an extra push to get more involved, you can leverage these strategies to positively impact the experience of every volunteer.