VolunteerLocal Product Updates: 5 New Features to Support Your Work

What a year this has been.

Our team at VolunteerLocal has been hard at work, enhancing our product to better serve our customers during this unique time and for years to come. The last six months have brought a slew of new features and functions, many of which are included at all plan levels.

I’ve outlined these new features below and encourage you to reach out via the form below with questions, feedback or to schedule a video call with someone on our team.

Volunteer Applications

You can now build a centralized application that all volunteers complete as a part of your sign-up process.

  • The application can include unlimited questions of varying formats, including file uploads and profile pictures.
  • Volunteers who are approved can self-schedule into events using their first name and email address. Yes, we are a still a password-less platform!
  • Existing volunteer records can be imported directly into an applicant-pool.

Application Status

Applicants can be assigned a status value to be used for tracking and limiting access to shifts. We call this an “application status.”

  • Volunteer statuses drive later eligibility. For example, a profile status of “Approved” can be required for volunteers to register for events.
  • A volunteer’s status value can be used to allow or deny the volunteer’s ability to schedule a shift. For example, a status of “Denied” would keep a volunteer from seeing an event’s shifts.
  • Available statuses can be customized to fit your workflow: Approved, Denied, Pending, etc.

Background Checks

We know that many volunteer positions require a background check, and we’ve partnered with a company called Verified First to provide affordable, integrated background checks through VolunteerLocal.

  • Verified First has a Chrome extension (download it here) that integrates directly into your VolunteerLocal Report.
  • Volunteers’ background check results are visible within the report, and will automatically “expire” after a specific time-frame (1-3 years, depending on your state requirements).


Volunteers can indicate their special skills, interests or certifications at the time of application, or this data can be maintained exclusively by administrators. Qualifications can be used to determine which jobs are visible to a volunteer.

  • Qualifications can be unique to your organization. For example, electrical work, a CDL driver’s license, or a massage therapist.
  • Jobs can require one or more qualification(s) – those positions are only visible to volunteers who are eligible/qualified to do them.

Template Messaging – Emails and Texts

You can now create (and save) template messages, for both email and SMS.

  • Template messages can be sent to individual volunteers from within their profiles.
  • These templates can include smart-tags: first name, last name, job info, volunteer profile link, etc.
  • Templates can be visible to other administrative users, but the ability to edit a template can be restricted to just the primary administrators.

These are just some of the changes we’ve rolled out in the last few months, but by far the most significant. Each offers unique benefits and we hope you can take advantage of them!

If you want to learn more about these features on your own time, check out our FAQ and YouTube Channel.

Did you know we have a weekly newsletter that specifically highlights our product? Subscribe to our Friday Tips Series newsletter here.

Contact us to learn more or schedule a product demonstration with a real person.

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Seven Tips to Help You Find that Perfect VMS 😍

I’ve always thought that buying software is a little like picking out an ice cream flavor from one of those places that has dozens of options.

Choose wrong and you are stuck with an entire cone of mediocre ice cream. Choose a winner, and it is a happy day.

OK, so that may be the extent of the analogy, but now that you are craving a treat, here’s a 5 minute read about volunteer management systems. This will go quick (and you might even have time to make an ice cream run when you’re done).

1. Make ‘User Friendly’ a top priority.

Ease-of-use is one of the most important considerations for any volunteer management software. A solution that is hard to navigate, slow to respond or requires a lot of training will cause frustration for both your staff and volunteers. 

Buy the software they will actually use. Oftentimes, this simply means finding the system that everyone can understand. 

2. Demo the software as a volunteer, too.

If your volunteer management system isn’t simple, easy to access and visually clear, your volunteers won’t use it. The right software solution should prioritize your volunteer’s time and user experience. Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google have changed the game in terms of consumers’ expectations for how software should be used, keep this in mind as you select your software.

3. Plan for growth.

Invest in a volunteer management system that can accommodate your needs as they change over time. For example, you may wish to elevate key volunteers into leadership positions. This means you’ll need captain-level administrative access settings to help delegate the work. Perhaps one or two rogue volunteers will prompt you to consider a flagged volunteer list.

Make sure the system you select has features like these (and more) available and ready to deploy when you need them. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to ask for a demonstration of features that may not be what you need today, but things you could want in the future.

4. Make sure you will be well supported.

You don’t want to be approaching the final days to your event with unanswered emails and phone calls hanging. Look for free, unlimited support. We think the best software providers offer live chat, phone and email support for starters. They should guarantee 24-hour (or less) response times on all emails. Extra points if they have a YouTube channel with tutorial videos to help guide your staff during off-hours and weekends. 

5. Seek the wisdom of the crowd.

As you explore different volunteer management systems, stack them side-by-side, and evaluate each product’s strengths and weaknesses as it relates to your priorities. If you want a flexible volunteer registration tool or check-in on a mobile app, iPad or laptop on the fly, give those features more weight in your evaluation. Once you’ve done this, research each vendor’s online reviews, paying particular attention to those features and read customer testimonials on their websites. Look to sites like Capterra and Software Advice for ratings, and always ask for references.

6. Survey your volunteers.

Use an online survey tool (like this one, or this one!) to create a survey about the overall volunteer experience, throughout the lifecycle of their relationship with you: awareness of the opportunity, signup/registration, advanced communications, arrival, staff interaction on-site, fulfillment of responsibilities, and wrapping up. Find out what areas are important to your volunteers. Ask them for ideas on how processes and communications could be improved.

Share the survey results with your software provider – good or bad, the right software company will love this kind of feedback, and they’ll be immediately responsive to changes or updates that the volunteers suggest might improve their online experience.

7. It’s OK to feel a little uncomfortable.

Taking your volunteer management activities online for the first time (or switching to a new software provider) comes with some discomfort. It’s ok and very normal. That discomfort however, should quickly dissipate as you engage with your software provider. 

The right software vendor will work with you to make sure you understand how the technology will support you and your volunteers every step of the way. If you don’t feel the love, don’t take the leap.

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Announcing: Integration with NeonCRM

We are thrilled to announce that VolunteerLocal now integrates with NeonCRM, a donor management system for nonprofit organizations. This integration allows our customers (that’s you!) to push their volunteer data directly into Neon with just the click of a button – no exports or imports required.

The following fields will sync into NeonCRM:

  • Email address
  • Event name
  • Job name
  • Shift start time
  • Shift end time
  • Hours worked

So, how does it all work?

You can activate this new integration under the “Settings” tab inside your VolunteerLocal account:

Once you’ve linked your VolunteerLocal and NeonCRM accounts, you’ll notice the “Sync Hours with NEON CRM” button inside every report (under Volunteers->Report):

You’ll also notice that you can sync an individual volunteer’s hours through his/her volunteer profile:

For more information, or to set-up your NeonCRM integration inside VolunteerLocal, contact us anytime at hello@volunteerlocal or 800-909-7370.

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Tips from USA Triathlon’s Caroline Robinson on Filling Volunteer Shifts

Here at VolunteerLocal, we get asked pretty frequently for advice about how to recruit volunteers more effectively. Especially in the case of triathlons and other endurance events using our platform, those tough-to-fill volunteer positions can sometimes start as early as 5am, and they often span through the early to mid-afternoon.

So we decided to ask the experts: our friends, customers and partners at USA Triathlon.

Meet Caroline Robinson, Event Services Coordinator at USA Triathlon. She helps USAT produce events that range from 900 to over 5,000 athletes – and she works with thousands of volunteers throughout this process in cities across the country.

“Our four National Championships are all very different,” says Robinson. “The smallest event only needs 200 volunteers, but the largest needs nearly 1,000.” Along the way, she’s learned some valuable lessons about volunteer recruitment, retention and communication.

On getting creative.

When it comes to filling volunteer shifts, Robinson is anything but shy.

“We say, reach out to high school kids, collegiate clubs, sports management programs at local colleges and universities, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, local community volunteer databases (online), and tap into those corporations that offer Volunteer Time Off,” she laughs as she adds, “I don’t ever think there’s a group you can’t ask. The worst they can say is no.”

Robinson recommended flexibility and creativity as a part of a comprehensive approach to fill volunteer positions. “If you need to set-up a booth at a local festival, go out and do that. Have the face-to-face contact, speak to a college class for ten minutes.” She cautioned, “Don’t be afraid to go out into the community to speak with these people.”

We think she has a point. It’s a lot tougher to turn down a volunteer ask in-person.

Keep it simple.

Robinson explained that because one of the Championship events will be produced in Cleveland this year, she has to rely heavily on outside groups to provide volunteers. “There’s only so much we can do from Colorado Springs,” she says. “So we try not to overburden our groups with a complicated sign-up process.”

For Robinson, it’s as simple as saying, ‘we’re looking for volunteers, here’s the date, here’s the link’ – and she likes to begin her outreach with certified Coaches, Race Directors and other officials who aren’t working the event.

In this regard, Robinson strongly recommends leveraging the USA Triathlon Race Director database to find expertise, mentors and (of course) volunteers in your area.

Read the room.

“It’s about knowing your audience,” says Robinson. “That means knowing your participants, and adjusting accordingly.” She explains that for her larger events, athletes usually bring family members along with them – and these auxiliary attendees can be a great resource for volunteer shifts. Alternatively, when community members understand (and support) the impact that an event like this can have, they are more easily incentivized to get involved as a way to be a part of the magic.

“That’s what’s exciting to me about getting volunteers for these events we have going on,” explains Robinson. “It’s being able to adjust as needed, and supporting these communities every step of the way.”

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Field Expert: Anne Summers

Anne Summers

West Des Moines, Iowa

“Volunteering is important to me because it’s where I learn most about myself, about other people, and about our world. I love being a part of something bigger than myself, and I enjoy working with others on a shared goal.”

What do you love about your hometown?

I love the big-little town vibe of our city. It’s such a treat to have access to city amenities and events while also enjoying tastes of small town familiarity. More specifically, I love our trees. It may sound nostalgic and cliche, but when we were looking for a home, I was looking for trees. Our neighborhood delivered!

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I’ve worked in the non-profit sector for seven years, and I’ve met some of the best volunteers! I’ve managed volunteers in a variety of roles including one-time events, annual conferences, and weekly tasks.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

Reading and riding bikes with my little family. We just got a Yuba that fits both kids on the back and has an electric assist to give me a boost up the hills!

Who is your favorite musical artist?

The Avett Brothers

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

As the parent of a toddler, most Friday nights are spent relaxing on the couch with my husband.



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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Samantha Gratton

Samantha Gratton

Raleigh, North CarolinaSamantha Gratton

“Volunteering helps you step outside of yourself. Perhaps you’ll join a cause you’re passionate about, or you’ll positively impact your community. Regardless, volunteering broadens your perspective and helps you connect with others in a very real way.”

What do you love about your hometown?

I’m in a city that’s just the right size, has relatively mild weather, and only a day trip away from the beach or mountains! But mostly, it’s the every day life that I love most–whether that’s taking a walk downtown to a festival/event or having a friend over for coffee.

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I’ve done a little bit of everything in my career, which includes coordinating big and small events with numerous volunteers, working at nonprofits and colleges, and simply volunteering myself.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

A lot of my time goes toward raising my kiddo, but past that I enjoy traveling, rock climbing, reading, writing, and supporting the people around me.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Rosie Thomas

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

Maybe out to eat at a local restaurant, on a walk downtown with my family, or at a friend’s house. Otherwise, I’m most likely at home…eating chocolate, catching up on some of my favorite shows, or writing ridiculously long emails.


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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Rebekah Coenen

Rebekah Coenen

Des Moines, IowaBekah

“Honestly, volunteering seems like such a common sense requirement as a human on the earth taking part in activities that others run. I can’t think of a single reason you shouldn’t. The world runs on passion.”

What do you love about your hometown?

Our neighbor Harry. He bring treats out to our dogs almost every day. And if he hasn’t been able to in a while he leaves them on the ground in our yard.

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I have experience on an Ultimate Frisbee non-profit board and trying to organize leagues and volunteers to help.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

I have a lot of favorites.. but my 3 top hobbies are Ultimate Frisbee, crafting, and brewing beer.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Florence and the Machine.

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

On my couch, snuggling with my husband and dogs!

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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Brianne Sanchez

Brianne Sanchez

Des Moines, Iowa

“Civic engagement is at the core of a functioning society. Volunteering is putting yourself in service of something bigger. It’s saying ‘yes’ to community and building up organizations and turning ideas into action.”

What do you love about your hometown?

I love the accessibility of Des Moines. You can be the person to make things happen. You can meet CEOs and college kids. We’re such a fun festival town, and we have great trails and library systems.

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I have worked in the nonprofit sector for more than five years, and currently manage volunteers as a huge part of my day job working at a medical school in community outreach.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:

Reading and riding bikes with my little family. We just got a Yuba that fits both kids on the back and has an electric assist to give me a boost up the hills!

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Blind Pilot

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

I live for my book club! Wine, pizza, books and conversation. But 5/6 Friday nights I’m popping popcorn on the stove and watching a movie with my kids. The Sandlot, anyone?!


“I like connecting people and entertaining a crowd – I consider myself a ‘pollinator – but I’m also really happy baking banana bread and listening to a podcast at home or going on a hike or bike ride with my family.”


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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Linh Ta

Linh Ta

Des Moines, IowaLinh

“Time is the most valuable thing someone can give.”

What do you love about your hometown?

I came for the food and stayed for the people.

friends find you on a typical Friday night?

Carl’s Place is where it’s at.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:


What types of events do you especially love?

Downtown festivals and parades.

Who is your favorite musical artist?

Shania Twain

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

Carl’s Place is where it’s at.


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VolunteerLocal Field Expert: Julie Kent

Julie Kent

Denver, ColoradoJulieKent

“Volunteering makes the world a better place – and it can provide lots of personal fulfillment, too!”

What do you love about your hometown?

No humidity!

Tell us about your unique perspective when it comes to volunteer coordination.

I’ve been on the board of a couple of non-profits so I’ve done a reasonable amount of volunteer recruitment and management.

What is your favorite hobby or activity outside of work:


Who is your favorite musical artist?

Thomas Rhett

Where would your friends find you on a typical Friday night?

Out to dinner and then at home binging on Netflix.


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