Your Needs Unmet – How to Meet Them with VolunteerLocal

Before I started blogging for VolunteerLocal, I started using VolunteerLocal. At first, I was working at a small nonprofit that occasionally hosted little volunteer opportunities. I used the free version of the platform, and it helped me manage my little signups simply. When I moved to a role at a University became responsible for events that necessitated hundreds of volunteers, I knew exactly which platform I wanted to use to protect my sanity and make signing up a breeze for the volunteers. (Any guesses?) That’s right: I created a new VolunteerLocal account and upgraded to a paid version of the platform that I continue to build into my annual budget at work.

The VolunteerLocal platform meets my (every-evolving) needs year after year, and it will meet yours if you:  

 

 

Need an easy way for volunteers to sign up for specific shifts and jobs. Volunteers love not having to create a log-in with a password they will constantly forget. With VolunteerLocal, they can sign up using whatever e-mail address is most convenient for them, and they receive a confirmation message automatically. Volunteers (and volunteer managers) can see exactly how many spots are open for any given shift and job. 

 

 

Need a dashboard to track your progress. Customize your VolunteerLocal login so you can get a quick snapshot of how many shifts remain open, how many are filled and how many unique and overall volunteers you have participating in your event. It even gives you a countdown of days until the event, if you want! This is a great motivator or nerve-calmer, depending on how recruitment is going. 

 

 

Need to collect volunteer T-shirt sizes. No need to guess at sizes for volunteers and accidentally over-order a batch of XXLs. The ability to customize signup information eliminates the need to track down volunteers and individually request their size, mobile phone number, or any specialized info that you need, like whether they’re with a certain company or over the age of 13. You can build it all in, and keep it constant or change it up and make it unique for any event.  

 

 

Need an easy way to communicate with volunteers. Paid VolunteerLocal accounts allow you to send mass messages through the platform to your whole volunteer team, or customize instructions and follow-up per job. 

Need an easy way for volunteers to cancel their shifts. If you don’t want to deal with e-mails and voicemail excuses, you can allow volunteers to cancel or swap shifts. Or, if you’re like me, you can turn that function off. Social sharing is also an option, if you want your volunteers to be able to tweet out or post to Facebook about their shifts and help you with your marketing efforts. 

Need a simple day-of sign in. You can easily export your volunteer lists and data as a spreadsheet. Again, you can so this en masse for the whole group, or export batches for specific job sign-ins. You can also use the platform to check in volunteers electronically on the Grow Plan.  

Need a way to store your annual volunteer data. I like to archive my events in VolunteerLocal after they’ve happened, and then at the end of the year, I take them out of archive and collectively export the data to get a big picture of who has volunteered and how often/long. I’ll also pull a past event out of archive if I want to make volunteer staffing plans based on the previous year’s successes and challenges. 

 

 

Need other people to be able to manage different events. With various paid VolunteerLocal accounts, you can have multiple administrators who can access only the events and information you give them permission to control. This is great if you’re working with student clubs and want to give access to student leaders, but only for the organizations they oversee. 

 

 

Need an assistant. What volunteer coordinator wouldn’t like an assistant to help with busywork and data? VolunteerLocal is like a virtual assistant that can pull reports for you faster than you can grab yourself a cup of coffee. Plus, it never takes a vacation day! 

 

 

Need to talk to a person if you’re stuck. VolunteerLocal has amazing customer service. They have been a phone call or e-mail away when I’ve had rare issues, and give me pointers on shortcuts and tricks that make using the platform even more fun.

 

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Requesting Feedback from Volunteers

What do you do after the race as been run, the kegs are empty, and the unsold art is safely packed away? 

Receiving feedback can sometimes be scary, but it is vital to improving our events and the volunteer programs that make them great.

It would be nice to have a break and not think or worry about your event for a few days, weeks, or even months. Maybe a few other things in your life have suffered as the event moved closer and your attention shifted to full-focus as you prepared for the big day. Before you can dust off your hands and say, “see ya next year,” we think you should consider one last item on that to-do list: get feedback.

Why is attendee (and especially volunteer) feedback so important? To help you uncover those blind spots. To make simple changes that can significantly impact the experience of all your volunteers on-site. To make the volunteer program more fun, accessible and impactful. To keep your best volunteers coming back, year-over-year.

Let’s dive in. There is more than one way to get feedback from your volunteers and you might find a combination of a few gets you the best information. No matter what you decide on make sure you read the responses and work to incorporate their feedback. 

 

Informal Questions/Chit Chat 

This includes conversing with volunteers as they check-out of their shifts, or at the post-event party. It can also include asking staffers or colleagues for their thoughts back at your desks, after the event is over. Sometimes, asking for feedback in this way (casual, informal settings) can produce the most honest, in-the-moment results – but you may not get the most thoughtful responses with this method.

Pros 

Cons

  • This doesn’t have to happen at the end of the event and could help inform some of your choices along the way. 
  • You can get feedback right away. It is easy for people to forget about what they would make comments about. 
  • Not everyone will be honest in an informal situation. 
  • You could get heat of the moment comments that aren’t accurate to the whole way someone feels

 

Digital (or Paper) Surveys

We recommend using a free service like SurveyMonkey or SurveyPlanet, but if you want to get fancy, you might consider a more advanced solution like Qualtrics. Online and paper surveys tend to have the highest submission rates when an incentive is offered to complete them – you could randomly choose one recipient to receive a free festival “basket” (leftover merch, anyone?!) or a set of passes to next year’s event.

Pros 

Cons 

  • People are more likely to be honest and they can think of how they want to word things. 
  • Can take place over week or two giving people time to think and give thoughtful feed back. 
  • There have to be a set of questions so it doesn’t leave much room for discussion or elaborating. 
  • You can’t force anyone to fill it out so you might not get as much information as you want. 

 

End-of-Year Meeting

This may entail bringing everyone together (staff, volunteers, and captains) in a conference room or – if you’d prefer a more open setting, a post-event party – to share ideas and feedback in a collaborative, discussion-oriented way. Virtual meetings count, too! Think: conference calls, Google Hangouts or Skype sessions.

Pros

Cons

  • Good time for everyone to get together after the event is over and maintain relationships
  • allow for more discussion on topics that are important to everyone. 
  • Not everyone is comfortable with conformation and may be less inclined to speak up about an issue. 
  • Happens at the end of the event so you can’t change anything during the event. 

 

Suggestion Box/Continual Feedback 

The old classic. It never hurts to have a brightly colored box stationed at check-in/out, with bits of paper and pencils nearby to deliver anonymous feedback in real-time. Sometimes, your biggest detractors (with the most valuable feedback) won’t take the time to complete an online survey, and certainly may not feel inclined to join the post-event gathering. An Honesty Box is a simple, low-cost and low-fi investment that is guaranteed to deliver.

Pros

Cons

  • Your volunteers will have the ability to be heard right away instead of waiting until they are called upon to deliver feedback, either virtually or in-person.  
  • You can start collecting feedback before the event occurs, and make changes leading up to the big day to ensure everyone has the best time possible. 
  • Feedback isn’t digitally stored or tracked in the cloud, so if you want any kind of reporting, you’ll have to manually enter this data into a system online.
  • If it is all anonymous it can lead to more of a venting tool than getting constructive feedback. 

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