Whether you’re launching a Volunteer Management Software (VMS) for the first time or switching from another solution, the initial steps you take in its implementation are essential in setting your new system up for success. Volunteer management systems are a fantastic way to keep your organization and your volunteers organized; but it’s important to remember that launching any new software requires some effort. We’ve compiled 7 key steps to help you launch your new system, while preparing your staff and volunteers to use it successfully.
The Case for Volunteer Management Software
As a volunteer organization, you accumulate lots of data throughout the year ― logged volunteer hours, recurring shifts, contact information, specialized skills, and a multitude of other information on your volunteers. Without a centralized system in place, tracking and reporting this data can be time-consuming. Yet it’s essential that you gather this data for grant applications, for your board, and for accountability.
Many organizations are using multiple tools to track their data, like Excel spreadsheets, Google Calendar, and paper sign-in. Investing in a VMS can centralize all your tracking and reporting methods, and organizations of all sizes and types will benefit from automating volunteer management processes and data tracking.
Decide on a New Volunteer Management Solution
Volunteer Management Software comes in many flavors—some excel at volunteer relationship-building and engagement, some focus on scheduling, and other software is all about tracking volunteer hours. For example, Galaxy Digital’s Get Connected platform offers user-friendly volunteer scheduling, robust tracking and reporting, and focuses on volunteer engagement and strengthening volunteer relationships within your community.
Before you make your purchase, we recommend using a comparison site like Capterra or G2. These site provide a comprehensive list of options with user reviews all in one place. Leading user reviews is the best way to know that you are buying the software that’s right for you.
When choosing a VMS, establish a clear vision of your organization’s needs and goals. The right software is an integration of the features, usability, scalability, and pricing that works for your organization. Keep these in mind when considering a new software.
While you’re still using your old management method, you’ll want to capture a good snapshot of your current data. When moving to a new system, you’ll likely lose access to your old one. Make sure to archive everything and get a complete export of all of your data. An attentive VMS provider will help you transfer existing data into your new system; Galaxy Digital has a dedicated team devoted to data transfers.
What can I do to make the data transfer process easier?
Early on, when making decisions for importing data, ensure the right people are in the room. Those who will be managing your software should be in on the conversation. It’s also helpful to have a technical person (such as your organization’s IT professional) present if you’ll be exporting data from your old system or preparing data for import. We spoke to our expert Data Specialist for his suggestions on importing data:
“In general, it’s also really valuable to leave enough time for the transition. If you don’t, you can put yourself up against a deadline that is not possible. We recommend seven days on the short end and two weeks on the long end for data import.” Dave Breske, Data Specialist, Galaxy Digital
Decide What’s Important
Your next step is to decide what to import into your new system. Think important vs. dispensable data. If your data is already in a format that you can reference if needed (like an Excel sheet, or an archive from your old system), then we generally recommend that you don’t bring old data into your new system. Avoid importing inactive agencies, old opportunities, or volunteers who haven’t been active in years; this will help remove some of the complexity of the import process.
Which data should I keep?
- Volunteer opportunities that will be active at the time of new software launch
- User data, like contact information and hours (who have volunteered within the past 1-2 years)
- Active community partners and programs
Format and Import Your Data
Before you import data to your new VMS, you’ll want to format the information in a way that is compatible with your new system. Be aware that one system is likely to store information differently from another. For example, your old VMS might store both a home and mobile phone number, while your new system might only have the option to store one. Make sure to work with your provider to match your existing data with your new system.
Volunteer Management Software providers like Galaxy Digital have a data specialist that will help you import data into your new system. Ask about your provider’s data transferring process before purchasing the new system and include your data import as a part of your launch process.
Train Your Staff and Community Partners
Work with your new software provider’s Customer Success team to carry out launch activities. Then, teach the necessary people, like your community partners how to use your new site. You’ll want to give them plenty of time to post volunteer opportunities on your site. Proper training will minimize user error and will ultimately save you time and resources in the long-run.
Make sure to set aside dedicated time to complete the necessary training. Ask your provider’s Customer Success team for resources to help prepare community partners. When you dedicate the time to learn–and teach–your new system, your software is more likely to be a success!
Prepare Your Volunteers
Many VMS have a built-in communications tool. Try out this feature by announcing your new software to your volunteers and partners (about a month prior to its official launch). The goal of this outreach is to:
1. generate enthusiasm about your new software
2. communicate your launch date
3. prepare your existing volunteers for the transition
Start by introducing your VMS and the basics for how your volunteers will find opportunities and sign-up for them. You also want to communicate the advantages of the new system for the volunteer, your organization, and your community. Let your volunteers know that you will follow-up with instructions on how to find and register for your opportunities. When your volunteers are prepared and bought into the software, your transition is more likely to be a smooth one.
How can I ensure my volunteers use our new software?
You may consider providing a training session for your dedicated volunteers who are less confident with technology. Reach out to your provider’s Customer Success team for resources that can help make your volunteers successful.
Launch to the Public!
Keep in mind that launching a new VMS is a chance to build excitement and get a fresh start with your volunteers. Before you share your site with the public, you’ll want to be sure it features multiple volunteer opportunities. You don’t want to send out the link to your new platform only to have volunteers click it and find nothing there.
In the first couple of days after your launch, keep an eye out for any adjustments you’ll need to make. Remember launching is just the beginning! Amp up your engagement efforts while your volunteers and community partners are tuned in and excited about your new software.
Learn about managing your volunteers with Get Connected volunteer management software >>