If you run any kind of nonprofit, volunteer program, or corporate volunteer program, you know that you spend far too much time scheduling volunteers.
Traditional methods for logging volunteer hours, scheduling, event management or volunteer check-in involve spreadsheets or, worse, pen and paper sign-up sheets, wasting a lot of time for both staff and volunteers. Having to resort to paper also makes you look unprofessional in these times when sustainability is a huge factor. Data can be transferred incorrectly from physical sign-up sheets, such as if you can't read a volunteer's handwriting.
The modern solution is volunteer management software. However, this software is often expensive and can cost several hundred dollars a month. A simple solution: free volunteer management software!
Looking for a volunteer management tool you can set up in 5 minutes and start using for FREE? Try Shift!
For larger organizations, more sophisticated platforms are worth it, because they may have multiple volunteer managers, a higher level of software needs, and have the budget and resources to do so.
For smaller ones, it can be prohibitive. Your donors want you to spend money on events and programs, not software. Or for smaller volunteer programs, there may not be much your company can spare.
These smaller programs can do equally great work and still need good scheduling software, even if they might not be able to afford, or need, more complete software such as our Get Connected platform. Is it possible to find volunteer management software for free?
What Is Free Volunteer Management Software?
Free volunteer management software is software that is designed to streamline and manage volunteers and volunteer opportunities. Good volunteer management software lets you track volunteer time in a dedicated volunteer hours log, easily handle volunteer scheduling, including by having volunteers schedule themselves, and simplify volunteer check-in at events.
An affordable volunteer scheduling tool replaces earlier manual methods, saving time and money. You can even have check-in systems that automatically log and attribute hours.
Most of this software operates online and across multiple devices, including mobile. Your data is safely stored in the cloud and the privacy of volunteers is maintained.
Volunteer management software does not just help streamline managing and scheduling volunteers, but often has features that help with coordination and communication, such as letting you email everyone on a shift. It can also be helpful if you need to do outreach to recruit more volunteers.
Does Free Volunteer Management Software Exist?
A quick search on volunteer management software shows that many of these options are pricy, running to several hundred dollars a month. For smaller nonprofits, this may not be the best use of your donors' money.
In fact, donors often judge nonprofits by how much, or rather how little, they spend on admin stuff. If you're on a budget for administrative purposes, then you might be looking for free volunteer management software for nonprofits.
Some free volunteer management software does exist, and it can fulfill your basic needs easily enough. However, the options are decidedly limited and the most popular, Signup Genius, limits its free version substantially.
Furthermore, searching for the best free volunteer management software online will give you a variety of options that are not free. If they are free, they often have significant limits or are supported by annoying and intrusive ads.
While some nonprofits may have no choice but to use free software, due to a low budget, reductions in donations, or the need to spend the money they do have on a major profit, most nonprofits will find they have to pay something for the features they need.
The good news is that this doesn't mean you have to go with one of those several hundred-dollar-a-month platforms.
How to Find Free or Affordable Volunteer Management Software
Again, a lot of online searches will result in platforms that charge a lot. Many also do not declare their fees, in part because they want to offer very specific pricing.
For example, it is common to be charged by the number of volunteers you want to put in the database. This can be challenging if you have a larger volunteer pool, or a number of currently inactive volunteers you are hoping will return, such as young people who go away to college but might be available during the summer break.
Donor management software also sometimes has volunteer management options. If you have a low budget, tools that combine the two, such as Andar/360 or HandsOn Connect may be a better option for you.
You need to understand the system you are looking at and make sure that it gives the features and benefits you need.
Do you need software that will help with your outreach to find more volunteers by making it easy for them to get information about your program and sign up?
Do you want volunteers to be able to track their own hours for you?
Do your volunteers need detailed reports they can use on their resumes or college application?
The size of your organization is also important. For smaller organizations, it's very important to keep the costs low. While it is hard to find software that is genuinely free, it is possible to get good volunteer management software for under $50 a month, especially if you have a small cadre of volunteers. In fact, there are numerous options at a low price, still having the features you need to save time, organize your events better, and avoid paper sign-up sheets.
What Is the Best Free Volunteer Management Software?
The best completely free volunteer management software is probably SignupGenius, but it is advertising-supported and they charge to get rid of the ads. This means it is not an ideal solution.
However, Shift offers a free trial so you can check out all of our neat features.
You can post your opportunities in a central place and then volunteers can post their responses directly and you can select volunteers for a shift, reach out to them to see if they are available at another time, etc.
You can send specific invite links. The software also logs hours and generates reports so you can track volunteer hours for rewards.
You can schedule directly from your calendar and email all of your volunteers, one, or a tagged group, such as everyone working on a specific event.
Shift is free for 30 days and then a flat rate of $39/month after that. We don't limit the number of volunteers and we don't charge extra for features.
This makes Shift a great option if you have a limited budget and it saves far more time than you might think.
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