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Get Volunteers to Embrace Your Volunteer Management System

You’ve made the (exciting!) decision to adopt a digital volunteer platform. Perhaps you’re currently switching to a new volunteer management system, and it’s time to roll it out to your supporters. Or maybe you’ve had your platform in place for a while now, but you’re struggling to engage volunteers online. 

No matter where you are in the process of adopting a new tool, it’s important to get your volunteers bought in. After all, you need everyone on board to make the most of your investment—that means your volunteers, too!

Read on to learn how to get your volunteers to embrace your tools, so you can focus on what’s important: delivering on your mission.

How to Get Volunteers to Buy-In to Your Volunteer Management Software:

Share the Vision 

New digital technology can take some getting used to, especially if volunteers are familiar with phone calls and paper sign-in sheets.

So, in addition to introducing your volunteers to the digital system, you’ll also want to share your vision for how you want the platform used. Involving stakeholders in the planning and implementation can foster deeper engagement with your digital tools. 

Here are a few ways to involve volunteers in your evolving processes: 

Communicate the Benefits

Help your volunteers understand why you chose to adopt a new system. When informing them about your software, keep the benefits volunteer-focused. In other words, what do stakeholders get out of the system? 

You may choose to communicate the benefits of volunteer management software like these: 

Program Management and Communication

Keep in touch and up-to-date by receiving communication from your volunteer leader all in one place, so you’ll always know where you need to be! 

Volunteer Empowerment

Sign up for and manage your volunteer schedule from your computer or mobile device. You can even receive recommendations for opportunities based on your unique skills and interests!

Volunteer Records

Track your impact, create your personal volunteer profile, log your hours, and access your unique volunteer report, all from the same tool. 

Set (and Manage) Expectations

You can’t force your volunteers to adopt your new system, but you can set expectations for existing and prospective volunteers. When volunteers know what to expect, they likely feel comfortable with changes.

What’s more, your regular volunteers will probably have lots of questions: When do you plan to roll out your digital platform? Are all volunteers required to use the platform? What happens to volunteer information once it’s in the system? 

Anticipate the questions and concerns your supporters might have. Then, put together a document that (1) answers frequently asked questions and (2) clearly outlines your expectations and vision for use. Share the document (providing both digital formats and paper copies) with your existing volunteers and during your onboarding process. 

Share Your Successes

Your volunteers are vital to your program’s success. So, as you move through switching software, share incremental successes. For example, maybe you’ve logged your first 1,000 hours or registered 100 volunteers. These moments of collective celebration can motivate volunteers to sign up for opportunities and continue to log their hours using your digital platform. 

And, of course, thank your volunteers for joining you on your journey! 

Utilize Your Communications Channels

Once you’ve decided what you want to say to your volunteers, you’ll need to reach them en masse. 

Use a range of communication channels to promote your volunteer management software. These channels may include:

By the way, you can use this sample message below to help you craft your own.

Sample Message to Getting Buy-in From Volunteers: 

Thank you for joining us as we move forward with our new system! Simply put, our volunteer management software enables us to do more

When you register for opportunities through the system, we gather more accurate data on our collective impact, ultimately leading to better outcomes for our shared community.  

So far, we’ve registered 100 new volunteers and logged over 1,000 hours (and counting) in our digital platform. Let’s keep up the good work, and watch our impact grow together!

Please reach out to us with your questions!

Devise a Plan for Switching Systems

Most organizations will take a few weeks (even months) to roll out their platform, and that means volunteer leaders are dealing with many moving parts during this transition. But with a bit of preparation and a thoughtful plan, you and your volunteers are in for smooth sailing! 

Work with your volunteer management software provider to understand typical timelines and procedural steps for setting up your new system. 

Outline a Communicate Plan

Be transparent with your volunteers as your work through the implementation of your platform. Compile a plan for how and when you will communicate key pieces of information to your volunteers. You’ll want to address the following questions in your communication plan: 

  • When do you expect the system to be up and running? Are there any other key dates volunteers need to know?
  • How and when will you communicate your timeline to volunteers? 
  • Will you provide technical support for volunteers? How can volunteers reach you for technical support?

Share Your Progress

Keep your volunteers in the loop as you switch systems. While they don’t need to know everything that’s going on in the back-end, a few updates along the way can get them excited about what’s to come. 

Share important updates, like how you will transfer volunteer data to your new system and when volunteers can register for an account.

Establish Training

Give your volunteers the tools they need to succeed from the outset. Not only will you need to train staff on how to use your volunteer management platform, but you’ll also want to teach your volunteers! 

What Volunteer Software Training Should Include

Your volunteer training should deliver the following information:

  • Where to find the platform and other online resources
  • How to register for an account
  • How to access and navigate their volunteer profile
  • Where to search for volunteer opportunities
  • How to sign up for volunteer opportunities
  • How to edit their preferences and personal information
  • How to check in to a shift
  • How to log hours and view reports

How to Deliver Volunteer Software Training

Vary the methods in which you deliver your training. For example, you won’t require your virtual or remote volunteers to attend the in-person training. On the other hand, some of your volunteers will benefit from in-person support. 

Record a video tutorial, and set up training sessions for volunteers to attend in person. Distribute written step-by-step instructions for volunteers who prefer to read along.

Create Access for Volunteers 

To get your volunteers to engage with your volunteer site, they need access to it! Make sure none of your volunteers get left behind as you move forward with your new platform. 

Here is how you can support and empower your volunteers as you go digital: 

Access to Internet

Don’t assume all your volunteers have regular internet access. You can, however, help them locate internet access. Direct them to local internet access points like your community’s public library, public WiFi hotspots, or your organization’s WiFi. 

Many systems offer a mobile app or mobile-friendly sites where volunteers can manage their schedules from their phones. So, show volunteers how to access your online tool from their mobile devices. 

The organizations with the happiest volunteers are inclusive and flexible. For some of your volunteers, accessing the internet simply may not be possible. So, if a few of your supporters prefer phone calls over online registration, that’s okay too!

Access to Devices

Some of your volunteers may not have access to a computer or smartphone to engage with your volunteer site. So here are a few ways you can accommodate more volunteers:

  • Volunteer Registration & Training Days – Offer regularly scheduled in-person registration and training days to support new members. Take this time to walk them through the essential activities within the system and share access points.
  • Self-service Station –  Place a digital device at a front desk or common space within your organization. Allow volunteers to check-in to shifts, sign up for opportunities, and log their hours—post access availability in high traffic areas.
  • Community Partners – If you don’t have these options inside your organization, partner with another nonprofit or community center to provide access to digital resources.

Provide Tech Support

Your volunteers represent a range of knowledge and experience regarding digital tools. Some individuals may need more support to learn the system. So, set aside time and patience for those who aren’t comfortable with technology. Remember that your tech support may look more like emotional support at times—a bit of encouragement goes a long way! 

Provide a dedicated phone number and email address for those who need help adjusting to your new system. 

Hosting training opportunities regularly will also empower your volunteers. By prioritizing access and supporting your volunteers, you will significantly reduce barriers to getting involved.

Change doesn’t have to be scary! With a bit of planning, effective communication, and some support, your volunteers are more likely to embrace the exciting upgrades to your volunteer management processes. 

Still searching for an all-in-one solution to volunteer management?

Author: Annelise Ferry