Technology is transforming the way volunteer programs operate.
Most community organizations recognize that technology drives process and management. Yet, somewhat paradoxically, nonprofits fall behind compared to their for-profit counterparts when it comes to adapting to a digital-first world.
Today, volunteer programs need to rely on digital tools to meet the shifting needs of stakeholders.
Read on to learn how technology can help your volunteer program better adapt to an increasingly digital (albeit uncertain) tomorrow while maximizing your impact today.
- Support People Power
- Become More Agile
- Streamline the Volunteer Journey
- Increase Revenue
- Strengthen Networks
- Build Capacity
1. Support People Power
Technology isn’t meant to replace people but to empower them by freeing up time to do what people do best: problem-solve, communicate, and engage in the creative process.
That said, volunteer programs across the country faced both staffing and volunteer shortages during the pandemic, and many found they simply hadn’t enough people power to operate as usual. In response, volunteer programs invested in technology to pivot to a digital-first model.
This digital switch was not in vain. In fact, the overwhelming majority of nonprofits that invested in new tech last year said it was highly impactful.
Many volunteer leaders find themselves bogged down by administrative tasks that can be accomplished more efficiently with the help of technology. When you’re sorting through spreadsheets and manually logging hours, you’re certainly not utilizing your talents as a volunteer leader.
From recruiting new volunteers to converting your loyal supporters into donors, keeping these processes streamlined can be a challenge without smart systems in place.
What systems are volunteer leaders using?
From volunteer-facing digital platforms to behind-the-scenes data tracking, volunteer management tools can support you by automating some of your most complex and time-consuming processes; think volunteer activity reporting, volunteer matching, registration, and more.
In short, automated and efficient volunteer management means your expertise and energy are spent on high-impact activities like building your network, making connections, and supporting volunteers in their roles.
2. Become More Agile
It’s no secret that nonprofits were hit hard by the pandemic. The age-old problem of limited resources was largely compounded for many community organizations and the communities they serve.
The most agile organizations stayed afloat, and some thrived.
What was their secret?
They had to find ways to adapt their management techniques, become more efficient, and work from home. This meant adopting technology that would help support virtual volunteer recruitment, remote management, and online fundraising.
When the rest of the world is going digital-first (including today’s volunteers), your program will benefit when you work to increase your digital IQ and invest in systems that streamline every step of the management process.
Virtual Volunteerism and Microvolunteerism: Trends in Community Engagement
Did you know that interest in microvolunteering is on the rise?
Another surprising development that could affect your volunteer program: 78% of nonprofit organizations surveyed believe they would operate fully virtually in the next year.
To stay competitive, you need to be up-to-date on nonprofit trends, like microvolunteerism and virtual volunteerism. Part of staying current is adapting your processes and tools to meet the demands of today’s volunteers.
For example, a volunteer mobile app can empower your supporters to easily self-select opportunities that match their needs from the palms of their hands. In other words, volunteers essentially recruit and onboard themselves.
With a powerful online presence, you can more readily deliver opportunities that suit today’s volunteers, like virtual activities and microvolunteering tasks.
In short? Web-based, digital tools support preparedness so you can respond to the shifting needs of your community and the interests of volunteers.
3. Streamline the Volunteer Journey
To future-proof your program, you need to think about how to streamline and simplify every step of the volunteer lifecycle, including:
- Volunteer Recruitment
- Volunteer Screening
- Volunteer Matching and Scheduling
- Volunteer Onboarding and Training
- Volunteer Communication
- Volunteer Recognition
- Volunteer Retention
Now, imagine being able to manage each step of the volunteer journey entirely online. This will undoubtedly become a reality for many volunteer programs, as one-third of organizations report that remotely managing employees and volunteers was a top concern.
Your volunteer program should invest in technology that enables you to manage all stages of the volunteer lifecycle online, but you don’t want to have to deal with too many disparate tools. An all-in-one tool like volunteer management software will centralize processes from recruitment to retention.
Did you know? Volunteer retention remains one of the most persistent challenges for volunteer programs.
Placement and volunteer recognition go a long way in keeping supporters engaged. Robust digital management makes it possible to track and measure volunteer interests and impact, and even automate the volunteer matching and recognition process. Not only will volunteer leaders have data at their fingertips, but online platforms also provide volunteers with access to unique profiles and cumulative impact tracking, so they remain inspired and engaged.
4. Increase Revenue
Good data is essential to increasing your revenue and staying competitive in the nonprofit sector. Your volunteer program data can lead to highly impactful outcomes, such as:
- Increased funding and grant success
- More engaged stakeholders
- Improved transparency
- Higher volunteer to donor conversion rates
- Increased operational efficiency and program return on investment
How do you collect data accurately and efficiently?
You guessed it! Digital tools.
The fact is, data collection can be a pain point for many volunteer programs. They often don’t have the resources to manage data manually—a practice that is both inefficient (read: expensive) and inaccurate. Plus, you’re probably tired of constantly reminding volunteers to enter their hours after every shift! When you have multiple, flexible ways to collect data—like a mobile app and automated hours tracking—you simply get more of the data you need.
5. Strengthen Networks
Smart volunteer programs leverage their networks to grow. From corporate partnerships to word-of-mouth recruitment, these networking opportunities allow volunteer programs to maximize resources and explore new strategies for developing better solutions to social solutions.
Leveraging cooperative relationships can help you access new volunteers, donors, revenue, and resources while increasing visibility. But you need the tools to centralize and mobilize partners and stakeholders.
There are several ways to utilize technology to support partnerships:
- Shoring up your social media strategy to reach new audiences
- Developing communication channels with email marketing and SMS campaigns
- Connecting volunteers with agencies and projects using a centralizing management platform or volunteer site.
- Employing a flexible reporting tool for unique networks (like consolidating data collection processes from different locations or compiling reports for corporate groups).
6. Build Capacity
Capacity building is an investment in the effectiveness and future sustainability of a volunteer program. Building capacity in an organization enhances its mission, skills, and resources to serve community needs better.
In order to build capacity, volunteer programs must accomplish more with less. But how can you become more efficient?
Technology can help your volunteer program operate more efficiently in your core capacity areas, including recruitment, management, engagement, and retention.
When adopting new technologies, you’ll want to audit the tools you already have to identify gaps in your tech needs. What cost-effective tools and resources are available to you to streamline volunteer management? What communication tools are you currently leveraging to engage community partners?
It all boils down to finding ways to support your communities better, and that means adapting and growing to meet their needs and stakeholder interests. If you find that you're working harder than ever, you're certainly not alone. But it may be time to implement digital tools that help you work smarter instead.