Volunteer management is often on my mind right now, and I find that it’s a component of the festival mix that’s not too difficult to get right. Fortunately, there are plenty of enthusiastic people out there who are happy to trade a bit of their time and skills for the satisfaction to create a memorable collective experience. That leaves us with three problems: recruiting, scheduling and communicating.
I’m preparing a presentation on ‘Recruitment, Recognition and Retention‘ with my colleague Saskia for a Volunteer Managers meeting at the Art Gallery of Ontario in April, so I’ll come back to this in a later post .
As for scheduling, the tricky part is not to figure out when volunteers are needed for which tasks, but rather to display them in a manageable way. If you have multiple sites, simultaneous activities, one-off necessities such as an airport run, it can quickly get messy to try to visualise them all at a glance. And without a dynamic system, it’s easy to forget to fill in a shift or to miss out on some volunteers when notifying them of changes. A spreadsheet and emails can go quite a long way, but they’ll cost a lot of time and frustration.
Enter technology, and even better, a totally free software. I’ve used a platform called VolunteerSpot for two different events now, Jane’s Walk and Toronto Design Offsite Festival, and even though it’s nothing like ‘proper’ volunteer management software such as Volunteer Squared, which I blogged about previously, or Volgistics, it’s a million light-years from the awkwardness of a painfully manual system.
A few features that will seem unbelievably sophisticated to anyone who’s never used such a software (i.e. me about a year ago):
- You can create a custom link that take volunteers straight to your sign-up form.
- Volunteers register online, with all the details that you want to collect, and they sign up themselves for shifts.
- You can leave shifts open, with no sign-up limit, or lock them once they’ve reached desired capacity.
- You can see at a glance any vacant spot.
- You get a notification when volunteers cancel their shift.
- Volunteers receive an automated email reminder before their shift.
It’s geared towards small nonprofit and volunteer-led organisations, so it’s suitable for a festival with fairly simple needs, maybe up to 60 volunteers. Beyond that, it might be worth moving on to a more robust platform that gives you more options and support. After all, Volgistics costs as little as $380 per year for 200 active volunteer records, but that could be $380 that you need to buy volunteer T-shirts.
VolunteerSpot has 5 sample sign-ups to demonstrate its multiple uses and a few video tours. I should also mention that it has a premium version, but if you can afford to pay, then other softwares offer a smoother interface and more features.