Associations and nonprofits are always trying to make more of an impact with less – less money, less staff, less resources. It’s made them some of the more creative and efficient organizations we’ve ever seen.
But there’s still one piece of software you may not be using at full capacity: your volunteer management platform. Volunteer tools are standard for associations and nonprofits, and they can be used for much more than just standard volunteer tasks.
To help cut down your tech budget and get more done, we’ve put together a list of the features most volunteer software has and creative ways you can use those tools to fulfill other, less traditional volunteer needs.
Common Volunteer Management Tools
The best volunteer management software has five key features:
- Opportunities – You can post volunteer tasks with a description, start and end date for the role, and the time commitment required.
- Applications – Decide whether your opportunities automatically accept interested members or if you they need to submit an application and be approved by a staff member.
- Profiles – Volunteers can create profiles with their skills, experience, interests, and location to help match them with the right opportunities.
- Tracking and Rewards – Your software should track volunteer hours and help you reward top participants.
- Analytics – Your tracking tools should lead to dashboards and reports showing the variety of opportunities you have, how well they’re performing, and the real-dollar ROI of your programs.
Depending on your software, you may know these tools by different names, but they should be included in most volunteer platforms.
The best part of these tools is they’re multi-purpose, meaning you can use them in different ways, including for applications outside of traditional volunteering. Better yet, your software will track activities and provide analytics no matter how you use your tools, so you don’t need to worry about finding new measurement tools.
Here are three ways you can use your volunteer tools in non-traditional ways.
3 Non-Traditional Uses for Volunteer Tools
1. Award Submissions
If your organization gives out awards for top members or your most involved advocates, you can easily use your volunteer software to accept nominees.
To do this, post an opportunity with a title such as “Submit a Nomination” or “Nominate a Colleague for Our Annual Awards”. You can even create different opportunities for each award category. Once you go through the applications you can announce the winners at your annual conference, on your website, or via email.
Expert Tip: You can use this same principle to run contests with your volunteer tools. Post the contest as an opportunity and let your members submit themselves or their peers as potential winners. Then, find creative ways to recognize contest winners through your member newsletter, via your community homepage, or by publishing a congratulatory blog post.
2. Advocacy Programs
Volunteer management software is often versatile enough that you can completely repurpose it to run your advocacy program. Instead of posting volunteer opportunities, post advocacy opportunities such as referring a new member, posting a review, or promoting your organization on social media to increase buzz.
You can have members apply for opportunities before they perform it or you can reframe the application process to help you see what members have done. For example, when members “apply” for an opportunity to leave an online review, you can have them send a screenshot of their review to show they completed the task. Once members have finished their task, you can award points and provide rewards to encourage continued advocacy.
Expert Tip: Build an entire gamification program to encourage members to become champions. Think about how you’ll move people up the engagement and advocacy ladders, such as accumulating a certain number of points or completing a certain amount of opportunities. Then promote your program via email marketing to increase participation.
3. Event Planning and Hosting
You’re probably already using your software to find volunteers for your annual conference, but consider using it to find speakers and supplement event management at a local level as well.
To start, use your volunteer tools to accept speaker submissions for your conference or small, local events. Just post the speaker opportunity and start accepting applications. You can make your opportunity as general or specific as you want – create one opportunity for your entire conference or post opportunities for each session track. The more specific your opportunities are, the less work you’ll have to do to organize speakers and their topics.
And, if your volunteer tools allow, make sure you set experience levels for these speaking opportunities to make sure you get the most qualified applicants. You can also view applicant profiles to see how much experience potential speakers have.
On a more local level, you can post opportunities to host or organize a local chapter event or meetup. This helps get more members involved and connecting in person while giving chapter leaders a break. Plus, it helps you identify new members who are interested in your organization at a local level.
Bonus: Community Management and Microvolunteering
Community managers often wear multiple hats, so give them a little extra help by outsourcing small community management tasks and engagement activities to your members. Often considered microvolunteering, these tasks can be anything from responding to unanswered posts, filling out your member profile, or welcoming new members to the community on a monthly basis.
Use your volunteer tools to set time frames and different ways of filling these microvolunteering tasks depending on each opportunity. For unanswered questions, curate a list and post each question as a separate opportunity. Accept between one and three volunteers for each question, and auto-approve applicants to cut down on manual work. For welcoming new members, post a term-based opportunity. A member could volunteer to welcome new members when they post in a welcome thread or send a personal welcome email to all new members for a month. After that month, you could reopen the opportunity and find another volunteer.
Make the Most of the Tools You Already Have
Be creative with your software and how you use it. There are workarounds and new ways to use even the most basic tools that will ultimately make your job easier and save your organization some much-needed dollars.
Think about what your organization needs to accomplish and the functionality you need to be successful. What are some pain points for each department and what are your goals? Do your volunteer tools have the functionality to meet those needs?
Chances are, you’ll find many more ways to use your volunteer tools and other software to solve current problems without spending extra time and money.