Technology and Volunteering

This article will be the first in a series where we look at the technologies available to Volunteer programme managers.  With more ways to communicate becoming available almost every day, we want to look at your options and try and advise which will provide the most bang for your buck.

A quick look at the options available to you and your volunteers tells you there are more options available than any one person can reasonably manage, facebook, Blogging, twitter, SMS, Instagram, YouTube, Vine and the list goes on. So how do you select the technologies that suite your Volunteers and how do you use them to maximum effect.

Providing an environment for Volunteers with as few barriers to entry as you can, is the best place to start. Technology can be used to simplify and improve the Volunteering experience  whilst  providing a platform for marketing, advocacy and an open market place of opportunity.  It must also be considered that at its worst, technology, can be the biggest barrier to entry due to poor design, ineffective use of data and creating an environment that does not allow Volunteers flexibility and room to grow and develop.

So what lessons have we learnt over the last 8 years of building Websites for Volunteer Organisations?

Can you remember what you did before Google?  How did people get anything done?  Websites are ubiquitous now and peoples expectations from websites are only being set higher and higher.  Expectation is that most tasks can be undertaken on the web when we need to do them, from On-line banking, paying your council tax or ordering a pizza.

From a Volunteers point of view, what do they need from a website?

We have found through extensive Volunteer research over the last 6 years that number 1 requirement for Volunteers is simplicity of use.  If the website is difficult to join, offers poor search results and prevents Volunteers from getting on to Volunteer opportunities with a single visit to the site, the chances are it will result in lost Volunteer Engagement.

Clean Web layout for Volunteers
Clean Web layout for Volunteers

You may not be in a position to use a system such as VolunteerKinetic, so our advice is build a website with the Volunteer as your customer and always keep your customer in mind.  Make sure its easy for your Volunteer to find opportunity that suit their interests and finally look at how the Volunteer goes from impulse to Volunteer to actually arriving at that first  opportunity, examine that process and look at how you can remove and reduce the various barriers they will face.  Don’t make your website an additional barrier.

If you are lucky enough to be able to look at Websites such as VolunteerKinetic or some of the other systems that are available on the market currently then bare in mind the following checklist:

Does your volunteer get clear advice and instruction at each stage of the process? (reminders and instructions via Text, e-mail and in their on-line profile.

Is there some one the Volunteer can contact if they have questions.

Does the system collect feedback on the Volunteer experience that can be used to further develop the opportunities on offer.

and most importantly

Is the website easy to use for Volunteers? 

If you can find a website solution that meets the criteria outlined above we think you will enjoy success with your Volunteer programme.  Over the next few weeks we will explore some of the other channels of communication, services and technologies that we think you can leverage to enhance and develop the experience for your Volunteers.

If you have any questions or suggestions about how Technology, Design and Delivery with in Volunteer Management can make a difference please feel free to get in touch on the details below as we would love to hear what you think.

If you would like to find out more about VolunteerKinetic then please get in touch and arrange a demo.

I look forward to your suggestions.

Chris

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