Another option – Volunteer management software for schools to track parent volunteers.

In this blog post we will provide product information on Volunteer management software for purposes of tracking parent volunteers in schools.

Volunteer management systems are the next step up from Time/Hour tracking software and generally offer a much broader range of features and functionality. The reason for this is volunteer management systems serve more industry segments, for example, non-profits, hospitals, universities and, of course, schools. And since these organizations tend to be big organizations, with hundreds if not thousands of volunteers, their volunteer needs are wide-ranging.

In order for volunteer management system vendors to be able to serve such varying industry segments – and their needs – the software offerings need to have more feature set offerings. That said, whilst such feature sets are broad they are not “deep”, meaning they come with many features, but the extent to which the features serve user needs is rather limited.

However, it is the extent of an organization’s volunteer program which causes these organizations to look to volunteer management systems.

Catholic, Independent, and Charter schools, with their strong focus on building school community, most often have very extensive parent participation programs. A Catholic elementary school with 300 families for example, may have as many has 70+ school events and activities, with 600 to 800+ available volunteer positions or shifts, every year. Plus these schools have significant volunteer requirements, for example, tracking families with Criminal Record Checks or Food Handling Certificates. Online signup forms and Time/Hour tracking systems simply do not come close to serving such volunteer management needs.

Features of Volunteer Management Systems

  • Generally provide all the features that Time/Hour tracking software provide, plus the following.
  • Centralized system wherein everything from signup forms, volunteer profiles, event signup, scheduling and management, and advanced reporting are all in one place.
  • Scheduling of events and school activities needing volunteers.
  • Ability for volunteers to add and manage User profiles, all contained in a volunteer database.
  • Volunteer signup and hours tracking.
  • Ability to serve up and manage unique volunteer signup pages for special groups of people or special events.
  • Ability to manage volunteer profiles.
  • Multiple user levels and permissions.
  • Ability to send emails to volunteers, both automated and manual.
  • Kiosks for volunteers to check in and check out.
  • Integration with CRM or school information systems.

As you can see, volunteer management systems offer a wide range of capabilities.

With volunteer management systems, getting started usually involves “implementation”, meaning entering data and configuration of the system. In most cases, training is also part of the process, again, because there are so many capabilities to learn.

In our next blog post, we will look at another option for school parent volunteer management – highly specialized systems uniquely designed for schools. Come back again in the next couple of days to learn about these systems.

Happy volunteering!

 

 

 

 

 

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Next option – Volunteer Time / Hour tracking software to track school parent volunteers

Continuing on our blog post series on available software alternatives available to track school volunteers, in this post we’ll be focusing on Volunteer Time or Hour tracking software.

Volunteer Time/Hour tracking software is, as the name implies, tracks hours of the volunteers. This typically involves a 2-part process:

  1. Volunteers signing up for volunteer opportunities.
  2. Volunteers then logging and entering the volunteer jobs they completed.

Administrators or organizers can then verify the jobs volunteers have submitted, and the verified hours can be reported on in built-in reports.

Features of Volunteer Time/Hour Tracking software:

  • Volunteers are able to submit or log their hours.
  • Volunteers can view available volunteer opportunities and signup; different events and activities with volunteer opportunities are shown in different webpages.
  • Site Administrators or coordinators are able to verify hours.
  • Administrators are able to assign a volunteer hours ‘goal’, to which volunteers and their service hours can be tracked against.
  • Built-in reports provide information on volunteers and their hours.
  • Administrators have the ability to send emails to volunteers.

The ability of having volunteers submit their service hours inherent in Time/Hour tracking software is, by its very nature, both an advantage and a disadvantage.

In one sense, the ability for volunteers to submit their hours is an advantage because often times volunteers will do more work than the originally scheduled Start and End times of the volunteer job. So, the volunteer has the flexibility to submit the correct amount of time to the volunteer program leader.

The flip side of the ability for volunteers to submit their hours is, the actual fact that volunteers have to submit their hours in order to receive the hours. With online forms, when a parent signs up for volunteer jobs are automatically tracked and are given with the volunteer. In Time/Hour tracking software, the crediting of hours is based on volunteers having to submit their hours and the organizer having to verify the hours. And the volunteer jobs and hours that a volunteer signed up for are not necessarily associated with the job that the volunteer has to submit. For any submitted hours, the Administrator or organizer has to first look at the volunteer job in question to see if in fact the volunteer was signed up for that job. Then the Administrator can the verify the volunteer’s hours.

However, the biggest inherent shortcoming of Time/Hour tracking software is the fact that volunteers are simply not very cooperative in submitting or logging in their hours. And when they do, it is often late in the year. This creates a huge burden on administrators and coordinators, who need to go back weeks, if not months, to find the volunteer positions in question and verify jobs and hours. For example, in an elementary school, most parents submit their hours late in the school year. Administrators and coordinators need to deal with dozens, if not hundreds of volunteer jobs, going as far back as September of the previous year.

So, Volunteer Time/Hour tracking software, whilst provides features not found in online signup form services, have both pros and cons with the inherent way these systems typically work.

In our next post, we will turn to general volunteer management systems. These provide the next level of features above what Time/Hour tracking systems provide. So come back and learn about volunteer management systems.

Happy volunteering!

 

 

 

Software to track school volunteers – Available Options Series

In most of our conversations with schools considering software for their school volunteer program, we’ve realized that school administrators and parent volunteer program leaders need help understanding the many different options available to them and how those options differ from one another. So, in a 4-blog post series, we’ve decided to share our knowledge about the wide range of available options on software to track school parent volunteers.

Generally speaking, software for tracking school parent volunteers comes in 4 categories:

  1.  Online signup forms
  2.  Hour Tracking web apps
  3.  General volunteer management systems
  4.  Specialized volunteer management software uniquely designed for schools

In this post, we’ll focus on Online signup forms.

As we briefly wrote in a past blog post, online volunteer signup forms are, well, just that. Online signup forms come in different varieties, from free single webpage signups to multiple online signup form services.

Features of Online Signup forms

Free Signup forms

  • You’ll typically get 1 signup form
  • 1 ‘organizer’ account, which is usually for the person who is managing the school activity or event need volunteers.
  • the ability to create a ‘schedule’ – either the day(s), Start and End times of the volunteer opportunities, and how many volunteers you need.
  • send emails to the participants, i.e. parent volunteers.
  • pick a theme for your signup page.
  • no passwords needed – this is a good and bad thing – good in that you can send the link to anyone, and bad because the link is often posted by the schools on their website, meaning anyone on the Internet can see the information.

Paid Signup forms

  • these will of course include the features contained in a free version, plus the following, in one form or another.
  • multiple signup form webpages, each one being a different link.
  • multiple organizers, again, the # available will depend on some type of plan that you can select; the greater the # of organizers, the more you pay per month.
  • custom fields that you can add to each signup form.
  • various ways to create signup schedules.
  • more advanced emailing capabilities.
  • basic volunteer hours tracking; this usually comes in the way of services hours from one signup page being dumped into an Excel spreadsheet.
  • the cost of Paid signup form services range from $9/month to as much as $49/month.

Getting started is very easy with online signup forms, you just need to create an account.

If your school needs help with recruiting parent volunteers for a school event, then online signup forms are great tools. You just need to pick which plan you need based on how many events and how many organizers you have.

In our next post, we’ll be looking at Hours Tracking web apps. We’ll provide features information on those web apps and how they differ from online signup forms. So be sure to come back in a couple of days.

Happy Volunteering!

Why not just use an online signup sheet?

Online signup sheets are really useful. There are numerous popular online signup sheet options available, so why shouldn’t your school just one of those for your volunteer program, instead of OnVolunteers?  What’s the difference?

Online signup sheet software allows you to invite people to easily sign up for things such as potlucks, neighborhood and school events, even big non-profit fundraisers. The idea is that you create an account and then create a signup ‘sheet’, a webpage. You then invite people, sending them invitations by entering their email addresses directly from within the tool itself. Your invitees receive an email with the invitation to go to the signup webpage, eezy peezy as they say. If you have an event in which you need to do that, then online signup sheets should definitely be on your list of tools to try.

 

Different

OnVolunteers is very different from online signup sheets in that OnVolunteers is a volunteer ‘management system’, providing an extensive array of online tools, far greater than mere signups, that serve the unique, extensive volunteer program needs of Charter, Independent and Catholic schools.

 

Far more than online signups

Charter, Independent and Catholic schools have extensive volunteer programs, using volunteering as a primary way to build school community and to help with the many tasks and jobs at the school. To drive and maintain a high level of parent participation in the school community, these schools ask, if not require families to contribute a specific # of volunteer or service hours per year. Schools also associate a $ value to every volunteer hour, typically $10 to $30 for 1 volunteer hour. As an example, let’s say a school requires 40 hours, and each hour is worth $20. So the total value of the 40 hours for the year will be $800. So schools not only need to automate and track parent volunteer signups and hours, but also need to track the $ value of those volunteer hours. In addition, during the year, schools need to let families know how many hours they still have outstanding and the value of those volunteers, in case parents want to “pay out” the remaining hours. With online signup sheets, you’ll need to manually track the $ values of volunteer hours (again on Excel) as well as send email to individual families regarding the status of their hours. OnVolunteers, on the other hand, fully automates this tracking and process – the school office team and parent volunteer leaders do not have to do anything.

As part of a school’s tracking of annual volunteer hours requirement and associated $ values, the school needs to verify whether parents completed their volunteering contribution. Parent volunteer coordinators need to track which families and parents completed their volunteer jobs and which ones did not. Doing this manually on Microsoft Excel, which is what happens if you use online signup sheets, becomes highly time-consuming and almost always leads to ongoing confusion and chaos. OnVolunteers provides flexible tools to verify whether parents have completed their volunteer jobs. Schools can choose to have their volunteer coordinators verify parents’ volunteering or can use the fully automated verification process. And since all of the verification of volunteer jobs is within OnVolunteers, the recording of parent volunteer hours is fully automated and can easily be reported on. The manual, time-consuming Excel-based tracking that comes with using online signup sheets is completed eliminated!

 

Communication

With any school event requiring parent volunteers, an inherent part of organizing the event is communication.

OnVolunteers provides an internal messaging system, the same as Facebook, that allows the school office team and parent volunteer coordinators to communicate with parent volunteers. Conversely, parents can also communicate back to the school and volunteer coordinators. With online signup sheets, you’re left to use email, which results in countless endless email strings, where communication happens in silos. On the flip side, with OnVolunteers’ centralized messaging system, the school and volunteer leaders can optimize their communication to and from parents.

 

Layers of Security, for the Kids

Online signup sheets are almost always available to anyone with an Internet connection. That means school events and details, including parents’ names, are available for anyone to see. For example, information about your Walkathon, its route, all the volunteer jobs, the parents signed up to help, are available to anyone on the Internet. The same thing for things like school picnics and outings, all your information is available on the online signup sheet for anyone to see.

Online signup sheets also allow any parent to sign up for volunteer jobs involving unsupervised work with children. Most if not all school districts have very strict requirements for parents who do un-supervised work with children – that is, parents must undergo some sort of criminal background and record check. There is simply no way to control this with online signup sheets.

In both cases above, online signup sheets simply do not provide any security to protect kids.

OnVolunteers is unique. School office staff, parent volunteer leaders and families alike all have their own individual encrypted password-protected website. All volunteer information is protected, only your school community sees your volunteer program information. In addition, OnVolunteers is the only volunteer management system available that provides systematic tracking of parents who have undergone criminal records checks. So only parents who have undergone these checks are able to view and signup for un-supervised volunteer work with kids.

 

Comprehensive Volunteer Management system

Whilst online signup sheets are useful tools, they do only what the name implies, signups. These tools are great if that’s all you need. However, if your Charter, Independent and Catholic school has an extensive volunteer program, OnVolunteers provides a comprehensive volunteer management system made specifically to serve your unique needs.

Happy Volunteering!

Why Email hurts your volunteer program, how you can change it.

So here you are, faced with 4-5 school events and activities needing parent volunteers, and your email notices asking for help are getting poor responses. One of the biggest reasons for this is the method volunteer administrators and coordinators use to ask for help… yes, email. More accurately, email itself is not what’s hurting volunteer programs. It’s how people use email.

Need help. Send email.  This is the de facto method of operation for the vast majority of volunteer administrators or coordinators. But because schools almost always have a constant need of volunteers, this is also one of the reasons why email hurts a volunteer program. A typical elementary school will have between 40-50 events and activities needing parent volunteers a year, with everything from school lunch helpers, drivers, tutors, helpers with school maintenance, office helpers, and of course helpers for fundraisers, parents receive dozens and dozens of emails asking for help. It basically becomes what we all hate – email SPAM.

We need help for < enter event name here>, please help!  This is usually followed by a description of the event and who to contact. Most often, little else is provided. This is another contributing factor why email becomes less effective in volunteer recruitment. One of the biggest motivators for volunteers is having an idea of the result – the impact – their work will have on the event or activity they are contributing their time to.

We need volunteers, please email < enter coordinator name here> to help – Email Tag  You ask for help, which results in multiple emails back and forth with the parents. That’s not only a hassle for parents but it also takes their time, which is something most if not all parents have in short supply.

There you have it. Three of the biggest reasons why email hurts your volunteer program. So, how do you change it?

1. Plan Your Email Communications

Work with your event and activity coordinators and define when they need to start their requests for help. Then, create a regular set schedule for when to send out email communications calling for help. Depending on how many events and activities you have, this set schedule can be weekly, on the same day. If you have fewer events and activities, you may want to make it, say, the 1st and 3rd Monday (or whatever sequence/day you prefer) of every month. The goal is to eliminate the constant, random barrage of email SPAM and, instead, create a regular expectation among parents of your volunteer-related emails.

2. Highlight The Benefits of Parents’ Contribution

In your email, include a brief note about the benefits the parents’ time contribution will bring to the event or activity. Ideally, personalize it by including names of the students or group who will directly benefit from the parents’ volunteer work. Creating an emotional connection between the parents’ work and the beneficiaries is what provokes action among many parents.

3. Use Online Tools To Recruit – Make It Easy.

Lastly, online tools create a fast and easy, hassle-free way for parents to register to help. Whether it’s a simple online sign up web form for a one-off event, or a comprehensive system  like OnVolunteers to automate and centralize your entire volunteer program, having an online tool will reduce the # of emails you send out as parents have a place they can always go to volunteer jobs and tasks.

Email, used in the right ways, can be a powerful tool to increase your school’s volunteerism. Whether you start with one or all of the above suggestions, the important thing to remember is just by starting you will have started to make email work for you.

Happy Volunteering!

The OnVolunteers Team

Systematic Tracking of Parent Volunteers, Criminal Background Checks

OnVolunteers is extremely proud to have developed and released a feature that allows schools to better protect children against those who would do them harm.

The Summer Release of OnVolunteers’ Premium Edition introduced the new  ‘Requirements’ functionality. This capability provides school administrators and volunteer coordinators a systematic way to track parents who have undergone criminal background checks and ensure that only these parents are allowed to register for volunteer tasks that involve children.

As part of the Requirements feature in OnVolunteers, school administrators and volunteer coordinators can create a ‘Requirement’, such as that of a criminal background check. Administrators and coordinators, after receiving the necessary  background check documentation from parents, then assign the requirement to the parents’ user profile in their respective accounts, including the dates for when the criminal background check is valid. When volunteer tasks involving children become available, these tasks are made available to parents – shown only within their unique, password-protected accounts – whose criminal background checks are currently valid. Those volunteer tasks are hidden from any parent who hasn’t completed a criminal background check.

The Requirements feature – with its capability to systematically track parents with associated criminal background check information – is unique to OnVolunteers Software. No online sign up form service or volunteer management software provides any form of this type of tracking capability.

If you’d like to learn more about the Requirements feature and the OnVolunteers Premium Edition, please submit an inquiry within our website.

Happy Volunteering!

The OnVolunteers Team

Stage 3 of No-nonsense Guide to planning your event or activity

Build out your plan.
In Step 2 we focused on defining the main areas of your event or activity, you’re off to a roaring start because defining the main areas is really your foundation of your event or activity. Next, you can begin to build out your plan, outlining all the key or important details, from the number of parent volunteers you’ll need to when things need to be completed by. This post will help you build out your plan to ensure your event or activity goes smoothly and successfully.

 
Focus Areas

  • Define your main subject areas.
  • Build out the volunteer task list.
  • Define a detailed timeline containing the volunteer task list, i.e. define when volunteer tasks needs to be done.
  • Create the Supplies list.

Tools

  • Volunteer task spreadsheet.
  • Event/Activity Planning Timeline.
  • Supply spreadsheet.

Building the Volunteer Tasks list
The foundation of your plan is all the volunteer tasks that need to be done to ensure your event/activity is a success. A good way to start is to think of what you want to accomplish. This will allow you to identify what tasks are needed. Start with a spreadsheet, either Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets work fine.
On the farthest left hand column, enter the essential components that you identified in the Stage 2; create a row at the top for your header title. Call this column the ‘Subject Area’. The next column to the right, you can enter the volunteer tasks you think are needed for each of the components; call this your ‘Volunteer Task’ column.

 
In the next column to the right of the volunteer task, enter the # of volunteers you need for each task. If this is your first time to manage your even/activity, it may be difficult for you to determine how many people you’ll need. Here are a few considerations:

  • How long will the task take? either in terms of pure hours or in duration. Generally, the more hours needed, the more people you need.
  • People’s skills – do any of the volunteer tasks require any special skills?
  • Physical abilities needed for tasks – define if any of the tasks involve any heavy lifting.

At your early planning stage, it’s better to overcompensate for how many people you’ll need. If you think 4 volunteers is the right number, right down 5. It’s always better to have an extra person or two than to be short a person or two. Invariably, volunteer no-shows are part of any event or activity. People always have the best intentions, unfortunately however, when it comes down to showing up, there are always circumstances that people are not able to follow through. Having contingencies in place will go a long way to ensuring you’ll achieve success for your event/activity.
Next, it’s best to prioritize the tasks under each respective area, doing so will give you an idea of how and when you should begin recruiting your volunteers.

Timeline
Across the top of your spreadsheet, going horizontally to the the right, you can now create your timeline. Depending on your event/activity, you can either break things down into week or month  time durations, with each column representing either one week or month. For each task, enter the date of the actual task, or the ‘Complete by’ date. You’ll need to consider those ‘dependent tasks’, tasks that are dependent on the completion of other tasks. Once you have done this for all your tasks, there’s one more thing you need before you can call it your ‘master plan’ – your Supplies spreadsheet.

What you need – Supplies
Ok, you’ve defined all the ‘To Do’ tasks, fantastic. The next thing is to define what you need to pull off your event/activity, your supplies, or the ‘To Bring’ tasks.
A good way to manage your supplies is to replicate your ‘To Do’ spreadsheet. Simply copy your To Do spreadsheet and paste into a new sheet; call this your ‘To Bring’ sheet.
In your To Bring sheet, edit the ‘Volunteer task’ column to ‘Supplies’. Under each Subject area, begin entering any supplies you need for each subject area.
Once you’ve completed your Supplies sheet, you now have your Master plan, or at least the first version of your plan. Now, you’re ready to work on recruiting the people you need… and that’s Stage 4!  Stay tuned.

Happy Volunteering!