Editor’s note: All this month we’re publishing tech tips for nonprofits. Keep a look out for a new tip each day and let us know what you think in the comments. -Dan
For most organizations, it makes sense to track volunteer information in the same system that you track other constituents—especially donors. It’s useful to have all your constituents in one place in order to see the full scope of their involvement with your organization, and volunteers are especially good prospects for donations. Many organizations may find that their existing donor or constituent management system is flexible enough to provide the basic functionality they need to track volunteers. If you just need to track the basics—contact information, skills, and availability—it’s almost certainly a better idea to consolidate your volunteer information and your donor information in one system.
However, those with larger volunteer components may find standalone systems useful. If you’re trying to schedule several hundred volunteers or more, the more sophisticated standalone tools may save you substantial time in trying to match volunteers to jobs. And if you have a full-time volunteer manager, a robust volunteer management system could make their job considerably easier. If you want not only to recruit volunteers online, but also to allow them to sign up online for particular volunteer opportunities or slots, you’ll likely need to turn to a more advanced standalone system or do some custom programming on a consolidated one.
In truth, there’s a surprising similarity in the available features between standalone and consolidated systems. More donor and constituent management vendors are developing functionality or add-ons to manage volunteers. Start by looking at the software you already have. Does your existing system provide enough support for volunteer information? Could you buy an additional module to add this functionality? If you’re happy with the way you’re handling other constituents, but can’t get the efficiency you need in tracking volunteers in the same system, then it’s time to start considering standalone solutions.