Volunteer scheduling is the process of keeping volunteers organized by assigning them roles and shifts. Without a proper volunteer scheduling process, you leave yourself vulnerable to a wide variety of mistakes. These include accidentally double-booking shifts, not having enough volunteers for a shift, or assigning too many or not enough volunteers to certain roles.
In this guide, we’ll explore the best volunteer scheduling practices and software tools that help you avoid scheduling disasters. We’ll cover:
Volunteer scheduling is one of the most crucial components of your overall volunteer management process. When you offer a streamlined volunteer scheduling process, you can give your volunteers a convenient, hassle-free sign-up experience and ensure you have the right amount of volunteers for each project or task. Let’s dive in to learn how you can create an effective volunteer scheduling process with the right tools!
The Steps of the Volunteer Scheduling Process
When you have a large team of volunteers and staff, scheduling everyone manually can become overwhelming as everyone’s availability varies, and certain volunteers may have restrictions that need to be taken into consideration. However, with a thorough volunteer scheduling plan, you can make this process seamless and painless!
Let’s say your organization has an upcoming volunteer opportunity or event on the calendar. You’re hoping to create an effective volunteer schedule to keep everyone on the same page and on task. Here are the steps you should follow to craft the best volunteer schedule possible:
Identify each task or role that needs to be filled or completed - For instance, if you’re hosting a 5K event, you might need volunteers to manage parking, check racers in, sell concessions, keep track of time, and pass out water. Or, if you’re hosting a garden clean-up day, you may need volunteers helping to rebuild a shed, paint a fence, pull weeds, cut branches, and applying fertilizer.
Determine your time frame - How long will your opportunity or event last, and how long will each shift last within that time frame? For instance, your 5K event might include a setup shift, a shift for the actual race, and a closing shift. Your gardening opportunity might just be a single shift that goes from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Remember to keep in mind your volunteers’ limitations and plan time frames accordingly to avoid over-exhaustion.
Decide how many volunteers you need - Depending on the scope of your event or goals, you may need a smaller or larger group of volunteers. How many volunteers do you need to complete each activity or cover different stations? Identify the minimum and maximum number of volunteers each station can handle if you’re limited with space and equipment.
Allow volunteers to self-sign up for their desired shifts - Instead of gathering everyone’s schedules and manually assigning volunteers to shifts, save time and hassle by allowing volunteers to sign up for their own shifts. This can be done easily with the help of volunteer management software. Your volunteers will not only be able to self-sign up for their desired shifts, but also roles that match their skills and preferences. You want your volunteers to enjoy what they’re doing, and giving them the flexibility to select shifts and roles will boost engagement and retention rates.
Keep your shift calendar and other important information visible at all times - Keep volunteers informed of all updates and changes to their upcoming shifts to avoid any confusion. This will be useful for you as well in keeping your volunteers organized, resulting in happy staff and volunteers, and keeping your events running successfully! You can do this using volunteer management software tools that automatically send out updates and reminders.
Using these steps and best practices, you can help your staff members and volunteers alike stay on track and organized, ensuring everyone’s clear on their responsibilities and time expectations.
Volunteer Scheduling Tools: An Overview
With the help of volunteer scheduling tools, you can free up lots of time by allowing technology to help you minimize administrative work. These tools can also enhance engagement since your scheduling software will make scheduling processes easy and convenient for volunteers. Let’s explore some volunteer scheduling approaches and how your volunteer management software can improve on those approaches.
Traditional Volunteer Scheduling Approach
Traditionally, most volunteer coordinators would take a top-down approach to volunteer management. This involves gathering the availability of all volunteers and conducting most of the scheduling process manually.
This approach works for many smaller organizations, but organizations with more complex scheduling needs found that it could be time-consuming. As volunteer management technology has advanced, so too have the tools used for creating volunteer schedules.
Technology-Driven Volunteer Scheduling Approach
If your organization is interested in taking a technology-driven approach to volunteer scheduling, investing in volunteer management software might be the right move for you. These solutions offer scheduling tools such as:
Volunteer self-scheduling - This allows supporters to view opportunities and sign up at their leisure and make schedules that work for their personal lives. Volunteers can also sign up for roles that they have interest in and are qualified for.
The ability to make changes and send schedule-related updates - You can instantly update your entire team about any changes in event dates or shift timings. For instance, if you have to postpone an event due to poor weather conditions, you can send alert notifications to let your volunteers know as soon as possible and send them the new event date for them to be prepared for.
Screening tools - These tools help you ensure that you’re bringing on volunteers with the right skills, availability, and qualifications for the roles that you've posted. You must recruit volunteers who are qualified for your roles to ensure the success of your program and the satisfaction of your volunteers’ experience. Every volunteer will come in with their own unique set of skills, and matching their strengths with the suitable roles will help them thrive in your organization.
These scheduling features are vital in helping you keep your volunteers in the loop. For a comprehensive overview of the volunteer management software options available, check out InitLive’s list of over 18 powerful solutions. These solutions run the gamut, from simple sign-up tools to robust scheduling and hours tracking platforms.
Our Top Volunteer Scheduling Software Recommendation
If you’re looking for a comprehensive volunteer management system, InitLive is one of the best options available. This platform not only provides volunteer scheduling tools but also tools for handling every aspect of volunteer management, from recruitment to engagement and retention.
Some of InitLive’s features include:
A volunteer database - A secure volunteer database allows you to store volunteer profiles and easily filter and sort through your supporters. You can also view activity information such as hours worked, interests, skills, and other important information that can come in handy moving forward.
Recruitment tools - These features allow you to create branded sign-up pages that list available shifts and roles, offer a streamlined online application system, and accommodate group sign-ups. This makes it easier for volunteers to identify and sign-up for roles that best suit their strengths and preferences.
Screening tools - InitLive allows you to assess and screen volunteer applications in a centralized way. You can accept or reject applications and ensure your team has all the right qualifications to get the job done!
Scheduling features - An automated matching feature makes it easier for your volunteers to be paired up with roles based on their availability and qualifications. A robust dashboard offers bulk actions and shift duplication capabilities, multiple scheduling views (list and calendar format), automated volunteer matching to align supporters with the right roles, group scheduling, and mobile schedule management.
Communication tools - Our volunteer management software is equipped with self-check-in, and attendance tracking features for volunteers through a mobile app. Every user has access to multiple communication methods such as email messaging, SMS, and in-app messaging, allowing volunteers to self-schedule and get updates easily through their phones.
Tracking and reporting features - You can track volunteer hours along with a customized report such as check-in and check-out timestamps, making it easier for you to report on volunteer program data accurately.
Robust volunteer management software should offer you all the tools and features you require to successfully run any volunteer events, programs, and any other initiatives, all in one! Interested in learning more about InitLive’s platform? Contact us today for more information about how volunteer management software can transform your scheduling process.
Proper volunteer scheduling is crucial for offering your volunteers a seamless sign-up experience and ensuring you have suitable volunteers for each role. Now that you’ve learned how to create a volunteer scheduling process and how using the right strategies and software tools can optimize your scheduling process, it’s time to start planning accordingly. Good luck!
For more information on the volunteer management process, review these additional resources:
Volunteer Recruitment: Ultimate Guide for Nonprofit Events and Programs. Check out this comprehensive guide to overcome the challenge of volunteer recruitment and learn how to recruit ideal volunteers for your next event or opportunity.
Volunteer Engagement | Strategies for Smart Organizations. Looking for tips on how to create a volunteer engagement strategy? This article explores how your organization can ensure every volunteer has a meaningful and positive experience with a well-thought-out plan.
The Smart Nonprofit’s Guide to Volunteer Management. Explore this article to learn about what volunteer management is and the best practices and guidelines required to manage your volunteer force successfully.