It’s no secret that volunteers are the lifeblood of several types of nonprofit organizations, from soup kitchens to ministries. And while some small nonprofits can get away with passing around a clipboard with a signup sheet when reaching out to eager do-gooders, there are plenty of better (and faster) ways to manage volunteers.
Today, we’ll discuss some of the easiest and least expensive ways to organize your volunteers and mobilize them to carry out your mission. A growing volunteer email list is not only an encouraging sight, it means you don’t have to start on square one when another need for volunteers arises.
1 . SignUpGenius
SignUpGenius can be used in multiple ways, but one of its primary functions is to organize volunteers for specific dates and times. The software’s capabilities go beyond the old spreadsheet method by providing built-in administrative tools, ways to email volunteers reminders about upcoming events or responsibilities, settings for greater anonymity and more. Plus, the unlimited sign up sheets are quite customizable (we love a consistent brand look, after all!).
There is both a free trial and free plan for SignUpGenius, and the features listed above are all part of the free plan. For premium plans, the current pricing model is based on the additional features you’d prefer, starting at $8.99 a month. But SignupGenius made this list because the free plan on its own is a worthwhile tool to consider and highly rated by nonprofits.
We recommend this tool for: Nonprofit organizations who plan small volunteer opportunities with specific dates, times, shifts, and locations.
2 . Point
Point was specifically designed with nonprofits and volunteers in mind, unlike many softwares built to be one-size-fits-all for many types of companies. Point is a two-way street in that it helps nonprofits find volunteers and connects volunteers to nonprofits that align with causes they care about.
Point has a beautiful interface that has been awarded recognition for its ease. The software allows nonprofit administrators to manage unlimited volunteer profiles with information that goes beyond contact information, such as notes related to specific programs, volunteering hours, demographic info, shift management, and more. You can sort and filter by these different factors to run custom reports and view data about your volunteers. It can even integrate with your website!
Learn more about this powerful software tool here (you can even book a demo if you’re unsure it would be a good fit).
We recommend this tool for: Nonprofits who want a high level of power for unlimited admins, detailed reporting capabilities, and engagement with volunteers.
3 . SignUp.com (formerly VolunteerSpot)
SignUp.com is a web-based but mobile-friendly volunteer management tool that allows for plenty of flexibility when it comes to scheduling, tracking volunteer hours, calendar management and several other features—all for free.
Nonprofit leaders love that SignUp.com takes care of email reminders/alerts, coordinates what shifts are available, and can even collect payments and contributions. Plus, sign-ups are customizable in terms of appearance, so you can add images and logos to event slots.
While SignUp.com does have paid plans, the free plan alone has saved nonprofit administrators hours of time organizing volunteers. You can learn more about what they offer for free here.
We recommend this tool for: Nonprofits who want plenty of communication channels with volunteers, including text messages, emails, and social media.
Honorable Mention: Google Forms
You may have used a Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet to collect volunteer information in the past, but these methods are limited to rows and columns and aren’t really helpful in terms of collecting more substantive information. And it can be frustrating if one person hops onto the sheet and accidentally (or purposefully) changes the formatting or information in other people’s cells.
Google Forms gives you the advantage of asking both quantitative and qualitative questions, so you can go beyond your typical “Name / contact info / volunteer role” spreadsheet response. And there’s a level of anonymity for more personal questions (for example, medical reasons that might make volunteering difficult) since others can’t see what previous responders submitted.
With multiple ways to respond, such as checkboxes, ranking scales and short response fields, you can get creative with the information you can collect. We made this sample form to give you some inspiration and give examples of the different tools you can include.
Once potential volunteers fill out the form, you’ll be able to see all the responses in chart form for a bird’s eye view of the responses as a whole, as well as specific individuals’ responses.
But keep in mind that Google Forms does have its limits. For example, it cannot schedule people to volunteer, send them reminders, or delegate them to a project – this legwork would be on your team to complete.
We recommend this tool for: Small nonprofits who want a simple or short-term solution to volunteer management, no bells and whistles.
Lastly, here’s a handy chart we made outlining some features we think are important to compare when it comes to these volunteer management tools. The links we provided will be your best resource, but here’s our bird’s-eye view of the features that do not require a paid upgrade:
Many nonprofits are wary of adopting automations, digital tools or software due to concerns about the learning curve. Nonprofit staff and volunteers are already busy, so why take the time to research new tools and teach them to team members who are already used to one way of doing things?
But the truth is, the right technology can save your nonprofit countless hours of administrative work and ensure donor dollars are used efficiently to carry out your mission. In this digital age, nonprofits can make themselves more appealing to volunteers when they can tap on a link on their phone instead of calling the office or filling out their name on a paper form. There are hundreds of resources available for managing your nonprofit if you’re willing to put in the effort to try new methods.
Aside from using technology to manage volunteers, one way many nonprofits can embrace technology for donors and volunteers is by developing a strong presence online. Whether this is accomplished by avoiding common nonprofit mistakes on social media or honing in on your nonprofit’s digital marketing, we’d be happy to see how we can help with your efforts. Let us know if you’re looking for help to stand out online to donors and volunteers.