The Power of the Hub!

It was a cold and stormy night…. Nope, not the start of yet another horror story. In fact this story is the exact opposite. At 2 AM on a chilly Bangalore night, there I was typing responses into an online spreadsheet. And feeling pretty good about it. But let me start at the beginning…..

In the summer earlier this year, TJ Warfield put up a wish-list for an Event check-in tool for nonprofits on the Power of Us Hub (The Hub, as it is sometimes called, is an online community for Salesforce.org customers, certified partners and staff). Caroline Renard, who knew of our work in the mobile app space for nonprofits, brought us into the conversation. Over a lively discussion on the Hub involving multiple people, a detailed list of functionality came up. Looking at that list, it seemed to us as something we could deliver, given that we had so much of the Salesforce and mobile infrastructure already. So we took it upon ourselves to deliver an Event add-on to our V4S Kiosk product over the next couple of months. That started a hectic round of design, development and testing internally, running into September.

Come the end of September and it was Dreamforce time. And time for virtual conversations to become real. At the Amplify breakfast, I met  with TJ and Caroline and spoke about what we had done with the wish list for Events. It was truly exciting for all of us to see how a conversation in the Hub had turned into something concrete.

Back home after Dreamforce in mid-October, we connected across the world, our team in Bangalore with TJ in San Francisco and Caroline in Seattle. And we were back in the virtual world to review the Events add-on. TJ was very happy with what we showed and graciously offered to demo and test the add-on at the Salesforce.org Open Source Community Sprint, held in Portland, OR  (#SFDOsprint) in end-Oct.

We were of course thrilled with the idea, but we were also very aware of the many things that could go wrong. TJ had seen the app near-complete, but the last 10% takes 50% of project time, right? Our team in Bangalore worked pretty much round-the-clock to put together a demo org for the Sprinters to use. We made sure there was a reasonable amount of data, a clear set of instructions and other resources for the Sprinters and a shared Google spreadsheet to collect suggestions and feedback.

The Salesforce.org Community Sprints are amazing events. Participants discuss everything from best practices to general experience to solution requirements. Working in teams, participants go all the way to produce solutions with documentation, code and data models. And everything produced by the teams goes back into the Community, making the whole ecosystem better for everyone. The Portland Sprint had that same terrific energy and enthusiasm. With 130 people at the event covering the Nonprofit and Higher Education sectors, we had a large number of people trying out the Event add-on.

With our mobile app still in beta on the iTunes Store, we did some pretty hairy

Across the world on a mission for nonprofits
Working for a mission

back-and-forth using the iTunes TestFlight platform to get our friendly Sprinters in Portland on board. It was incredible seeing the Sprinters in Portland, our awake-at-midnight team in Bangalore and the Test flight platform (wherever that is hosted :)) all coming together for a good cause. Watching from across the world as multiple Sprinters installed V4S Kiosk via TestFlight was awe-inspiring, to say the least. And as suggestions and feedback came flying into the Feedback sheet from the Sprinters, it truly felt great to be typing in responses at 2 AM :).

Kudos to all the Sprinters who dedicated their own time to test and review the Events add-on, all for the cause of enriching the product range for Nonprofits. Thanks to these hard-working Sprinters, there’s now a terrific set of feedback and suggestions that we will add into the product. A product that nonprofits can use to raise money, manage volunteers and deliver education. Which goes to prove that “All for One and One for All’ is not just the Three Musketeers slogan but a way of life for a lot of people!

How to manage volunteer no-shows

You are all set for your big summer event. You’ve spent hours training your volunteers getting them up-to-speed, you’ve assigned them to shifts optimally based on their choices, you’ve even sent out email reminders to make sure that your volunteers know when and where they need to be.  Your big day turns around and some of your volunteers haven’t showed up. Sound familiar?

So how do you the Volunteer Manager pick up the pieces? Here are some strategies to help you cope.

  1. Build a buffer with Floater staff. No-shows happen despite all your efforts.
    volunteer tracking
    Managing Volunteers

    Better to buckle down and be ready for it. So you are going to need some extra bodies. Build a 10 – 15% buffer of additional volunteers into your schedule. There’s always extra work at events. So even if you have fewer no-shows, you can put your extra volunteers to good use. Monitoring deliveries and vendors, crowd control, clean-up crew – all good last minute duties for additional volunteers.

  2. Train volunteers and show them the importance of their job. Train volunteers properly and know that they are doing. They are more likely to stay engaged with your organization. Ensure that volunteers understand the importance of their job and how it affects the organization. Share stats of how much volunteer time means to the organization in dollar terms.
  3. Recognize your volunteers. Track volunteer engagement with your organization diligently. Make sure that your star volunteers are recognized. Use simple software to keep track of the hours that your volunteers spend with you. This is undoubtedly the best way to keep your volunteers coming back and working assigned shifts. You don’t need to give out big gifts. Just a simple thank you note from your Executive Director or coupons to a coffee shop should be sufficient.
  4. Make it easy for volunteers to communicate with you. Give your volunteers as many ways as possible to communicate with you. Phone calls / emails / text. Use volunteer management software that allows volunteers to Cancel / Reschedule their shifts online or on their mobiles. If it’s easy for a volunteer to Cancel on their mobile or online, they will. If they need to call someone to Cancel, they may not.
  5. Monitor check-ins. You need to be tracking who’s on site. The best way is to use technology where your volunteers can check themselves in, when they arrive. If you are using paper lists, make sure that your volunteers report to a central location where they can be checked in. That way, you can quickly scan the list and know who’s there. If it’s a large event with multi-locational check-ins, keep in touch with your supervisors to know if there are no-shows. Send your floater volunteers to however needs them the most.

The bottom-line is that paper lists and spreadsheets don’t allow for flexibility and adaptability. Use good volunteer management technology to help you adapt to situations quickly and seamlessly.