Today’s featured open source technology is VolunteerSpot (@VolunteerSpot). I was preparing to recruit a large number of volunteers for our annual homecoming week festivities and was killing myself working on developing a shared Google spreadsheet that had all of the positions I needed to fill and then an accompanying email listing those opportunities to be sent to campus. I told myself there had to be a better way. I typed “free volunteer management” into a Google search and the first result was VolunteerSpot. And from there, the rest is history. This is one of my top five favorite finds so far in 2012 and I wanted to find out more about what makes the online product so great. So I reached out to Founder and CEO Karen Bantuveris (@VSpotMom) to get the scoop.
Matt Brinton (MB): What is your vision for how VolunteerSpot can best be utilized?
Karen Bantuveris (KB): With more than 1.4 million volunteers and growing, VolunteerSpot is a simple online coordination tool that makes it easy for ANYONE to quickly organize service. We save teachers, administrators and grass roots volunteer leaders valuable time in scheduling, signing up and reminding volunteers – while doing away with frustrating ‘reply-all’ email chains, Excel spreadsheets and paper signup sheets. By making it easier to sign up to help, more people show up – up to 20% more!
MB: Have you worked with any higher education institutions so far?
KB: We’ve proudly supported groups at higher education institutions across the country – from Campus Kitchen – an anti-hunger program at U Mass in Boston, to organizing exam proctors at the University of Texas in Austin, to sports concessions and tournament support at Fresno State in Ca., to hack-a-thon invitational conferences for computer science students at Kennesaw State in Atlanta.
MB: What type of feedback have you received?
Recently we surveyed our VolunteerSpot organizers and learned that 99% would refer VolunteerSpot to a friend or colleague! We’re very proud and humbled by their feedback. When you save someone valuable time AND help them do good, it’s a win/win! Our users are also very helpful with suggestions for improvement about what would make their experience even better, we’ve got some great new features planned in the coming year.
MB: What is the best way for a new user to get to know your product/service?
KB: VolunteerSpot was designed with tech-timid users in mind. If you can shop online, you can successfully plan activities and signup to volunteer. Please try it out first as a volunteer would experience the website – Go to www.VolunteerSpot.com and click “Try Our Demo” and choose a sample signup. Like what you see? Create an account and get planning!
MB: Do you have any best practices from other users that you can share?
KB: When you ask for help, give people specific jobs and tasks to sign up for. Also include a few things to bring like food or supplies, so those who can’t show up can still participate. Invite volunteers to participate across multiple channels – directly via email, in an eNews blast, your website, facebook or Twitter. Ask for only the number of volunteers you need and be ready for them when they show up (they WILL show up, VolunteerSpot’s automated reminders help people keep their commitments.) Make sure participants have a parking place and name tag on volunteer day! When you send a thank you note, include a few quick statistics about the impact of the volunteer’s work – e.g. the number of people fed, money raised or kids helped. Send the notes soon after folks participate (via VolunteerSpot) so they consider coming back next time.
MB: I have seen some of the features and benefits on the website, but can you give me a quick rundown on what is free and what requires an upgrade?
Any activity organizer can quickly register for VolunteerSpot’s FREE service – it meets the needs of most groups and includes: 365 day calendar with easy planning wizard for shifts, jobs and supplies to bring; Participants sign up with a few clicks 24/7 – no account registration required; Quick multi-day copy; Automated email reminders; Easy smartphone signup and calendar sync; Print sign in sheets, calendar summaries and rosters, export data including basic hours; Send thank you notes; and one activity organizer
Premium service includes volunteer hours tracking reports, custom registration fields (e.g. to capture t-shirt size or group affiliation), and additional activity organizers (up to 10). It’s priced at $4.99 – $29.99/month depending on the number of volunteers to make it easy for groups to afford the upgrade if they need it. NASPA members can use promo code NASPA3 to get three months upgrade for the price of one, for any size group!
MB: What benefits do you believe that VolunteerSpot can have for higher education institutions?
KB: There are clear benefits to making it easy for more people to participate in service – volunteering makes a meaningful difference in the communities where our schools are resident, introduces students to new interests and career paths, powers many of our campus-life activities, and feels good!
Find out more at www.volunteerspot.com, and make sure to find the on Twitter (@VolunteerSpot), and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/VolunteerSpot). Keep the conversation going and share your favorite open-source programs on Twitter by using the hash tag #openoasis.
– Matt Brinton, NASPA TKC Chair