For the Love of Volunteers! How Do You Choose the Right Technology to Help Manage Them?

Problem Statement

Volunteers can make a tiny organization mighty and a large organization into a global force. But finding the right technology to help you manage them is not easy! We’ll discuss a number of options, including the pros and cons of a custom solution.

What makes a good volunteer management system, and what are the needs you should consider? How do you evaluate off-the-shelf products, and what questions do you need to ask to make sure they’ll work for you? What if you have volunteers managing other volunteers? How do you know if you need a custom solution? We’ll talk about some great off-the-shelf products and in what situations they work best (because why take on technical debt if you don’t need to?), and then we’ll dive into a custom solution case study.

Custom Solution Case Study: After reviewing their options, Washington Trails Association determined their needs were too complex for an off-the-shelf system, and so they built a custom platform that integrates with both their website and their CRM. Their old volunteer platform had served them for 15 years (or one million years in technological terms) and their volunteers were accustomed to how it functioned. WTA’s big challenge was to build a new platform that their volunteers would like (and hopefully love) and that would better integrate with their other tools and provide better efficiency for a stretched staff.

This session is a great one for organizations rethinking their volunteer management platforms and will give audience members an idea of what’s possible (either off-the-shelf or custom-developed), the range of staff and financial investment required, and payoff in terms of staff efficiency, volunteer happiness, and program impact.

Karen Uffelman
Percolator Consulting
In her twenty-year career, Karen has mounted large theater productions, worked on local and regional political and advocacy campaigns, managed fundraising teams, and lobbied at the World Health Assembly in Geneva on international policy. For the last nine years, she’s been consulting with nonprofit organizations on the creative and strategic use of technology for social change. Karen has partnered with organizations such as Greenpeace, SEIU, and The Mountaineers, helping them think through their best and most critical engagement opportunities and challenges. She is adept at shepherding clients through big changes to engagement and mobilization practices as well as the adoption of technology to power those practices. In past lives, she was the Director of Client Strategy at Groundwire, Development Director for Corporate Accountability International, Managing Director of Washington Conservation Voters, and Producer and General Manager of New City Theater. When she’s not at work, you can find Karen studying flamenco, climbing mountains, digging in her garden, or tooling around on her Surly Pacer. Karen lives in Seattle’s Rainier Valley with her husband and son and way too many bicycles.

Loren Drummond
Washington Trails Association
Digital Content Manager
Loren is the Digital Content Manager for Washington Trails Association, where she works to connect an incredible community of volunteers, hikers and advocates with Washington's public lands. She has 15 years of nonprofit digital communications and advocacy experience at state, national and international organizations. She is interested in storytelling for good and technology that fights for social justice, connects people and helps us unplug. She also has a particular fondness for desert camping, alpine basins and marmots.

Sally Kleinfeldt
Director of Consulting Services
Sally's career spans scholarly research (she has a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution), software development in large non-profit and corporate settings, and boutique consulting in data and content management, information retrieval, information visualization, GIS, and agile development. Eight years ago she found her true calling when she started managing Jazkarta, a consulting firm made up of super talented web developers focused on using open source technologies to create great websites for non-profits, universities, and research institutions. She manages projects using an agile approach tailored to the team's high level of expertise and the frequent communication style we use to engage with our clients. She also takes the lead on discovery for Jazkarta's projects - nothing delights her more than unleashing a roomful of people with ideas and sticky notes. When she is not working she can often be found in the garden or the greenhouse growing food and flowers. Sally lives on 40 acres of woods in Western Massachusetts in a house she and her husband built from scratch.