I just wondered if anyone has any tips on the best database for us to use for around 100 – 200 volunteers?
We have been looking at Better Impact http://www.betterimpact.com/ which is an on-line database and seems to be good… any alternatives or comments would be much appreciated!
On a similar note to Jo does anyone have any experience of volunteer management software vs other (ie HR software)? We are trying to put a case together for keeping our volunteers on a separate database to paid staff but are meeting with resistance so would appreciate any advice in this area, particularly regarding best practice/employment law.
In my experience organizations sometimes want to get people (volunteers, staff, supporters, donors, members, customers etc.) onto just one system because of the perceived benefits this will bring. In reality, however, these benefits are rarely realised. Why? I think it is down to that one system not doing anything very well. I think having dedicated systems that do their job really well yet also ‘talk’ to each other is the way forward.
Certainly in my work promoting Volunteer Squared here in the UK the benefits of a dedicated volunteer management system seem to be much better than integrating volunteers with another system that is mainly aimed at, for example, donors. My caution around integrating volunteering data with HR data is that volunteers aren’t the same as paid staff.
They exhibit difference characteristics. For example, volunteers often feel and behave like insiders (like staff) and outsiders (like passive donors) often at the same time. HR systems don’t (in my experience) allow the sophistication required of volunteer databases that such characteristics of volunteers require. Not sure if that’s much help but that’s my thoughts.
First, make a list of all of the things you need software to do re: tracking information about volunteers, and how information about each volunteer will be updated. For instance:
Do you need the software to provide online access for volunteers to input their own data? And, if so, what kind of information do you want them to be able to input themselves? (change of address, weekly time sheets, interest in upcoming shifts, etc.)
What fields of information do you need regarding each volunteer? Do you need to be able to see what projects volunteers have completed? How many hours they’ve completed in a week, a month, a quarter, etc.? Do you need to be able to see their shift preferences? Do you need to see the skills they are offering the organization?
Do you need a scheduling function as part of the software?
Yes, there is volunteer management software that does all of this, in case they try to say there isn’t:
Second, do you track clients or customers in the HR database? If no, then, IMO, volunteers should absolutely NOT be in the same database either – for the same reasons your HR office should balk at the idea of customers or clients being in the same database. Clients are not employees. Volunteers aren’t employees. To put volunteers into a database that tracks employees, but not clients, sends a message that volunteers are employees – and volunteers thinking of themselves of employees might start them wanting what employees get: compensation for work done. It also will create a culture where the organization thinks of volunteers as “free” employees. Volunteer roles are not designed in the same way as that of employees, volunteers don’t receive the same benefits of employees, and volunteers aren’t evaluated the same way as employees.