Most festivals that we work with wouldn’t survive without volunteers. They help with car parking, putting up décor, greeting people at the gates, litter picking and countless other jobs around the site. The ability to acquire, approve and manage your volunteers should be a part of any festival management software.
The Only Essential Function
The only essential element to a volunteer system is registration – everything else is optional. Important optional of course, but if you can’t get the names in there’s no point in lots of bells and whistles. So the questionnaire has to be rock solid, it has to ask for the right details and it has to be simple to use. I know some festivals that use multiple questionnaires for different roles, others that just have one, but none that turn away free labour.
Useful Features for your Questionnaire
A few ideas to make recruitment more painless: Make sure that…
- your candidates get an email when they register
- they can return and edit their details – make sure that you include instructions how to do this in their registration email
- you can switch off the ability for them to edit their details, as you may not want them to be changing things just before your event
- you ask them whether they can be contacted for future events
It can be useful if there’s the option for your team to be notified when a volunteer registers, prompting you to keep on top of incoming applicants. The ability to amend the questionnaires as you go means you’re not stuck when you find that an important question has been missed, or an additional question needs to be asked.
Approval and Filtering
The next step is the approval process, checking through the names and, if required, setting roles/teams. There are not very many ways you can show names other than in a list, but including some sensible filtering will help make the job easier. Can you select those who…
- you’ve not viewed before?
- have prior work experience with festivals?
- have helped in the past with your festival?
- have first-aid qualifications?
When you approve someone, do you want the system to automatically send him or her an acceptance email? Is that email configurable? Can you see a running total of how many people have been approved and into which teams/roles so that you can see where the holes are?
Communication and Reporting
As you’ve got the names and emails in the system, plus their acceptance status and, potentially, their role/team, it would be useful to have a messaging system that can automatically filter and communicate to specific volunteers. You’ll also need some form of outputting this information into a spreadsheet for reference.
The final piece in a volunteer management system could be the scheduling of names into their various rotas. It is, after all, one of the more complicated processes for your volunteer manager to cope with. Unfortunately it’s also a complex problem for a system to cope with, which means that it’s never going to easy to deliver. We’ve looked at this in the past, but the different rules that have to be put in place are so tricky to manage that I’ve yet to release anything that works. If anyone has an example of this working, I’d love to see it!
Finally, Make Sure You Own Your Data
If you use a third party software product to manage your volunteers, please make sure that they guarantee that your content is yours, that they’re not going to market to your database, or sell your names to anyone else. And make sure that they’re signed up to any Data Protection requirements (in the UK they need to be registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office, and anyone operating in Europe has to adhere to the EU Data Protection Directive).
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