Overview: Managing Different Types of Volunteering

Volunteer services can be scheduled and delivered in several different ways.  A single organization may employ one, several or many of these methods depending on the types of services and projects they employ.  This article was designed to break down these different approaches in a way that can address that vast majority of scenarios.  First, we can dissect volunteering activities into two categories: Those that were pre-planned and those that were reported after-the-fact.


These volunteer activities are those that the organization was not only aware of, but scheduled volunteer resources in advance.  In these cases, a project/initiative was defined, roles were identified, and a schedule was produced that specified exactly who, what, when and where the needs would be fulfilled.  Furthermore, the organization knew in advance the specific assignees to those needs, expecting their arrival.  The final step is to record which of those expected volunteers did and did not attend.  This approach requires a centralized coordinator to define the needs and schedule, but can have several approaches to assignments, confirmations, and attendance-tracking.

  • Pre-Planned Assignment Approaches
    • Admin-Assigned
      This approach is a highly centralized and closed assignment process whereby the volunteer has little visibility into the initial assignment.  Typically, this involves a centralized coordinator that will make assignments based on a volunteer's skills and preferences as defined by their application/vetting process.  After the assignment has been made by an administrator, confirmation and automated reminder emails can be sent through the system.  The system may be configured to allow volunteers to self-withdraw from assignments that do not work for them (either directly from the emails or by logging in to the volunteer portal.)  Additionally, you may also implement an automated confirmation process whereby volunteers must confirm their assignment before being officially "assigned."  So, even with a strict, centralized assignment process, you can still provide some control to the volunteer to either confirm or remove themselves from an assignment.

    • Admin Invited, Self-Assigned
      This next level of approach provides a little more volunteer-control over their assignment to a volunteer shift.  A system administrator can send out invitations to a specific set of volunteer opportunities and allow the volunteer to accept the invitation if they so desire.  This process is typically executed entirely via email.  The volunteer is assigning themselves to one or more shifts out of a set of volunteer opportunities explicitly defined by the administrator.  

    • Self-Managed
      Self-managed volunteer signups provide the greatest level of volunteer participation in their assignments.  The volunteer can be given access to an online catalog of volunteer opportunities from which they can choose to sign-up.  The system also provides rule-based matching to assure the volunteers are only able to view and sign-up for those opportunities that fit their skills, certifications, and training.  For example, if there are volunteer opportunities in your catalog that require a driver's license to be on file, the system can be configured to only show those opportunities to volunteers who have a scanned image of their driver's license on file, which had been reviewed and approved by an administrator.
  • Pre-Planned Attendance Approaches
    • Reverse Attendance
      This approach is used whenever you want to use old-fashion attendance tracking (i.e. sign-in sheets).  Within the product, you can produce reports for sign-in sheets to a pre-scheduled/assigned event.  You can then take that sheet and reconcile attendance through the system.  Rather than marking those individuals that did attend, instead the system assumes everyone has attended unless you mark them as absent - hence, "reverse attendance".  You may visit a specific volunteer calendar, and then select the assignment count for a specific shift.  This displays the list of pre-assigned contacts.  You can simply check the "absent" box next to each person that did not sign-in, then click save.

    • Kiosk Sign-in
      Welcome to the 21st century!  VolunteerMatters provides a kiosk tool that can allow your volunteers to easily sign in and out of their volunteer assignments.  They simply approach the mobile device, tablet, laptop or computer that is logged-in to the kiosk tool, select their record, and click "sign-in/out".  The kiosk tool provides the added benefit of recording the actual times worked as opposed to the time they had been scheduled.  Those projects that have kiosks activated, assume that every assignee is absent until they sign-in.  Additionally, you can place rules as to how early or late someone can sign in along with rules to address circumstances when the volunteer forgets to sign-out.  No administrative intervention is required.  Everything is logged automatically.  The kiosk tool only requires a device with Internet connectivity and is entirely browser-based - no software to download or maintain.


While plenty of planning may have gone into the delivery of these types of services, the schedules and assignments were not tracked in advance by the system.  The who, what, when, and where are reported back to the organization after the services had been completed.  For example, if an organization had volunteers who provided services on their own time, without a predefined schedule, you would likely still want to capture those hours.  Typically these hours are recorded centrally by an administrator or by the volunteers themselves.

  • After-the-Fact Admin Reported
    Some organizations rely on administrators to gather and input the hours of their volunteers.  Perhaps the organization employs a more manual time-sheet method, or there are events where people drop-in without being pre-scheduled.  In either case, administrators are able to enter "Volunteer Interactions" individually (from the volunteer's contact record) or in bulk.  Administrators can add volunteer interactions in bulk utilizing a 'bulk add tool' or importing them from a spreadsheet.
    • Bulk Add Tool
      The online bulk add tool allows an administrator to define the date, start time, end time, associated project/role, type and notes for the volunteer activity and associate it with a group of contacts.  Upon submit, a volunteer interaction record is created for each of the included contacts.

    • Import Volunteer Interactions
      There is an 'Import" tool under the product's setup menu. Among other things, this tool allows an administrator with the proper privileges to import a list of interactions.  Each row in the import file should contain the contact ID (the database ID for the specific volunteer), the interaction type (Volunteer), the volunteering type (manageable values set in the setup), date, start time, end time, project and role (created via the volunteer project wizard), subject and any notes you would like.  The import tool will validate the file and import the records directly against the corresponding contacts in the file. 
  • After-the-Fact Self-Reported
    Volunteers can be empowered to self report their own volunteer activities.  When on the 'Volunteering" tab under 'My Profile', you may enable the ability for a volunteer to "Add Volunteer Interaction".  The volunteer themselves will be prompted to enter the date, start time, end time, associated project/role, type and notes for the volunteer activity.  Administrators can always see the "source" for volunteer activities so they can separate and review those volunteer interactions with a source equal to "Self Reported".
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