Some of the most frequently-asked questions on online discussion groups for nonprofits and community groups are about volunteer management software/constituent relationship software: what's available, how different packages compare with each other, the cost of each, the features of each, and on and on.
For many years, Jayne has provided a web page that lists all of the volunteer management software geared towards nonprofit organizations (as opposed to corporate volunteering programs) that she knows about, or nonprofit-related software/community relationship management software that has substantial volunteer management functions. It's been the most comprehensive list available anywhere.
But what was lacking was a comparison of these software, something that allowed potential users to easily:
- compare cost to purchase the software, and yearly costs associated with use and support
- compare number of organizations using the software
- see the age of the company producing the software
- compare what operating system the software needs (including for Apple Macintosh)
- see if the software allows online access for volunteers to use the software themselves/input their own data (yes or no?), and, if yes, is the online platform accessible by any browser, not just the latest browser versions?
- evaluate the software's accessibility (is this software something that volunteers or staff using assistive technology can access?)
- see if the software allows the user/organization to add and customize fields, input screens and reports (yes or no?)
- see how often the software is updated, the average cost of upgrades, and whether or not the company will continue to support software that is not updated
- see if the producing company provides an online users forum, so users can help each other use the software, discuss features they have developed themselves (yes or no?)
- see if the software allows the user to track volunteer hours/contribution by week, month, quarter, year, and/or project (yes or no to all of these?)
- see if the software allows the user to track volunteer skills
- see if the software allows the user to track volunteer availability and interests
- see if the software allows the user to track volunteer impact beyond just number of hours contributed (fields that allow user to type in qualitative data, such as observations, etc.)
- see whether or not the database information is stored at the organization using the software, or, remotely at the software company
- see whether or not selected data, or all of the data, could be easily exported into other types of data files (like a spreadsheet)
- see whether or not more than one staff member can access the product at the same time
- rate the software, in terms of ease of use, if it meets their needs, and if they would recommend it to others.
There are more than 40 volunteer management software options available (the number varies at any given time). While Jayne maintained the list, she did not have the resources to create a comparison of all the different volunteer management/community relationship software out there. Enter Amy, who said she could create a web site that would allow software producers to input their own information about their software, and allow users to do all of the comparisons mentioned above.
How do we define volunteer management software? Software that allows an organization to, at the very least:
- track all contact information about volunteers (postal address, phone number, email, etc.)
- track where a volunteer applicant is in the volunteer orientation/participation process (completed application, completed orientation, first assignment undertaken, inactive because of illness, permanently withdrawn, etc.)
- track volunteer / community / constituent participation in events, online fora, etc.
- track volunteer hours/contribution by week, month, quarter, year, or project
- track volunteer impact beyond number of hours contributed
- track volunteer skills
- track volunteer availability and interests
- track volunteer performance reviews/assessments by a variety of staff
- allows for reports to be run/data to be exported on any combination of the above fields (a list of only those volunteers in a particular zip code who have completed the volunteer orientation and know HTML, for instance)
Volunteer management software listed is geared towards nonprofit organizations (as opposed to corporate volunteering programs), or its nonprofit-related software/community relationship management software that has substantial volunteer management functions -- that means it actually uses the word "volunteer" somewhere on its web site in describing the product, not just "constituents" or "supporters"; a company that doesn't use the word "volunteer" in its software description must not rank volunteer management very highly among a nonprofit's constituent management, no?
There are volunteer recruitment web sites that have some volunteer management components, but we're not including them in the list here unless they have the above minimum characteristics.