CiviVolunteer Survey: Volunteer Management Challenges

At Ginkgo Street Labs, we’re on a mission to improve CiviCRM to better meet users’ growing and changing needs. We have many ways that we gather data on those needs, most recently through the CiviVolunteer Survey, in which we asked how organizations are managing their volunteer programs. We tailored our survey to find out what tools and processes are being used to manage volunteers, from data collection, to communications management, to scheduling--and what challenges organizations face in managing them. Below we share the questions we asked and the takeaways from the responses we received.

How would you rate the impact of volunteers in achieving your organization’s mission?

One of the major challenges organizations face, when it comes to volunteer management, has to do with their access to management tools. In the survey, we learned that 79% of the survey participants believe volunteers are essential to achieving their mission, but they don't have effective CRM tools to manage volunteers.

What tool(s) do you currently use to manage all aspects of your volunteer program?

Most organizations rely on multiple tools, as well as specific individuals who ‘know it all’, to manage their volunteer program. Although 65% of respondents use CiviCRM (and 28% also reported using CiviVolunteer), almost all still use spreadsheets and other types of tools. The results indicated that there may be a feature gap and a knowledge gap in how to use CiviCRM and CiviVolunteer for volunteer management.

What are the biggest challenges you face with your volunteer program? Technical or process-wise.

The key challenges our respondents face in managing volunteers are scheduling, communications and reporting. Recruiting volunteers and gathering information about them were also cited. CiviVolunteer is already built to manage scheduling, communications, and some kinds of reporting. In future releases, we plan to build capacity for recruiting and gathering information about volunteers and well as expand the reporting capabilities.

Do you have a program that requires scheduling volunteers or staff for shifts?

Based on the feedback we received, most organizations would like to be able to schedule volunteers and staff for shifts.

Do you have a tool for scheduling? Briefly describe it.

Answers to this question varied widely, with many reporting that they use Excel spreadsheets in addition to CiviCRM. Only a handful of respondents actually use CiviVolunteer to schedule volunteers, and several of those reported that they are having difficulty figuring out how to use it. Other volunteer management tools that they reported using included CERVIS and Salesforce for Volunteers. Additionally, many use complementary tools for specific tasks, such as MRBS and Doodle poll for setting up meetings, and Google Calendar, VSP and for scheduling.

Do you collect information about what types of activities interest your volunteers?

Over 70% of respondents do collect this type of information. Collecting information is important to establishing and maintaining strong relationships with your volunteers. It helps your organization tailor requests and duties that align with volunteers’ unique interests and skills.

Do you have a volunteer training program or other prerequisites for volunteering?

We saw approximately a 50-50 split on this question, with only two more organizations reporting that they did have a training program or prerequisites for volunteering.

What kind of communications do you have with volunteers? Check all that apply.

The overwhelming majority of respondents are using ad hoc emails and phone calls to communicate with volunteers. Scheduled emails to individuals are also utilized frequently, but scheduled emails to groups of volunteers not as much.

Analyzing the results of this survey has helped us better understand what technology needs organizations have to manage volunteers. It is important to highlight that we found many respondents are not successfully using CiviVolunteer to its full capacity. One of the key benefits of CiviVolunteer is that it not only helps organizations to manage volunteers, but it also integrates with other components of CiviCRM, including CiviMail and CiviEvents. At Ginkgo Street Labs, we are committed to helping users learn how to better utilize CiviCRM and CiviVolunteer, and we invite you to join our upcoming webinar on January 29 on CiviVolunteer: Tips & Tricks.

Many of the improvements that survey respondents would like to see are already planned out in our CiviVolunteer Road Map, and will be included in the next round of development. Ginkgo Street Labs is fundraising to make this development happen in 2015. Please support our Make It Happen campaign to bring new volunteer management capability to the CiviVolunteer platform. If you have additional feedback, or would like to talk more about the survey results, drop us a line at