If you’re a seasoned scheduler, you know full well the challenges that come with volunteer scheduling. This includes ensuring you have the appropriate number of volunteers available during the holidays. While many organizations find that they are fortunate enough to have a core group of volunteers who are virtually always available, it isn’t that easy for everyone. More often than not, a volunteer scheduler will lose many of their core volunteers during the holidays. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can overcome these obstacles.
Recognize the challenges
Volunteers come from all walks of life. Some are retirees who have the time year-round to devote themselves to non-profit organizations. Other volunteers fall into the college age category where their time is limited. Still others will likely visit family and friends during the holidays. Stay in close communication with your volunteers regarding their seasonal availability in advance of the holidays to avoid major scheduling headaches.
Anticipate scheduling conflicts
Often, emergencies can cause volunteers to have to cancel their commitments last-minute, including during the holidays. Sometimes it can be something as simple as having the flu. Once you anticipate that scheduling conflicts will occur, you will avoid being blindsided when they do, and you can have a firm contingency plan in place to ensure scheduling runs smoothly despite the holiday surprises.
Often times pen and paper scheduling works just fine. But during busy seasons, like the holidays, when volunteers are on vacation or at home sick, relying too heavily on these methods makes it especially difficult to know who is volunteering and when. Having the right volunteer scheduling tools available, can resolve this challenge by streamlining communication, scheduling, and even sub requests.
Learn from experience
Reflect on your own personal experiences as a volunteer during the holidays to help shed some light on the challenges that come with volunteering. Think of all the things that make committing to volunteer activities difficult for you during Thanksgiving and Christmas. You may want to attend that walk-a-thon or help with the bake sale at your child’s school, but simply cannot seem to make the time to do it. Or, you may have felt torn between committing yourself to volunteering and doing something else of equal importance during the holidays. When reflecting on your own experiences of holiday volunteering, you can better connect and communicate with volunteers who serve during the holidays in your organization.
_Start planning early _
When a busy holiday season is approaching, you can reach out to your core group of volunteers early. Assume that availabilities will change or, at the very least, fluctuate as volunteers return home for the holidays or people have family commitments that might conflict with their volunteer duties. Ask your volunteers to reconfirm their holiday availability. This will save both the volunteer scheduler and the volunteers many headaches before life gets in the way.
_Recruit often _
Always have your eye on the future by letting your community know when you are in need of more volunteers. Whether that's mentioning an event or fundraiser you’re throwing to your close friends or emailing your associates at work or school, make sure you put out the invitation to volunteer throughout the year to ensure you always have a substantial pool of talent to draw from during the holidays.
_Use effective tools _
Thankfully, nowadays technology has stepped in to solve many of the age-old dilemmas of the volunteer scheduler. Make the most of it by researching and finding a tool that can help you streamline holiday scheduling. For example, with Volunteer Scheduler Pro (VSP) you can save a significant amount of frustration by letting go of the old paper and pen method of scheduling. VSP gives you the flexibility to plan ahead of the holidays to ensure you have the right number of volunteers for your events. You can also give your volunteers online access to indicate their availability. VSP will even save you time during the busy holiday season by eliminating the need to make reminder phone calls. Instead, volunteers receive automatic email and text message reminders to ensure they don't forget their commitments.
Having peace of mind that you’ve planned well for the holiday season is invaluable for effective volunteer management. As you know, a volunteer scheduler wears many hats in today’s non-profits, and one of the most valuable resources they must protect is their time. With careful planning, and the right tool, there is no reason to fear the holiday scheduling season.
If you’re looking for a tool to schedule, manage, and engage your volunteers during the holidays and throughout the year, try VSP free for 15-days.