Are you a community volunteer or a person who coordinates volunteers for a nonprofit organization or local company? If so, Northfield Shares – your community foundation – invites you to participate in an upcoming community survey to determine the feasibility of a web-based volunteer management platform or ”volunteer portal.” The survey will provide insights into the needs of different groups who would potentially use this type of technology as part of their overall volunteerism efforts.
Northfield Shares will send out an invitation to its email constituents in a few weeks.
The idea for a volunteer portal dates back to the fall of 2014 when the newly-formed Northfield Shares organization conducted an environmental scan to help guide the organization in where to focus its efforts for greatest impact at that time and for the future. The research, which was conducted by consultants CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA), focused on identifying opportunities in three major categories: philanthropy, volunteerism and capacity building – which reflect the three prongs of the Northfield Shares mission. Under the volunteerism category, the research indicated interest in the creation of a web-based volunteer database to match interested volunteers with community organizations meeting their interests.
In 2017, Northfield Shares decided to pursue the idea of a volunteer portal but needed a better understanding of what tool community members might need, want and use. We decided to again engage CLA to help dig deeper into what the tool could be and should be. Could it be used not only for listing volunteer opportunities, recruiting and matching volunteers, but also to enable local organizations to track and manage their individual volunteerism efforts?
Focus Group Efforts
On Thursday, September 28, CLA began looking for answers by conducting three focus groups representing various community stakeholders:
- Business and the college community
- Nonprofit organizations
- Community volunteers
Although the individual questions varied slightly based on the participant group, each discussion focused on four key areas:
- How are individuals connecting with volunteer opportunities (and vice versa)?
- How are nonprofits managing and tracking volunteers once they are identified?
- What attributes would make a system or tool useful to various users?
- How likely would each participant be to use a community-specific tool like this?
These focus groups represent the first phase of research. The upcoming community survey represents the second phase. Focus group participants requested feedback from local citizens already engaged in volunteerism efforts. There was no consensus among focus group participants on whether the volunteer portal should just be used for recruiting and matching volunteers or should it also incorporate other steps of the volunteer management process.
The Value of Community Input
As you can see, more community input is needed in determining the feasibility of a web-based volunteer portal. We invite you to provide your insights in the upcoming community survey. Although more information will be forthcoming, start checking www.northfieldshares.org on November 1 for your link to the survey. With your assistance, we can help shape the future of volunteer management in Northfield.