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How developing a flexible volunteering pool saved 50 shifts from being cancelled

Check out how Belinda and the team were able prevent cancelling shifts due to covid - which has now become part of the way we work!
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How developing a group of on-demand volunteers that saved 50 shifts from being cancelled!

This week, we sat down with Belinda from the Orange Sky Operations team who have recently had some great success by experimenting with a new way of coordinating volunteers on shift, using what they call “flexible volunteers”. Take a look at the Q&A session we had with Belinda below.

Question: In one sentence – can you describe the outcome your new ‘flexible volunteers’ initiative has achieved? 

Answer: IT WORKED!!!!

Question: How did this come about? What was the issue that highlighted this??

Answer: COVID was messing with our rosters. We were losing/cancelling shifts at the last minute due to volunteers being a close contact and having to isolate for 7 days or until they got a negative result.

Question: Why did you decide to take action on this?

Answer: One of our team members suggested we try a flexible volunteer pool in a WhatsApp group. Normally what happens when a shift needs a volunteer is they go to the Team Leader group and let the other Team Leader’s know and they post it in their own groups hoping that someone is available. It is not usually this urgent so it was working before. But this time we needed volunteers within hours maybe. And in Melbourne we knew that we have quite a few experienced volunteers who are not on a regular shift but would be happy to help out in shirt notice!

Question: Tell us about ‘flexible volunteers’ how does it all work?

Answer: So we created a Flexible Volunteer group in WhatsApp for each service and sent a message via email to those who were not on a shift asking them to join the WhatsApp group via a link (no one needs to do anything else!). And then we thought maybe we can post the link in the Team chats as well to see if they are interested. Then, we fine tuned the process so that the team leaders can just message into the Flexible chat post their request. Get a volunteer and leave again. We put the link in multiple places i.e. descriptions in WA so its easy to find.

Question: What has this meant for you and the Orange Sky team? What has been the outcomes? 

Answer: I was so blown away by how quickly volunteers joined and this has happened in all services! You could not take the smile off my face as all of these numbers were joining the groups! We have saved over 50 shifts! and reconnected some volunteers that have not been on a team in a while!

Question: What has been the feedback from volunteers? 

Answer: They love it! They are meeting new volunteers and friends! going to shifts that they did not get a chance to go to before. Or even working on a different Van.

Question: Where do you see this going into the future??

Answer: I am pretty sure we are going to keep this going forward as it works.

Question: What would be your advice to other Volunteer managers who might be having this issue?? 

Answer: Give it a try! People (volunteers) continue to amaze me! It is a special type of person who decides that they want to volunteer in the first place and this helps remind them and you that this is what they wanted to do and they are willing to help at a moments notice.

Our takeaway from this:

People tend to live crazy busy lives, and as much as they would love to give back and support their community, their volunteering window of opportunity can seem allusive and perceptively shrinking by the day. Thus, if we take a look at our volunteering process(s), and see what areas we can afford to ‘loosen’ and make more flexible for volunteers to attend (or not attend, particularly at the last minute) it potentially open their door of opportunity that little bit more, and perhaps allow more great people to join your cause.

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