The Citizens Advice Witness Service provides free and independent support for both prosecution and defence witnesses in every criminal court in England and Wales.
Their trained volunteers provide practical information about the court process. They can also give emotional support to help witnesses feel more confident when giving evidence.
What were the key challenges you were facing with your volunteering program?
The biggest challenge is managing over 2,000 Volunteers across more than 250 locations across England and Wales, and fully understanding the journey of Volunteers through the organisation from applications, interviews, enrollment and working for us on a regular basis.
There are a lot of moving parts managed by a relatively small team of full-time staff. Understanding who our volunteers are and how to engage with them has traditionally been a big challenge. Included in this is managing practical administrative tasks such as understanding security clearance, processing expenses and just understanding who is working where and when.
What systems and processes were in place before Volunteero?
We used a legacy database system called OBS as our volunteering management platform until 2020, but this was phased out as it was no longer fit for purpose. Coupled with basic Google office tools (Sheets, Doc etc) this made up the primary volunteer management suite.
Could you expand on any processes that took a significant amount of time, how much time was spent?
Everything took significant time, because things here fragmented, each area (23 in total) maintained its own data on Volunteers in different formats, so compiling this information to provide reporting and statistics for our funders was a lot of work, taking weeks of time to collate the information each quarter to present to the funders. Also all other processes were generally manually driven, including onboarding and offboarding, DBS certificate checking and monitoring and all other aspects of the Volunteering experience.
What was the goal in implementing Volunteero and what appealed to us?
During a tender process in 2021 we had failed to find any Volunteer Management System (VMS) that would be fit for our needs, most systems were either designed for education or lacked the basic functionality we required to manage our Volunteers effectively. They were also generally expensive and did not represent value for money. When we were approached at the end of that process having not successfully awarded the tender, we were very pleasantly surprised by the simple, dynamic yet powerful functionality of Volunteero.
With proper planning and design, Volunteero was very flexible in how it could be set up to work for our organisation and in a way that fits with the existing processes and requirements.
We were very impressed with how easy it was to set up and configure and get up and running. Although we started very slowly, the immediate benefit of having a single source of truth for all of our Volunteer data was incredibly impactful and enabling for further development and expansion.
The goal for us primarily of implementing Volunteero was to make Volunteero the very centre of our Volunteer data universe and help drive efficiencies and savings across the organisation.
What have been the high-level benefits of implementing Volunteero?
There are many, but the biggest by far have been:
- the creation of a single unified data set that is now used to drive everything relating to Volunteers across the organisation
- the ability to use that data to automate several processes such as creating accounts in all of the Volunteer connected systems automatically and terminating those accounts based on when tags are applied in Volunteero
- fully automating DBS monitoring and checking process, starting the process proactively 90 days before the DBS is due to expire and informing the relevant parties of the steps they need to take to renew, saving hundreds of hours of manual administration and lowering the risk of breaching our contract substantially
- giving a complete overview of our Volunteers in realtime and where they are in their journey with us, enabling us to monitor and report on things like attrition rates, successful recruitment, areas with low capacity and areas with higher than normal attrition. It has also allowed us to be able to provide real time reporting to our funders instead of spending weeks compiling reports from disparate data sources.
- Giving volunteers visibility of the personal data we hold on them which they can update themselves e.g. contact details and demographic data
- the reduction of workload on our teams, as they no longer need to manage any external data, they just need to update Volunteers in a single system. A good example of this has been creating a Volunteer mailing list based on the data in Volunteero (including the option for Volunteers to opt out in Volunteero) which is now exported to our Comms team daily and is always up to date. When switching over to use this new mailing list data our delivery rate went from 62% to 99.8% overnight.
- Automating the reference collection process which was manual and time consuming before. Now the system handles this automatically and our team just needs to review and approve them once received. The system has handled around 700 references since we implemented it which we estimate accounts for around +200 hours of staff time in total. The process has not only saved time, but also we are seeing increased responses to requests from referees, which may have saved more admin time in follow ups.
These are the kind of results we are seeing with most projects we now use the Volunteero system and data for.
How much time has been saved on the processes outlined
The measurements for this are still ongoing, but overall it is easy to see that the system will save 100s of hours of staff time each month, we are now able to enable staff to do more quantitative and qualitative work instead of maintaining spreadsheets and waiting for other teams to process basic requests.
What has been the feedback from staff and volunteers?
Generally after an initial rocky start (change always brings its challenges) around the integration of our secure IT systems with Voluntreero, the system and platform has been well received by staff and volunteers; mostly because it has made life easier for both parties and allowed them to focus more on their jobs than on Administrative tasks.
What are the plans for the future with Volunteero?
We are always looking for more value we can gain from the platform, and we work closely with Volunteero as a company to help drive development and the product. Currently we are looking at how we can use Vounteero to improve the processing of volunteer expenses and are hoping to see further development of the API so we can take advantage of more automation, data syncing and help refine our processes further. Ideally we would like to be able to write back to Volunteero via the API and access all User (Staff) data, as this would allow us to start to build a complete data picture of our organisation beyond just the volunteers.
We are also excited about the prospect of transitioning the volunteer shift management to Volunteero where volunteers will be able to take more ownership of their own time and manage their own shift selection with ease through the app. For a large organisation, with multiple locations and local managers, this will be a big change and the Volunteero team have supported us in planning the best structure to organise our needs in readiness for pilots of this process for us.
How have you found it working with the Volunteero team?
Working with Volunteero has been a great experience and opportunity, because we were a very early adopter of the platform, we were able to work very closely with Volunteero to help guide the development from a large volunteering organisation perspective, and help feedback on new features and developments. We also benefited from having an excellent working relationship at several levels of the organisation from technical support all the way up to CEO and everybody in between. So we have always been able to find solutions where needed and feel valued and listened to.