This month, we feature a case study highlighting the many ways VolunteerHub, our cloud-based volunteer management software application, has reduced volunteer coordination time for a major festival.

Now in its 85th year, the National Cherry Festival of Traverse City, Michigan boasts an annual attendance of over half a million. With numbers like this, it’s no surprise that the event tallies up 35,000 volunteer hours per year. Organizers recently turned to Rick Kiehle, president and CEO of Garrison Solutions, to automate and streamline the festival’s large volunteer coordination project. Kiehle, whose firm’s goal is to help organizations work more efficiently, searched to find an application to fit the festival’s needs. “We were using a product and we weren’t satisfied with the developer’s customer service and willingness to work with us to provide a custom solution,” he explains.

VolunteerHub to the Rescue

Then he discovered VolunteerHub. Kiehle recommended this event management application to the festival staff over its competitors because VolunteerHub provided “easy-to-use tools for recruiting, managing, and communicating with volunteers.”

These are always factors to take into account when choosing volunteer management software; however, they are especially important when one considers that the National Cherry Festival operates with just six staff members and four interns. This small group organizes the eight-day festival, which consists of 150 events and activities. Before VolunteerHub, the time spent manually recruiting and assigning the necessary 3,000+ shift slots hovered close to 1,000 hours.

The National Cherry Festival previously suffered from technology problems common to many nonprofits: the challenges of multiple operating systems/platforms and the absence of a robust computer network. “As a result, it could take days to compile a report,” says Kiehle.

VolunteerHub easily overcame these obstacles. Because it is cloud-based, there is nothing to install, and VolunteerHub is not platform-specific, so it can be accessed from any internet-capable computer. In addition, all information is updated in real-time and is stored on – and accessed from – VolunteerHub’s secure servers. In all, Kiehle estimates that VolunteerHub has reduced volunteer coordination time by as much 80 percent.

Why Use VolunteerHub to Manage Festivals?

When asked what features he likes best about VolunteerHub, now in its fourth year of use with the festival, Kiehle responds, “It is easy to map your events and people groups and track progress on filling open volunteer positions. I like the ability to make some positions private, the ease of communication via email and text messages, and the ability to generate online reports with excellent export capabilities for further analysis.”

In general, VolunteerHub has received a positive reaction from festival volunteers. “Most of the people strongly like the approach,” Kiehle states. However, he explains, “In a festival that boasts [eighty-five] years, there are still people who would like to go back to paper. When staff and event directors hear that someone wants to return to paper, they offer the position to take over the process. They quickly embrace the change. The task is too large.”

Volunteer Management Software Yields Results

Not only has VolunteerHub reduced the time spent coordinating the National Cherry Festival, but it has also helped increase numbers from a base of 800 to almost 2,000 volunteers. As an added bonus, communication with them is faster and more effective. For example, with over 700 volunteers’ contact information in VolunteerHub’s database, the National Cherry Festival staff was able to easily send email invitations for a recruitment party at a local furniture store. The result was an attendance of over 500. The store provided its computers to access the festival’s “hub,” and that night alone the festival garnered more than 200 people who registered to help.

VolunteerHub’s goal is to effectively manage, schedule, and communicate with volunteers. Kiehle feels it has done just that. “We highly recommend VolunteerHub to our clients,” he concludes.

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Fonda Kendrick has over ten years’ experience in the nonprofit sector, a portion of which entails coordinating volunteers. She also enjoys researching and blogging for VolunteerHub.