Habitat For Humanity of Charlotte Strengthens Volunteer Bonds With VolunteerConnect



“We had always accepted hand-me-down technology.” Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte faced challenges of both efficiency and effectiveness when it came to volunteer management. For years, the organization manually entered data on individual volunteers and organizations that had signed up to assist with a home build, staff the ReStore or Julia’s Café or serve in the organization’s offices. Entering this information into an Access database was time consuming, and the data soon became outdated, resulting in even more manual entry. The demands of a manual system were pulling volunteer coordinators away from opportunities for relationship building. Not only was the volunteer database a time drain, it also lacked robust detail. Volunteer coordinators wanted to get to know more about the volunteers who make it possible for so many Charlotte families to realize homeownership. Designated group leaders coordinated church, business and other organizations that signed up for volunteer duties, which meant that volunteer coordinators had direct contact with only a small percentage of volunteers. This lack of direct contact with volunteers limited Habitat’s ability to mobilize supporters and convert regular volunteers into ambassadors and ultimately donors. The volunteerconnect solution, created through the Project Ignite program sponsored by NPower Charlotte Region, offered the potential to resolve both challenges, making volunteer coordinators more efficient in obtaining information and more effective in opening up opportunities to deepen relationships with volunteers.


“The volunteerconnect system enhances the way our volunteers connect with the volunteer coordinator, homeowners and the entire Habitat organization.” The cloud-based volunteerconnect system has enabled Habitat Charlotte to reduce staff inefficiencies and strengthen bonds with volunteers. “The volunteerconnect system has enhanced the way our volunteers connect with the volunteer coordinator, homeowners and the entire Habitat organization,” said Meg Robertson, associate director of Habitat Charlotte. “This connectivity to the emotional, transformative experience that people have with Habitat is very important.” Whether they volunteer individually or as part of a group, Habitat supporters now sign up through a website, which allows them to receive automatically generated emails from volunteer coordinators. For example, an email message may include information about the build, the family, equipment volunteers should bring and parking instructions. Follow-up emails remind volunteers of upcoming shifts. In case of inclement weather or a change in parking instructions, the volunteer coordinator can send last-minute updates and rest assured that the information will be automatically routed to every volunteer scheduled to participate in the build. “One of the greatest benefits of volunteerconnect is its ability to send targeted email messages that keep volunteers engaged with our organization and builds their relationships with the families who live in the homes we build,” said Stephanie Murphy, volunteer coordinator with Habitat Charlotte. The system not only makes Habitat Charlotte volunteer coordinators more efficient, it also Situation supports volunteer team leaders, especially if there is more than one group working on a home build. Team leaders can log into the system and access all of the information about the build, including detailed volunteer assignments. Web pages also allow volunteers to learn more about a particular home build and celebrate a group’s work with Habitat Charlotte. Group pages, for example, include the group’s logo and can become an online scrapbook of photos and videos from the build, creating a tighter bond among volunteers and Habitat. On the administrative side, Habitat Charlotte now has a reliable, up-to-date database of its volunteers, giving the organization a powerful resource for data to mine for future volunteer opportunities and fund raising. Comprehensive individual information assures that Habitat can identify corporate matching opportunities. “The beauty of the system is that volunteers enter their own data when they sign up for a project,” Robertson said. “It’s a universal solution across all Habitat volunteer opportunities, including our ReStore, administrative offices and Julia’s Café. Because the software is built on the Salesforce.com platform, it communicates with many other Saleforce.com systems.”


“It provides a 360-degree view of the volunteer.” The volunteerconnect system has resulted in a robust database of information that Habitat Charlotte uses to strengthen volunteer engagements and reach deeper into its volunteer base. The organization can tap into different segments of its volunteer corps for volunteer activities and recognition, donor solicitation and corporate matching programs. “If someone volunteers with an organization, they can tell us where they work when they sign up via the Web page,” Robertson said. “We can pull that data and submit an accurate account of volunteer hours to corporations with matching programs. We can also let volunteers know if their company matches gifts.” Volunteers can access their profiles to update information at any time, rendering the database more reliable. Most importantly, volunteerconnect frees up volunteer coordinators to focus on relationship building rather than administrative tasks. For example, Habitat uses the system to schedule celebratory events for volunteer milestones, such as attainment of 1,000 volunteer hours. It targets messages to volunteers under the age of 40 for recruitment into the Habitat Young Professionals program and it sends special coupons to volunteers for use in the annual book sale. Follow-up information on families is channeled to volunteers through the system. “It’s so exciting to see the family settled into a home six months after they’ve moved in,” Murphy said. “That’s powerful – more powerful than the dedication ceremony. The volunteerconnect system makes it easy for us to do this type of rich follow up with videos and photos that bind volunteers to these families and to the Habitat mission.”

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