YHA England and Wales has over 120 YHA Hostels, another 25 franchise sites and 35 affiliate sites across the UK, and is the largest hostel provider in the UK. In its 85 Years of operations, YHA has been operating as a charity that aims to enable young people and schools, families and friends, travellers and individuals to explore, learn and relax the length and breadth of England and Wales. A vital part of this has been the involvement of volunteers who support the running of YHA.
Crewenna Dymond has been Head of Volunteering at YHA for the last twelve years. She has overseen the transition between the use of excel sheets, paper files and a CRM system to using TeamKinetic for volunteer management. One year on, Crewenna shares her experience using TeamKinetic and the impact it has had on YHA’s volunteering.
How did you previously manage volunteers?
Previously, volunteers would have to call either the Volunteering Team or a local YHA directly to find when and where opportunities were available.
Once a volunteer had expressed interest in joining an opportunity, they would need to complete a PDF registration form, obtain references and a potentially a DBS, depending on their role. Each of these items had to be processed manually and added to a physical paper volunteers folder. The process which was very timely, resulted in duplication and was very inefficient.
We also had a CRM system which was great for recording activity that had already happened, but there was nowhere to put in future activities, we always had to do this with an excel spreadsheet.
The lack of a singular system also led to much confusion between volunteers and hostels, because there was nowhere to record what agreements had been made.
Why did you decide to look for a volunteer management software?
Despite all the difficulties of our system, it was an internal audit that sparked the need for a singular system to be put in place. There was concern that our data was spread across multiple areas leading to a higher risk to YHA than if it was to be held in one area/system, with an appropriate backup.
During the planning process, we looked to develop our current CRM system, but with the cost incurred, the continuous updates required and still no online tool for volunteers to use, we realised it would be more cost effective to find a built for purpose system.
We looked at other competitor for volunteer management software before selecting TeamKinetic. We needed a system that looked and felt like the YHA website and the decision was made to use TeamKinetic because it could do this, it had the appropriate functionality and as a UK based company, its data policies were aligned with GDPR.
Using TeamKinetic creates a singular place for the Volunteering team, Hostels and Volunteers to find and access information on the opportunities we have available.
How was the implementation process of TeamKinetic?
Before we imported our volunteer data to the system, we wanted to cleanse it (preparing for GDPR). We started with over 12,000 volunteers on our paper files. We decided to remove any volunteer who had been inactive for the last three years and the remaining 7,500 volunteers were invited to join the new system.
When the system went live in May 2017, we had 7,500, within 10 months we now have 10,500 registered users.
What benefits has TeamKinetic provided?
For volunteers it is the self-service side of the software, they are able to go onto the system and see everything they have booked onto and to log their hours, leave feedback and see their own progress.
For the opportunity providers, in our case the Hostels, the TeamKinetic framework has ensured opportunities are much more specific than before, including times, location and the responsibilities of volunteers. The Hostels are much more considerate of the benefit for volunteers and what is offered to them in return for their time because this is explained on all the opportunities pages of the website. This has led to a better experience for our volunteers, encouraging them to volunteer with YHA.
For our hostels, the biggest benefit of having TeamKinetic is the opportunity to create communities within their volunteers. Through the software, volunteers can be grouped into cohorts and communicated with via email or text. This direct communication enables opportunity providers to directly engage with their volunteers like never before. TeamKinetic has opened the door for opportunities to be advertised locally and attract those close to the hostel to get involved. We are finding the time it takes us to develop new opportunities is much shorter, making for a much more efficient process.
In terms of the benefit to us in the Volunteering team, it helps greatly to have everything in one place and having instant access to any of the information needed is very helpful.
How have you found the training, support and use of TeamKinetic?
Steve, the implementation consultant at TeamKinetic, took us through our training and showed us how to use many of the features. We could then refer to the training videos or training manuals both available online if we needed any further support. Of course, if there is anything additional that I need I can always access the team by calling their offices or emailing them or submitting a customer support ticket.
How did your volunteers find using TeamKinetic?
New volunteers have got on and used the website because they did not have any previous expectations. For these volunteers making full use of the Events pages has helped us to help them find the opportunities of most interest to them easily. Volunteers with less experience of using web-based technology have generally been positive about using it and with some tips and training, they have adjusted to the new ways of working fairly successfully.
We have found that the age of our volunteers is dropping. Around six or seven years ago, the average age for our volunteers would have been around 55. Now, over half of registered user are under the age of 26. We believe this is because the user-friendly system is something younger people are comfortable using, making it really accessible to them.
Do you have any other comments?
A couple of years ago we would have felt the cost of a volunteer management software system would be too much, it would be too much of a challenge and too much work to change systems. Having gone through the whole process, it’s actually not! For such a multi-site organisation to be able to transfer across to new systems in under four months, I’m sure smaller organisations will be able to do it much faster.
Thank you for your time Crewenna.
If you have any further questions or would like to learn more about TeamKinetic’s Volunteer Management Software please do not hesitate to get in touch with one of our team.