Tech Tools to Better Manage Committees

There are tools for every budget and level of tech knowledge to help you get the most out of every volunteer.

Signing up volunteers, assigning them to committees, and tracking committee progress can be labor-intensive endeavors—especially if you’ve introduced a wide variety of micro-volunteering and one-time task force options—but technology can help make these processes faster and easier and help you keep track of all of your volunteers.

Committee Sign-up

For association committee and volunteer sign-up to be as quick and easy as possible for members, your tech tools need to be intuitive and work on mobile devices. They should also enable you to provide committee descriptions, gather some details about volunteers’ background, and export that data to a spreadsheet or, ideally, directly into your membership management software.

There are dozens of quick and free sign-up forms online you may already be using for other purposes (Doodle, Wufoo, Survey Monkey, Google Docs); some are specialized, such as SignUp.com and SignupGenius.com. Watch out for free apps that limit the number of custom questions you can ask, block links to your website, limit the number of administrators, or include advertising. Paid versions, usually starting about $10 a month, can offer more features and less hassle.

Taking sign-up a bit further are specialized software options. One, ivolunteer.com, is a customizable, reusable sign-up platform that enables you to create a good-looking, detailed volunteer opportunity homepage listing all your committees, events, forums, and resources. The free subscription is good for up to 15 volunteers. A premium subscription for up to 500 volunteers costs $175 for six months.

As with any time you are engaging with members, use committee applications as an opportunity to capture more data about their interests. Ask them about relevant background experience, previous jobs, or special skills they have. To avoid unexpected dropouts, provide information about committee attendance requirements, estimated time commitments, and other reservice requirements on your sign-up app.

Committee Management & Collaboration Tools

There’s a wide range of team collaboration tools on the market, free and paid, that also work well for committees and work groups as a platform where they can discuss and share documents anytime from anywhere.

The popular Basecamp project management and daily task tracking application, which has millions of users, costs about $90 a year with a 10 percent discount for nonprofits. Some of the benefits of Basecamp include the ability to silo volunteers to have access to just the data and documents relevant to their committee or task force or even a single event, while giving committee chairs and leadership wider access to private discussion spaces and documents. Basecamp is simple enough for the masses to use and there’s no shortage of how-to videos on YouTube if volunteers get stuck. Similar to Basecamp are Trello, Asana, Jira (for highly tech-savvy members), Podio, and Zoho. Many of these have a free basic version and paid upgrade versions.

Many of these platforms enable you or your committee chairs to automate tasks including scheduling meetings, emailing meeting or task reminders, and distributing minutes, agendas, and reports. Some facilitate voting as well as instant message and video chat.

Many of these platforms enable you or your committee chairs to automate tasks including scheduling meetings, emailing meeting or task reminders, and distributing minutes, agendas, and reports.

If you’re ready for a more robust volunteer program management platform featuring a menu of tools for attracting, managing, training, and retaining volunteers, take a look at Samaritan’s eCoordinator. One useful feature enables volunteers to sign up and search for the best-fitting opportunities using attributes (including duration, qualifications, or theme), a calendar, or an interactive map. Automatic emails suggest volunteer matches as they’re posted and remind volunteers about meetings. The platform also includes volunteer satisfaction surveys and questionnaires. Product packages start at $2,500 per year plus setup and training.

Another category of collaboration platforms specifically designed for membership associations, or those with a large number of associations as clients, including Higher Logic and Get Connected, emphasize how member collaboration builds membership value. These solutions not only can be used to manage committees but also facilitate member-to-member online networking and discussions on specific topics, similar to setting up a Facebook group. (Although Facebook has the advantage of being widely used by members, for committee collaboration, it lacks the security and privacy of other solutions.)

The National Association of REALTORS® launched its Higher Logic Hub collaboration tool in 2018. It replaces the email, closed Facebook groups, and project management platforms previously used by NAR committees, presidential advisory groups, advisory boards, councils, work groups, the board of directors, and select other association leadership groups.

“The Hub has provided our members a secure and unified platform where they can connect and collaborate on committee work and important topical issues between meetings,” says Idis Rivera, NAR’s director of governance programs.

I Don’t Want Another App!

The biggest decision when it comes to selecting software is often deciding between a new, focused, and elegant solution, or a platform you already have that also gets the job done. How proficient are you, your staff, and members at using new software? If your answer is not positive, consider using the tools built into platforms you already use. Will your event registration software also work for committee sign-ups? Can you integrate a sign-up form into your WordPress website? How about using NRDS or ZipForms for committee sign-up?

For committee management, many associations use RAMCO, the Microsoft-based REALTOR® Association Management System Cooperative platform. Mike Cutlip, the director of RAMCO, says the committee functions in the platform includes sign-up, setting criteria for sign-up, automated communication with committee members and volunteers, attendance tracking, and easy integration with Higher Logic and other platforms to expand your committee management abilities.

Regardless of the technology you choose, free or paid, strive to make volunteer sign-up and management as easy and transparent as possible for members and leadership.

Committee Meetings Via Video & Audio Conferencing

Meeting room with video conference

Video conferencing has come a long way from the frozen and blurry images of just a few years ago, and offering this option can lead to increased volunteer participation.

Although Skype is still the industry leader and its group video conferencing capability is applicable for committee meetings (if your bylaws permit it), there are other alternatives for group video meetings. Free options that members may already be accustomed to include WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which both enable group chats, and a newer offering from Amazon called Chime, which is getting a lot of attention for being easy to use.

More sophisticated video streaming and live-screen sharing platforms include Cisco WebEx, BlueJeans, Wire, and Telegram.

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