GivePulse has had an incredibly exciting 2019! Between the product enhancements and business operation improvements, we’ve been investing further to ensure our platform performs as efficiently and effectively as possible to empower social good. We are so grateful to all of our clients and to all of the amazing volunteers and organizations whose work is making an impact in their communities! Read on to learn more about what we have accomplished this year.
GivePulse continues to grow and improve constantly. Our fantastic team of engineers, in addition to working around the clock to ensure that any bugs are quickly fixed, have heard suggestions from clients, and have used these, along with their own ideas, to make GivePulse more intuitive and efficient. Early in the year, we combined the Sign-In app with the GivePulse app to make our mobile functions more extensive. We then made additional mobile app improvements on our administrative kiosk mode to collect additional custom fields, and added the abilities to verify impacts on the go and the usage of a QR Code for clock-in/out. If you haven’t yet, download the GivePulse app on iOS or Android so you can record and verify hours in addition to our mobile web responsive experience! In the spring and summer, we improved our SMS capabilities and calendar functionalities, particularly with the addition of a deeper integration with popular calendar applications like Google Calendar (email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more or to activate these additional functionalities!). Later in the year, we made significant improvement to our internships functionality to help scale placements for institutions. Beyond these, we have continued to make all aspects of our site more customizable (for example, we have added the ability to add images and tables to email templates, the ability to customize confirmation emails for each specific event, and an increase to the amount of recurrences allowed in a recurring event), among the many, many other changes we have had the chance to make. These are just the tip of the iceberg — for more updates, check out the Recent Updates section of our support portal, attend our product meetings, join our listserv by creating an account, or schedule a time to chat with us!
This year saw us attending over 20 different conferences, including IARSCLE, Gulf South Summit, The Impact Conference, Campus Labs Connect, and much much more. Some key takeaways from our time at these conferences includes the importance of hyperlocal engagement, the need for deep institutional commitment in order to sustain change, and the need to assess and tell stories about the work being done. We use what we learn at these conferences to aim enhancements and changes to GivePulse toward making the most effective and sustainable change, so we are always excited to learn from these fantastic opportunities!
We were thrilled to get the chance to highlight the work of many of our incredible partners this year on our blog. This year, our spotlights focused on how GivePulse could be used at universities large and small, on how GivePulse is used to help engage communities to fight food waste and education inequity, and on amazing volunteers engaging with GivePulse. We also looked back on our team’s adventures and offered ideas for how to recruit volunteers and celebrate important holidays in community-oriented and engaging ways. We are excited to continue to spotlight our fantastic partners next year — we already have some great pieces in the works for you!
This year, we welcomed new engineers and business teammatesto our Austin office, and have benefited from their insight and enthusiasm already. We can’t wait to see what is in store for this team next year! We certainly anticipate more eating and more bonding — and perhaps we will welcome some more folks to join us in these adventures next year. Stay tuned!
With 2020 coming up, GivePulse is entering a new decade for the first time since its founding in 2012. Between 2012 and now, we have grown extraordinarily, and that is entirely due to the amazing efforts of folks who use our platform for the greater good. Let us know what you would like to see from 2020, and we can’t wait to connect with you in the new year!
With the end of the year (and the decade!) fast approaching, our team took a few days to rest, look back at our growth this year, and bond as a team. We gathered in beautiful Marble Falls, Texas, just over an hour outside of our home base of Austin.
Although the week leading up to the retreat was chilly and grey, our holiday retreat was filled with sunshine and warmth, both from the people and the weather. Here’s a glance at our weekend, and some takeaways for companies hoping to encourage a productive and tight-knit team:
Clear air, rocking chairs, hammocks and rivers — between all of these elements, we were able to enjoy a truly restful few days. Our team took time to sit and talk on the comfortable porches, to watch beautiful sunsets, to play a game or two of soccer (as well as of Mafia), and to sing songs by a bonfire. All of these moments, while seemingly the most simple, were among the most important for our team. They drew us closer together, encouraging comfort and vulnerability that our team can call upon in the office whenever we have any questions, need help, or are excited to share good news.
Takeaway: It’s the quietest moments that can make all the difference in a busy office environment. Giving your team unstructured time helps them to forge the connections that will bring your company together in times of both stress and joy.
Whenever we gather together, we enjoy preparing and eating big meals (see, for example, our recent Worksgiving)! When we arrived at Marble Falls on Friday afternoon, we immediately set about preparing dinner — and snacking in the meantime. Every day, our team worked together to prepare, cook, and clean, always looking for ways that we could help, checking in with one another to plan an efficient and delicious process. And at night, we sat down for family dinners together, laughing over wine and food, sharing stories and hopes in our cozy cabin. Cooking highlight: five hours spent making delicious mutton and chicken karahi! All agreed that the end result was well worth the time.
Takeaway:Food brings us together, and cooking as a group teaches us to delegate tasks and consider ways to nurture one another. These are skills that are vitally important both in and out of the office, and will help your team to work together efficiently while never losing track of the people that your work nurtures at the end of the day.
On Saturday, we spent the day at Candelight Ranch, a nonprofit offering outdoor opportunities to special needs and at-risk children. Here, the wonderful volunteers guided us through team building exercises that solidified our belief that there’s nothing the GivePulse team can’t do. Some highlights from this day include resourcefulness on the island-hopping activity, where a lost wooden plank couldn’t dampen the good mood as we hopped from platform to platform; support as we helped one another over a sheer wooden wall, helping our team to learn that we were capable of more than we even believed; and facing fears through ziplining and the Canyon Crawl, a tightrope walk across the canyon! We also, of course, enjoyed befriending some four-legged friends through horse groundwork.
Takeaway: Our team worked closely together in a setting that pushed us all outside of our comfort zone — and in doing so, we learned the power of positivity, listening, problem-solving together, and pushing ourselves past our perceived limits. These are all critical skills to a productive, vibrant, and efficient work environment!
This retreat gave us the opportunity to gear up for next year. We did so by looking back at some of the highlights from this year (learning and sharing more about our rockstar volunteers, nonprofits, universities, and corporations; improving both our mobile and web presences, particularly through advances to our app, our corporate matching platforms, and our internship capabilities; growing our team of incredible engineers and success managers), and used this period of reflection to think about what comes next. We are excited to continue growing our team of incredible, community-motivated individuals, and to continue working toward our mission of transforming everyone into engaged citizens.
Takeaway: At the end of the year, make sure to reflect over the many advances you have made, and to share your appreciation for the growth your team has enabled. Sharing this love and gratitude will give everyone the boost they need to engage whole-heartedly in the New Year, helping you to meet your 2020 goals.
With a team like this, we know we can’t go wrong. For any office, time spent relaxing together is crucial to maintaining individual mental health and to strengthening the company. In the end, this time spent resting together is indicative of what is most important to GivePulse — people.
We hope that you have the chance to rest this holiday season and to spend time with the people you love most. Keep an eye out for an upcoming product summary of GivePulse in 2019, and we look forward to sharing more stories in the New Year!
Anyone who has worked with a service-based nonprofit can attest to the remarkable work of volunteer managers. Volunteer managers act as guides, leaders, problem-solvers, and organizers to ensure effective community engagement. We at GivePulse are so excited to celebrate International Volunteer Managers Day (IVMDay) on November 5, 2019!
This year marks the 20th celebration of IVMDay. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Change the Tune.” This theme was chosen as a response to a common frustration: rehashing issues without finding a solution. IVMDay hopes organizations will take this opportunity to think about how they can change the tune of these conversations.
Whatever the capacity you work in, there are many ways that you can celebrate IVMDay:
Just saying a simple “Thank you” can go a long way.
Inform the organization’s board members the valuable work your volunteer managers do and how the volunteers are so critical. Make sure the executive director is informed too!
Gather up a group of volunteers together and do a surprise “Thank you!!”. Throw in a hug and that will mean the world!
Write a letter to your local newspaper highlighting the efforts of volunteer managers in your community.
Send a thank you note or gift basket to a volunteer manager in your life.
Host or attend an event in support of volunteer managers.
If you are a volunteer manager, educate others in your organization and in your community about your role.
These are just a few ideas we put together — for additional ideas, check out the following IVMDay website. How will you celebrate the individuals who change lives through their work as volunteer managers? Let us know in the comments!
In addition, to celebrate IVMDay, GivePulse is kicking off our GivePulse Hero Campaign! If you or someone you know is a superhero volunteer, you can fill out this survey to explain why you think the person you are submitting for consideration deserves to be a GivePulse Hero. Some qualities we look for in a Hero are dedication, enthusiasm, and a deep rooted love of community.
This year, our GivePulse Hero will win a set of prizes and GivePulse swag (details are to-be-announced). We will also feature a spotlight about your efforts on our blog!
The GivePulse Hero Campaign is open until November 30th — so start nominating! We can’t wait to hear your stories.
Volunteer recruitment is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a successful nonprofit. The question of how best to connect excited, authentic community members with impactful work remains critical for organizations to consider. Below, we have compiled a list of tips that we have gathered from our experience with nonprofits using the GivePulse platform.
1. Post Opportunities Effectively
Volunteers learn about community engagement work through many different sources. Determine ahead of time whether there are specific groups that might be particularly interested in volunteering with your organization and target your outreach appropriately. Are you looking for help from students? Do you think that retired teachers might be ideal for an education program? Find ways to ensure that your work reaches these audiences. Talk to higher education institutions and high schools, talk to churches, talk to corporations that offer giving programs. Aim your message directly toward the right people, and they will quickly make their way to your opportunity. Many of our partners, for example, post opportunities to university pages, amplifying their outreach for students.
2. Post Opportunities Digitally
Using online resources, whether social media or online platforms, can increase the range of people who see your opportunities. Options such as VolunteerMatch, Points of Light, and GivePulse provide online platforms to list opportunities and match them to interested volunteers; GivePulse and others offer the ability to link these posts to social media, maximizing the range of volunteers who might learn about your organization. Volunteers can also connect with opportunities via web and downloadable native app presence — joining a platform that offers both a web and downloadable app presence provides volunteers the ability to view opportunities no matter what device they prefer.
3. Partner Up
Your nonprofit is one of many in your community, all engaging in important and overlapping ways. These nonprofits work with community members who would be excited to discover new opportunities. Engage with these nonprofits, sharing opportunities with each other’s volunteers. If you can illuminate the ways that your efforts coordinate and aid one another, and reiterate that an impact to one benefits all, you will encourage community members to volunteer widely and often, sharing their time across nonprofits. Such affiliations can expand the scope of the volunteers you reach.
4. Discuss the Impact of the Work
We believe that it is crucial to show volunteers that they are making an impact; this manifests in the very language that we use to describe volunteer hours and donations. How are your volunteers making an impact? What will their engagement change in their community? If volunteers understand how their work will impact their community, they are more likely to want to volunteer. Include both stories and statistics to show how truly impactful their volunteering can be. You can use reflections and testimonials from other volunteers to reinforce these conversations. On GivePulse, volunteer reflections offer feedback to nonprofits that can help them to improve or can reveal the crucial ways in which their work benefits both themselves and the community.
5. Offer Information Up Front
Volunteers may be wary of participating in a volunteer opportunity when they are not sure of its exact details. In addition to ensuring that the time, date, and location are easy to find, make sure that you explain how volunteers will be engaging if they choose to sign up. Our partners often write detailed descriptions of upcoming events to ensure that volunteers have sufficient insight to make an informed decision. In addition, offer clear instructions about how to apply and how volunteers will be expected to report hours after the fact. Knowledge is a powerful catalyst for action.
6. Stay in Contact
Sometimes a volunteer may express interest and then suddenly stop responding to emails. Follow up! Keep track of volunteers who have filled out applications but have not joined any volunteer opportunities. It never hurts to make sure that you have tried your best to reach these volunteers. If they decide to engage, they will make a lasting impact in your community.
7. Volunteer Management
Effective volunteer management is its own form of recruitment. When done well, volunteer management maintains existing relationships — and these current volunteers will recruit others of their own accord. When someone has volunteered in the community, reflect and have the volunteer coordinator chat with the volunteer about their experience and about opportunities to improve. This is also an excellent time to reinforce for the volunteer how they made an impact to the program and the organization.
Do you have any tips of your own? Let us know in the comments! And if you use GivePulse, feel free to share how GivePulse has supported volunteer recruitment or where we could improve. We love to hear your feedback.
To learn about how GivePulse can help you with volunteer recruitment, please contact email@example.com.
This post is part of our Spotlight series, where we spotlight our incredible partners. We are so thrilled that GivePulse has been able to work with these nonprofits, institutions, and corporations!
Bringing community to the university
The vision statement of the University of Alabama at Birmingham affirms the university’s dedication to “inspiring and empowering the creation of knowledge that changes the world.” This is perhaps natural given UAB’s location in a city historically invested in community change. Emily Wykle, project director in the Office of the President at UAB, emphasizes the importance of Birmingham’s “really deep commitment” to community engagement. The city itself offers “very fertile ground” for civic work, she says, adding, “You don’t have to be browbeating people to get involved. You have the appetite.”
This community-wide energy for change is evident in UAB’s broadly reaching implementation of GivePulse. UAB established their GivePulse domain (dubbed “BlazerPulse”) in the fall of 2018. According to Wykle, GivePulse has been “kind of the overlay” for the city’s work. “There’s already exciting things happening,” she notes. With GivePulse, the university can “give others a way in.”
“There’s already exciting things happening,” Wykle says. GivePulse can “give others a way in.”
Before using GivePulse, connections between the university and the work happening in the community were sometimes, in Wykle’s words, “kind of random.” Faculty members looking for organizations with which to engage often experienced difficulty in locating the greatest community need, while community partners did not always know how to access the university’s resources. In addition, to track data, UAB used “a kind of homegrown survey that I don’t think I would be speaking out of turn to say was a big disaster. There was no way to analyze it, not a great response rate.”
GivePulse provides resources that analyze both qualitative and quantitative information. One example that Wykle sees as particularly beneficial is the engagement heat map, which she says “gets people so excited, and I think that’s really driven a lot of exciting partnerships.” She recalls working with Hands on Birmingham, a United Way sponsored organization, for their Back to School Beautification Day. The UAB community was invited alongside the broader Birmingham community to work with people in the neighborhoods where each of the city’s schools were housed. Wykle considers this a key facet of being part of the various communities in Birmingham: “This has been a way for us to work alongside them. A more opportune way.”
“[GivePulse] gets people so excited, and I think that’s really driven a lot of exciting partnerships.”
Mutually Beneficial Partnerships
Through GivePulse, the question of how to create a mutually beneficial partnership is answered by design. Community partners can see the forms of engagement supported by UAB and can open aligned opportunities; in turn, students, faculty, and staff at UAB are able to find and engage with the opportunities that most need their help.
In this way, UAB has found in GivePulse “essentially a civic giving form” through which community partners and nonprofits can consider how to connect their needs to the strategic goals of the university. UAB, meanwhile, can see both “the strategic connection” and “whether that organization is invested in what [UAB is] doing.” This helps UAB “to make better decisions around who [they] support, and also democratizes the process.” Any nonprofits can sign up on GivePulse; no longer reliant on hearing about engagement opportunities through connections and networking, nonprofits now have a “front door” to the resources of the university.
GivePulse helps UAB “to make better decisions around who [they] support, and also democratizes the process.”
In addition to accessing information about the possibilities available, UAB can now also see the work with which staff and students have already been engaging. Wykle recalls using the system to determine who had logged the most hours on BlazerPulse and finding a woman who, unbeknownst to Wykle, had been working night shifts at a crisis center. This user logged more than 700 hours with the center. Through GivePulse, this record was suddenly easily accessible, allowing UAB to “highlight her and recognize her for her work.” Furthermore, this knowledge allowed UAB to strengthen connections with the crisis center, helping more volunteers to engage in this work.
UAB brought community partners onto GivePulse “really early, like before we really knew what we were doing,” recalls Wykle, adding, “I can’t believe we did that!” UAB organized a meeting with about fifty nonprofits in Birmingham that they had “deep relationships with, deep history” — nonprofits that the university knew “would go out on a limb” for them. Community partners soon began to expand their presence on GivePulse. Now, they are not just “using it for UAB,” Wykle says. “They’re really using it to get volunteers to sign up from other parts of Birmingham.”
Nonprofits are really using GivePulse “to get volunteers to sign up from other parts of Birmingham.”
UAB maintains the community energy that first brought the partners to GivePulse by meeting with them twice a year, which, particularly in the early days of using GivePulse, offered an opportunity to hear what was — and was not — working. Wykle recalls learning that the Office of Conduct, when assigning students community service, did not count GivePulse as a valid way to track service hours, something that she would not have known had community partners not brought this to her attention. This opened an opportunity to have a conversation with the Office of Conduct, resulting in the confirmation of GivePulse as the primary method of tracking service hours across the campus.
Since implementing GivePulse in fall of 2018, UAB has created over 200 subgroups and recorded over 30,000 hours of community activity. While these numbers might seem overwhelming to build into any platform, UAB maintains an organizational system that calls upon feedback from across the institution. Wykle emphasizes the importance of building a system of liaisons across departments, colleges, and organizations on campus, all of whom can offer feedback throughout the implementation process. At the start, “there were some hiccups,” but with the help of a diverse group of faculty members, UAB was “able to say, ‘Here’s where faculty are getting stuck, here’s what’s sticky.’”
Wykle also emphasizes the importance of support at the top tier of the institution; because she works in the president’s office, the engagement “has really has come from the top down.” This is critical: “Having it come from the top down gives it a sense of [being] something we are really committed to and interested in.” Perhaps more importantly, every department and college at the school is focused on community engagement. “Each of the schools has a community engagement part of their strategic plan,” she says, and adds, “We can meet them where they’re at… [it’s] not just a central helping us kind of thing, but can help at a school and department level.” While each department and college may have had different practices of engagement prior to the implementation of GivePulse, centralizing the data and the tracking system allows for these different colleges to share knowledge, opening the university to stronger community engagement in every field.
It helped that faculty members immediately recognized the need for this platform from their own experiences with community engagement. As Wykle notes, “They were going to be with us from the outset. This was something that was important to them.” This was true both of faculty members whose time was spent primarily in the classroom and of faculty whose focus was primarily on research. The latter group is important to UAB: “We are a research university,” Wykle says, adding that it is important to the university to figure out how GivePulse can “help you leverage the research and work you’re already doing and use it to translate… [to] actual value in people’s lives.” The main question UAB still hopes to answer, she adds, is, “How are we taking the teaching, research, all of the knowledge being generated here, and [translating] it to making people’s lives better in Birmingham?” Accentuating this focus for the research side of the university supports UAB’s vision of changing the world through acquisition and creation of knowledge.
It is important to the university to figure out how GivePulse can “help you leverage the research and work you’re already doing and use it to translate… [to] actual value in people’s lives.”
While faculty interest and recognition of the valuable ways GivePulse could be used were critical when establishing the platform, Wykle feels that equally crucial to successful implementation was positive student response. Students quickly adopted GivePulse, providing feedback and recording hours at a rate that surprised even the most enthusiastic faculty members. Because of their consistent use of GivePulse, students create data containing detailed information that UAB can use to understand how and why they are interacting with the Birmingham community.
When asked if she had any advice for other universities implementing GivePulse, Wykle says, “If we had waited until everything was flawless and then invited community partners in, that would have been a major misstep.” Instead of waiting until their implementation seemed perfect, UAB was “really honest about building the plan,” asking for feedback and input from community partners, students, faculty, and staff throughout the process. Ultimately, it comes down to seeking feedback from a variety of sources to ensure that everyone — community partners, students, faculty, staff — can engage in a way that changes the community for the better. As Wykle advises, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”
John Carroll University (JCU), a Catholic liberal arts institution outside of Cleveland,Ohio with some 3,500 students signed-on with GivePulse in the spring of 2017 with an anticipated launch in fall 2017. They were moving from a custom-coded database that was difficult to navigate, hard to work with, and was quickly becoming obsolete for their expanding needs and level of student engagement. In planning for a successful migration to the GivePulse platform, they developed an integrated implementation plan and worked closely with a variety of key stakeholders at the University to make sure they would be ready to go live for fall 2017. Now after a successful launch and a full academic year of use by students, faculty, and staff, the director of the Center for Service and Social Action at JCU, Katherine Feely, SND, shares her five tips for success and other helpful hints when thinking about your own transition to GivePulse.
Work closely with your IT department – Review the technical dimensions of the product, including data security, firewalls, scripts needed to run, and the data interface with your student information system. Involve your IT team every step of the way. Enlist their support to migrate the data from your previous platform.
Test the Data – Before doing anything test the integrity of your existing data to make sure you have everything you need. Identify the essential fields that will be migrated over and match them to the appropriate fields in GivePulse. JCU migrated test data first, comparing that data to their “reliable and verified” data and checked for errors. JCU found key data elements that needed to be re-uploaded, fields that didn’t match up, and scripts that had to be adjusted. Once satisfied, we proceeded full-force with the data migration.
Training, Training, Training! Train every staff member. JCU trained all summer before going live (even those who didn’t necessarily need to know the new platform). Work together as a team so everyone understands the platform. Create a training plan with step-by-step instructions to make sure key stakeholders understand the new platform before going live. Create “test” events, registrations, activities, partners, courses, etc. so you can understand how to navigate each one. Staff members should navigate the site as a student user in order to understand navigation from their perspective.
Utilize the GivePulse Team – Periodic Zoom calls to GivePulse are a great way to go over various features if you can’t understand a feature on our own. JCU staff would explore different features, gather questions in summarized format, and email them in advance to the GivePulse team, then we would work through the questions during our calls. By working together in the actual platform and gaining a greater understanding of the architecture and capabilities of GivePulse, we could gain the confidence we needed to launch and avoid the pitfalls of ignorance.
Monitor the Roll Out – Have all eyes on roll-out when going live and catch things early! At JCU we had 600 to 700 students registering for academic service-learning placements during the course of four days. We knew that if we were going to fail, we were going to fail big. We had a few early registration roll outs with targeted courses to make sure all would work as hoped. During these first few days, we were in close touch with GivePulse to troubleshoot and their team was amazing! Their responsiveness and assistance made a huge difference – that was part of the success.
Moving away from a complicated custom-coded database, we had to figure out what we really needed to keep, and what we didn’t.
We really had to learn a whole different language and a way of engaging with the registration process. It could be challenging at times, but it was totally worth it.
Personnel changes! We lost our database staff member just before the migration started, making it a huge challenge, but it forced me as director to really get in the weeds and learn about GivePulse from the inside out.
Getting Buy-In from Stakeholders
Schedule meetings with your various stakeholders to showcase what GivePulse can do. We provided presentations to various departments and decision-makers, showing them how they would benefit from using the platform, and how it could ease their workload.
Meet with your director of IT and some team members. We conferenced with the GivePulse team so we could clear up as many technical questions about data integration, security, etc. With their support, everything went very smoothly.
After completing the first full academic year with GivePulse, we met with our IT director and the team to thank them for their support, and to show them what a difference GivePulse made in our work, data analytics, and in providing an excellent student experience. They appreciated seeing how their hard work and input mattered in advancing the mission of the University.
What Would I Do Differently
Not very much. We had a full year of lead time, and we needed it. Migrate early over the summer – not in August.
GivePulse is a great platform. It was an excellent choice and has such robust capacity that we are so glad we made the switch. We would never think about going back to the risk and headache of a custom-coded database when we have such a great platform and a team of technical and higher education civic engagement experts partnering with us at GivePulse.
Katherine Feely, SND Director Center for Service & Social Action John Carroll University