Innovation & Technology | Volunteer Professionals

Emerging Trend: Enterprise-wide Volunteer Management Solutions

There is an emerging trend, especially in the healthcare sector, towards “enterprise-level” systems as larger healthcare organizations recognize the impact of centralization, particularly on the patient care experience. With the multiple mergers and acquisitions in healthcare, organizations are finding they have disparate systems that don’t speak to each other. This movement of enterprise-level solutions started with consolidating finance, human resources, patient care systems and health information systems. Now this movement is trickling down to volunteer management systems (VMS). The next step will be to integrate these systems so they share data without duplicative efforts. Sometimes this trend is driven by volunteer managers, but often it is the result of a strategic initiative to coordinate patient experience, increase efficiency, and reduce costs.

This centralization or “systematization” becomes important, as data has become integral to making decisions within the organization, including decisions on how to improve patient care. Centralized systems make it easier to provide leadership with aggregate data which previously was onerous to compile from multiple disparate systems. One large national non-profit healthcare organization found it had over five different volunteer management systems in just one of the states where they had a presence. This did not include multiple sites using home grown systems. Pulling together data on their volunteer programs was time consuming and often inaccurate or incomplete. By merging into one software platform, the organization was able to pull data on demand with minimal manual work.

Centralizing also increases efficiency, as it is easier to support one system as opposed to multiple software solutions. This is not only efficient for managing volunteers, but also in terms of the resources and costs incurred by other units such as finance, legal, and IT. In this more systematized approach, the organization works with one vendor instead of many for purchasing and contracts. The IT department no longer needs to evaluate, learn, and support multiple and disparate systems, reducing their workload. This results in lower costs, saving the organization or network money.

A systemized approach also helps volunteer managers, as it allows them to look at data, comparing what works and what doesn’t work across the organization. It’s easier to share ideas, best practices, and sometimes even volunteers when policies and procedures are consistent across the organization. Improvements result when revaluing processes and policies, and when a change in process or policy is required, less work is involved. With the reduced costs of systematizing, volunteer managers often are able to get access to more than they could afford on their own.

This movement will grow as organizations continue to recognize the impact of volunteering on patient care and social determinants of health. Key with this centralization or systematization is planning. Setting up a ‘volunteer alignment’ committee that reviews the policies and procedures of all members of the group is a great first step. This will require input from all stakeholders and recognizing that compromise is necessary. For example, the group must agree to common terminology and have consistent policies. This takes a great deal of discussion, but evidence shows that, in the end, the solution is a stronger system that benefits everyone. 

Lisa LaVigna, DM is the Vice President of Business Development & Sales at Bespoke Software, maker of VSys One. Working with VSys One’s over 600 healthcare clients, she often notices trends in how organizations are implementing their volunteer management solutions. Lisa has a BA in Public Policy and Administration from the State University of New York in Albany, an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Doctorate in Management from University of Maryland’s University College.