KeeleSU Volunteering aims to provide diverse volunteering experiences to students during their time at Keele University, supporting their volunteers as they make a difference both on and off campus. But with more and more students registering to volunteer each year, their old system had become unsustainable. The Volunteering team chose to implement MSL Volunteering & Employability primarily to cut down on the amount of admin they had to carry out and, in doing so, now have a solution which has helped them nearly double the number of registered volunteers.
*2019-20 academic year results at a glance: despite the constraints of the 2020 pandemic, KeeleSU Volunteers took part in 8,032 activities (an increase of 17% from the previous academic year) and logged an awesome 26,113 hours (an increase of 12%).*
The starting point
KeeleSU Volunteering is a partner of Support Staffordshire which is a county-wide service for voluntary and community organisations. As a Volunteer Centre branch, they have access to a database of opportunities although many weren’t always suitable for student volunteers and required a long term commitment.
“The work involved in matching students to suitable opportunities plus the manual tasks of duplicating opportunities into our own shared database meant that the application process was often lengthy and we feel that put off many candidates” KeeleSU Volunteering Manager.
Tackling lengthy admin processes
In addition to the lengthy application process, once a student had been matched with an opportunity, they were required to log their hours on paper time sheets, often back dated, to be signed off by their manager or project leader. A further spreadsheet had to be maintained to keep a running total of all students’ hours. Add to that the challenge of encouraging volunteers to maintain and submit a paper-based reflective log book for the awards they wanted to achieve and the result was a Volunteering team spending much of their time on admin tasks and data inputting rather than working on new projects to encourage greater participation.
The MSL solution
With volunteer numbers historically numbering no more than a couple of hundred in each academic year, it was clear a new way of working was needed to ensure students received the best service and support. To kickstart this change, KeeleSU Volunteering chose to implement the MSL Volunteering & Employability module primarily to help cut down on the admin work.
“We have found that this MSL module provides much more than admin management – it helps us to fully support our students and manage volunteering opportunities from start to finish.”
It puts all the common volunteer and provider tasks online so that students can quickly register as volunteers, browse opportunities using search filters and saved preferences, build a personal profile to receive opportunity notifications relevant to them, record volunteer hours and skills to work towards awards. Providers can register, post their own opportunities, review applicants and accept or decline them through the same system.
With all these features at their disposal, Keele SU Volunteering has seen a huge increase of students engaging with volunteering opportunities since moving to a fully digital solution.
- The number of students registering to volunteer doubled in the first year
- Simlarly, the number of students actively logging hours more than doubled.
- In the first year of use, Keele SU Volunteering gave 104 awards to volunteers, compared to 73 in the year before they went online
- Students proactively report on how much easier it is to log their hours and keep track of their progress towards awards.
New resources, new processes
KeeleSU Volunteering has also made a number of changes to their supporting processes which have contributed to the increase in engagement.
“Student volunteers no longer need to make a presentation as part of the award process for their first two awards and, coupled with the ease of logging hours and skills to attain these awards, this has encouraged more students to take part.”
Verifying the hours that students log is now a lot easier as they must complete these details when they submit their review of their volunteering experience. This has simplified and shortened the verification process as the volunteering team can now contact the opportunity provider as soon as a review is submitted.
Students are now able to apply directly for opportunities that have already been vetted by the volunteering team. This means that students can get involved more quickly and easily than the old system allowed. And this same vetting process means that there are more active providers and opportunities available for students to choose from.
MSL Volunteering & Employability offers an extensive suite of reports – from registrations, providers, awards progress, skills records through to training courses attended, activity participation and key milestones achieved such as 25 hour, 50 hour and 100 hour logs.
Keele SU Volunteering use much of this management information in their quarterly reports to the University and use the details to help them to identify especially popular areas of interests so that they can target charities and projects to provide more opportunities that they know their students will want to volunteer for.