In 1976, a group of volunteers developed a plan to make their dream of building an animal shelter that would save the lives of homeless animals a reality. From this, Operation Kindness (OPK), a non-profit animal welfare organization in Carrollton, Texas, was born.
In the early days, OPK operated out of volunteers’ homes; but 45 years later, the shelter had grown to include an adoption center, animal hospital, and offer multiple programs: foster care for vulnerable animals, information for pet owners, reasonably priced veterinarian services for neighborhood pets, a pet food bank, and volunteer opportunities. In 2020, OPK celebrated the opening of the Rees-Jones Foundation Medical Wing which has enabled the organization to provide even better medical care to 35 percent more dogs and cats.
While the organization has evolved through the years, this passionate group of animal lovers still adheres to the philosophy that every animal deserves to be treated with respect and compassion.
Aviana Goines is the Volunteer Manager at Operation Kindness. She has been involved with the organization for almost five years, working in various positions from adoptions, intake and foster, and, as of January 2022, with the Volunteer department.
Kelly Furnas has been the Chief Operating Officer at Operation Kindness since July 2021, following her roles as Director of Operations and Volunteer Services in recent years. Her responsibilities include the day-to-day running of the shelter, including medical, operations, and facilities. She has been involved with Operation Kindness since 2015. As COO, her goals include helping the organization have the largest impact on lifesaving in North Texas, enhancing her team’s skills, and finding process improvements that allow them to save more lives.
The Volunteer Management Software (VMS) that Operation Kindness was using felt a little dated and when Kelly joined the team, and she knew a software change was needed for the team.
Prior to joining OPK as a staff member, Kelly volunteered for the organization for five years and ran the volunteer training program which gave her first-hand knowledge of the organization's VMS. “I was using the software as a non-staff member who was helping to onboard new volunteers. I could just sense how frustrating it was for the volunteer manager who was on the staff at the time, and it was just very clunky and outdated. I knew that what we really needed was to be able to change from Volgistics over to something that was a little more user-friendly,” remembers Kelly.
When using Volgistics, OPK was restricted to the number of admins who could utilize the software. “We don’t have that limitation with Better Impact which has allowed us to spread out the work that we do,” says Kelly. She continues, “that was a big piece of why I wanted to make the change. I did want an app, I wanted to be able to attract newer volunteers into the process by having some technology that was more user-friendly and I wanted better support.”
“I’m the Chief Operating Officer (COO), so I live and breathe data every single day and have a love of spreadsheets. But for those of you who are still using spreadsheets to manage your volunteers, I feel for you.”
- Kelly Furnas
One of Kelly’s greatest concerns was the challenges that a change in technology might have on a good portion of their volunteer pool (a more mature audience). “Changes are very hard, but I knew that ultimately we could help support that audience, and a better system would also bring a new audience of volunteers for us,” recalls Kelly.
🔑 Key Pain Points
- The system felt outdated and the need for new software was immediate when Kelly joined the staff, and it was a key discussion point with the CEO during her hiring process.
- Texting capabilities were non-existent. While Volgistics did have a texting option, it was very awkward to use.
- Most importantly, volunteers could not effectively access their personalized portal on their phone. There was no app!
- There was so much wasted time.
Something had to be done to streamline their processes, enhance training, and improve communication.
As the Director of Volunteer Services at the time, Kelly began looking into new VMS options back in October 2019. She co-led the initiative with the Director of IT and made it a team effort throughout the project by involving various stakeholders.
She determined the specifications desired for the system by discussing with employees and volunteers. From there, her team researched five different solutions. They received demos from the top three companies they researched and narrowed it down before making the decision to go with Volunteer Impact
Why Volunteer Impact
As explained by Aviana Goines, some of OPK’s favorite Volunteer Impact features include:
- E-learning was Kelly’s number one reason to choose Volunteer Impact! With her training background, she knew the importance of improving the volunteer training process to make it as easy as possible. “I wanted to be able to create online training content available for volunteers”, says Kelly. Since OPK has only one Volunteer Manager, having online training modules available in one system versus in person training is a huge improvement and a time saver.
- Volunteer App (available on Apple and Android phones) for volunteers to manage their engagement. We can attract newer volunteers with better technology and better support. Volunteers can see what shifts are available and can self-schedule, based on their training level, versus having to complete surveys, email or sign up for shifts.
- Easy to use reporting and communication with volunteers. We can now send bulk emails to groups of volunteers or targeted messages to certain groups. Volunteers can take the lead in their volunteer experience by pulling reports to track their hours and schedules which provides a great time management resource. Volunteer Impact is so user friendly – it’s easy for volunteers to manage versus other systems. Our volunteer base consists of 8-to-9-year-olds up to 80-to-90- year-olds and all age groups find the system easily navigable.
Some additional highlights:
- Using “badges” in the software provides an easy way to recognize volunteers as they advance through their journey with OPK (recognition of years of service, hours given, and qualifications earned such as through the completion of online volunteer training modules within Volunteer Impact). All this is managed by the system itself – no more spreadsheets or clunky systems to navigate and a huge impact on time management
- Onboarding volunteers is much simpler and seamless. As a volunteer’s application is being reviewed, they are able to start their training, which speeds up the process.
- Admins have the ability to see what the system looks like from the volunteer’s side – a very helpful tool which helps with troubleshooting training issues. All this with the same login to the portal which makes for a user-friendly system.
While selecting the VMS that best meets your team’s needs is a milestone worth celebrating, the work for your team isn’t over. Rather, a new chapter begins of implementing it which has your stakeholders (staff and volunteers) faced with moving through a phase of change. Having a plan and support in place to make the transition smoother is important.
Kelly felt Better Impact’s training and support was critical to OPK’s team successfully implementing the new software. “Better Impact is a global organization. If I have a question, I can log into the chat feature and somebody’s usually answering me within about five minutes, so it’s pretty great!”
It’s important to learn from those who have walked the path before us.
From Kelly’s experience of choosing a VMS, she would “highly encourage you to talk to different software companies so you can compare. Know what matters to you and try to listen to that in the presentations that you receive. If you make your requirements clear, you’ll hear back what that company can do for you. For us it became very straightforward that we wanted to move forward with Better Impact’s Volunteer Impact software, without a doubt.”
In terms of managing the software implementation phase well, Kelly suggests you “work quickly once you download your data from the old VMS. Shorten that transition as much as you can. Provide as much training to your existing volunteers as possible. Change is hard for many.”
“Volunteer Impact has a great structure for volunteer training within the system. You can customize trainings for different volunteers and roles, like adding YouTube links and Canva pieces to assist with different age groups and learning abilities. This helps volunteers gain knowledge and advance in their program.”
– Aviana Goines, Volunteer Manager
The interaction between OPK employees and volunteers has greatly improved with Volunteer Impact. Admins use the system to easily recognize birthdays and anniversaries and build additional training modules to aid with the continuing education of volunteers. With the significant improvement in volunteer training, volunteers are arriving at their roles with more knowledge and confidence to perform well. These changes help build the volunteer-staff connection and volunteer commitment to the program.
Volunteer Impact has improved the department's ability to accurately track and report completed hours and volunteer achievements. This allows the department to monitor the impact of their volunteers and address areas that may lack volunteer engagement. It also has allowed the departments to have more "ownership" of the volunteers working in their area.
Switching to Volunteer Impact has resulted in greater satisfaction with the tools being used for the job, efficiency of performing the job, and ability to be more effective in the role too.
“Change can be hard for some, but having a good tech partner helps. Better Impact provides the support needed to have a smooth transition. Collecting data is important both to convince leadership to make the change and also to show the results of your volunteer program.”