When Governor Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in California to better respond to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the National Guard was brought in to help staff local food banks. Prior to COVID, volunteers did this work via California for All, an initiative of the State of California that encourages Californians to donate their time as volunteers. The use of the National Guard was a needed, but temporary and expensive measure. California’s food banks saw a significant increase in demand, while the number of volunteers available to help at the food banks dropped by as much as 70 percent.
To return to volunteer staffing, replace the National Guard, and to obtain crucial FEMA funding and grants, California for All needed to demonstrate the capacity to staff food banks, and accurately track and report the hours of 45,000 volunteers. Five different platforms were being used to track the data, making it difficult to collect and report the necessary information. Additionally, California for All needed to establish a platform to make signing up and volunteering for a specific project easier and less time consuming. With no volunteer profile function, volunteers needed to re-input their information for every volunteer opportunity, which was not only a poor user experience but also hampered reporting. California for All needed to establish a more resilient infrastructure to improve the volunteer experience and to better use data to demonstrate impact and future capacity.
“The work we have done together with USDR has become the entire foundation for our digital infrastructure.”
— Laura Malta, California Volunteers
To begin the work, USDR volunteers connected with the California for All team to identify the project’s goals. The work was twofold: to improve the volunteer experience and to facilitate reporting and metrics to more readily obtain FEMA and grant funding. To improve the volunteer experience, USDR’s team created volunteer profiles and a database of volunteer interests. Volunteers could input their interests once and be matched to opportunities. The system is also set up to remove duplicate volunteer profiles to simplify the reporting process.
USDR also helped California for All implement an efficient process to track data and analytics for its volunteer engagements. First, USDR mapped out the volunteer journey, from initial sign-up to a placement on a project, to identify which information was missing and where important data was lost or difficult to find. From there, USDR developed a macro (a set of predetermined actions) to help collect and clean the data to prepare it for a CRM. This simplified Excel tool allowed food banks to easily share data with California for All and the State of California to submit to FEMA for further funding.
The partnership between USDR and California for All enabled the program to streamline its data collection processes, more easily scale its services, and identify the volunteers’ impact across the state. The work also led California for All to pursue building out a new team to focus on compiling and analyzing volunteer data for the statewide service initiative.
The USDR team is available, on a pro-bono basis, to help nonprofits and governments respond to their communities’ most critical needs.
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