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Blog: Technology As An Organizing Tool
The Cure for Scheduling Headaches

For the last three years, I've been a member of the team who puts together Face to Face Hamilton's Job Fair. Due to my strong organizing abilities, I was assigned the task of creating a schedule for the many volunteers who come out to help us on the day of the event. This involved addressing all of the following:
  • scheduling over 40 people, who started and finished at different times
  • staffing a number of work areas with needs that varied throughout the day
  • making sure each volunteer got a 30 minute lunch break
  • ensuring that all areas had adequate coverage, even over the lunch period
As you can probably imagine, this turned out to be a huge job that took several hours, and last minute cancellations wreaked havoc on my carefully plotted schedule.

This year, we decided that enough was enough, and purchased software specifically designed for volunteer scheduling. Through research, I learned that there are several products available for this purpose, but some were too simple to meet our complex needs, and others too costly to fit into our budget. After downloading a free trial of SmartRoster, we found it to be just what we needed.

You start out by entering three types of data: volunteer information, job roles, and events. Because it's a relational database, this information is all cross-referenced. This means that you indicate when the volunteers are needed and which jobs they can do, and how many people are needed in each role for each event. You can then click a button to create a schedule automatically. If your requirements are more complex like ours are, you can create it manually, which is facilitated by the chart provided making it easier to see where people are needed and who is available in each time slot.

The features of this program go beyond simply creating a schedule. For example, I was able to create custom fields to indicate my volunteers' T-shirt size and dietary restrictions, and to generate reports for the people in charge of ordering the food and shirts and distributing them on the day of the event.

The program even has a built-in email program that allows you to send messages out to your entire roster or to selected volunteers, attaching their individual schedules if you wish.

Although I was very pleased with the product, I was most impressed with the support provided both before and after purchasing. My emails were always answered promptly by the developer himself, who took the time to understand how our needs differed from those of the church administrators who are their typical customers and to help me use the software in a way that met our unique needs.

posted on: 10/23/2008 8:30:00 AM by Janet Barclay
category: Business

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Technology As An Organizing Tool

by Janet Barclay

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Janet Barclay is a Master Virtual Assistant and the founder of Organized Assistant. Specializing in supporting entrepreneurs in the Organizing and Career Services industries, Organized Assistant provides top-notch Internet marketing services to business owners of all shapes and sizes.

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