Our member profile for this month is Gordon Holtslander! Thanks, Gordon!
Gordon shares some great experiences and ideas in his answers below and could use some tips for scheduling volunteers.
I am the Director of Support Services at Circle Drive Alliance Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The supporting services my department provides for our church community and our staff, are communications (everything from signage around the building to postcards to websites and social media), technology support (we keep everyone's equipment working), food services (we have a fabulous catering team) and facility management (our building is 120,000 sq ft).
I'm also in partnership with my son at our company, Holtslander Communications, where we do WordPress website work, primarily for non-profits, visual artists and academics.
I started doing websites in 1993 while working with the Lung Association of Saskatchewan which was one of the first health charities in Canada to jump on this exciting new thing called the World Wide Web. We were developing for the Lynx web browser I think. All hand coding all the time. Exhilarating times, but boy was it time consuming!
I got started using a CMS with Joomla, but made a fairly major switch to WordPress in 2010 to provide a simpler back end management experience for the websites user(s) most of whom were inadvertent techies. Also the availability of what WP people would think of as plug-ins just wasn't there. Which means I've been working with WordPress for 6 years.
I pretty much exclusively develop in WordPress these days. What I've really appreciated about being in this group is I've realized that while I am a pretty adept developer there are some really big holes in my WordPress knowledge set.
Unlike some of the other, incredibly smart, people in this group I like to think of myself as more of a forager for WordPress capabilities. By which I mean that I tend to find a plugin that will do what I want, rather than to attempt building the capability myself. However, with some of the posts of late (custom post types as one example) I've been inspired to work at learning about some of those gaps.
I would love to have user capability editing built into the core of WP!
Less a WP peeve, than an end user peeve that WP encourages which is to use the CSS heading tags for emphasis rather than organization. However, I've started using Mark's MRW Web Design Simple TinyMCE plugin which doesn't eliminate this, but at least removes the H1 tag from showing up 8 times on a page!
My most impressive win of late isn't actually visible because it was used to digitize our local sexual assault center's crisis line team's reporting system behind a login. Previously they'd had a big problem with people getting their paper forms returned to the office in a timely manner. We set up a "members only area" for the Crisis Line operators that has a customized Gravity Forms form that lets them take the caller through the entire interview process either in real time or (because they sometimes meet the caller at a hospital or police station) after the shift is over. The form shows or hides sections based on their answers so they only see the information they need to fill out and then requires them to fill in the pieces that must be done every time.
The online form system has increased accuracy of the information provided, as well as reduced their call to reporting time from an average of 2 months, to less than 36 hours. Did I mention they weren't good at getting their paperwork back to the office.
[Ed note: I just had to bold that line above. HOLY COW! What an amazing win, Gordon!]
My biggest frustration (so far at least) is my inability to find a good way to provide a volunteer management and scheduling system for the non-profit groups I work with. Lots of ways to show volunteer opportunities, but not any straight forward way to take that volunteer on ramp traffic, plug the volunteer into the appropriate team and then get them scheduled to do the work. At least not without double entering everyone. I'd be very interested in anyone's positive experience in that regard.
Let's all help Gordon out! Anyone have a good solution for scheduling volunteers once they're onboarded?
Thanks for the introduction! Great to hear where you're from and what you're up to.
I've actually just completed a build of a volunteer management and scheduling system, based on WordPress, for a client.
Their workflow is:
- User signs up online - User needs to attend an induction/training event, so they are shown upcoming inductions - User signs up online for the induction event - User attends induction event - User is manually flagged, by admins, as "inducted" - User can then see the events that they can volunteer at - User books to attend event online
It sounds pretty simple, but we worked very hard on the user journey, making it as simple as possible to sign up, and making both the volunteering, and the management of volunteers by the organisation, as simple as possible.
We've built this with WordPress, Gravity Forms (with he user registration add-on), and an events manager plugin. BUT we also created a fair bit of custom code to modify out-of-the-box functionality.
You can see the site at https://cocktails.magicme.co.uk but a lot of the volunteer management functionality is behind signup/login.
I confess, this is about as far as I would push WordPress these days, in terms of functionality that goes beyond simple content management. If I needed to build anything more complex I would not be using WordPress as, in my opinion, it doesn't work well as a general purpose application-building framework.
I know this doesn't help answer your question much. I guess what I'm saying is: yes, I've made something that may do some of what you need; I did it using some off-the-shelf components, but they were heavily customized; and I'm not sure that WordPress is suited to a general-purpose volunteer scheduling tool.
Gordon, it's not actually a WP tool, but my team uses Calendly for some scheduling stuff and it might fit your needs too. It's a scheduling tool that hooks up to an outside calendar - Google or Outlook - and while the main use is for scheduling appointments, they have a "group events" feature that allows for many people to sign up for the same slot, and you can put a cap on it. The widget plays pretty nicely with my Wordpress set up. Here's the page where we're using it on my site, if you want to take a look: http://us.breakthrough.tv/action-hotline
I love Rachel's suggestion of a non-WP solution that can integrate well enough with WordPress. I know a friend using Calendly for his consulting business to schedule appointments and have heard good things from him too. I didn't know about that group feature, Rachel!
Knowing a tool well is as much about knowing its limitations (great points, Ross!) as it is know what it can do.