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New Technology at Root of 2024 Volunteer Initiatives

Recently, Houston Botanic Garden took the first step toward upgrading the system for managing volunteer recruitment and activities. After a successful testing period, a complete transition to the new volunteer management software by Better Impact is underway this month. 

The innovative solution is popular among nonprofits, including others in the Houston area. It will simplify the logistics of volunteering for both the community and the staff who organize and oversee those opportunities. 

“Since we began the trial of this new program, I’ve seen how much more it can do for us than our previous volunteer management system. Before, we could get volunteers scheduled for shifts online, but that’s about it,” said Meagan Terry, the Garden’s volunteer engagement manager. 

After years of relying on a cumbersome process that asked prospective volunteers to complete an application by hand or use a fillable PDF that would still need to be printed or returned electronically, Terry explained it was time for a change. But streamlining the application process is just one advantage of the new forward-thinking approach. 

“It will provide so much useful data on the volunteer side and for our reporting needs. It really offers everything we wanted when looking to upgrade our volunteer management,” she added. 

Once someone is approved and added to the system, Terry and others at the Garden can use the information in their customized volunteer profile to notify them of upcoming opportunities that match their preferred schedule or interests. The system also makes it much easier to organize group volunteer events. 

“People will be able to register in the system as a part of a group so that I can communicate with them regarding those opportunities or so that they can schedule a group service day. It’s all integrated into the application process and very user-friendly,” said Terry. 

Growing a vibrant volunteer community

While the high-tech capabilities coming with February’s roll-out of the Better Impact system are impressive, Terry is equally excited about the high-touch possibilities that a more efficient process will create. 

“My goal in 2024 is to have a thriving volunteer community. We want people to feel like they’re part of a community and to become friends,” she said. “Making it easier to sign up for shifts, using the system to communicate, and having volunteers coming to the Garden every day will certainly help us foster that environment.”

The Garden has several hundred approved volunteers on its volunteer roster going back to 2020, but not all are active. Terry’s team has been reaching out to determine which of those individuals are still in the area and remain interested in future volunteer opportunities so that they can be migrated to the new system. 

“Volunteers serve a pivotal role. As a nonprofit organization, we rely heavily on their support, especially in horticulture, where we have a relatively small team responsible for all 132 acres. The importance of volunteers, especially to get big projects done, cannot be understated,” said Terry. 

Better reporting, more opportunities

However, tracking the work of those volunteers impacts more than the day-to-day responsibilities of maintaining the Garden. It’s also vital for the nonprofit’s future. An accurate accounting of the number of volunteers and the amount of time they contribute is helpful for fundraising and necessary for grant applications and reporting. 

Implementing the advanced system means that staff at the Garden will no longer need to scour multiple spreadsheets and paper sign-in forms to collect and collate this critical data. 

“It’s all going to feed into one place seamlessly, and I’ll be able to pull a report really easily, which I’m thrilled about,” said Terry.

She also recognizes the effect a more robust volunteer management program can have on awareness of the Garden within the community.

“Our volunteers are truly ambassadors for us because they come and volunteer, and then they share it on social media, or they go back and tell their friends and families about volunteering at the Garden, and the response from others is often, ‘What’s that? Where’s that?'” she explained. “Their involvement ends up having an exponential impact that introduces the Garden to new people and promotes our programs and exhibits.”

Several active volunteers have been testing the new system leading up to the February transition, and Terry says the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. 

“They told us the application process was straightforward, the mobile app is easy to use and that they enjoy being able to send and receive messages through it,” she said. “They are even pointing out features I had not realized were available, like using QR codes to check in and out. It has been incredibly helpful to have their input.”

Individuals or groups interested in volunteering at Houston Botanic Garden can complete the new volunteer application or email volunteers@hbg.org to learn more.

Our Mission

Enriching life through discovery, education, and the conservation of plants and the natural environment.

Hours

NORMAL OPERATIONS
9:00 am — 5:00 pm

DURING RADIANT NATURE
9:00 am — 4:00 pm

Garden Entrance
One Botanic Lane
Houston, TX 77017
Mailing Address

8205 N. Bayou Drive
Houston, TX 77017

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