As leaders of volunteers, we know all about filling needs. As technology advances, our jobs (hopefully) become easier as we continue to fulfill needs more efficiently.
This month we'll cover just one topic ASP which is meeting needs in new ways. If you haven't heard this term yet, you will soon. Some believe it is the future of all compute- based technologies! Read on!
Application Service Providers, or ASPs are meeting technological needs for a wide range of groups, including volunteer departments. ASPs are third-party entities that manage and distribute software-based services to customers over the Internet from a central data center. An organization doesn't need to have all of the hardware, software, technology know-how or IS staff to run everything -- it is all outsourced.
ASPs are a way for organizations to outsource some or almost all aspects of their information technology needs. To discover more, I interviewed representatives from two software companies who are Application Service Providers.
Twelve years ago, Dan Wagener and his wife Susan founded Red Ridge Software, http://www.redridgesoftware.com , makers of the popular VolunteerWorks, software for volunteer management. Red Ridge continues to develop ASP products including, http://www.volunteertools.com.
Tony Goodrow, of three-year old Affirmative Communications, first targeted the Hospice community with an ASP product, http://www.hospiceaid.com. The volunteer management portion became so popular that there is now a product for volunteer departments, http://www.volunteercoordinator.com .
Both Tony and Dan contributed
information for this article. *
For the volunteer service manager, an ASP has definite advantages. Dan Wagener explains, "Many volunteer leaders work in organizations that are not large enough to have their own on-site information services department (and often those that do find that volunteer services is low on the totem pole when it comes to allocating these services!)
ASPs will make it much easier for these organizations to have access to specialized computer services since there's nothing to install or maintain at their site. They simply need a computer with an Internet connection. The ASP takes care of all the system maintenance (e.g. backups, data security & integrity, etc.)."
'Portability' is another ASP advantage. With a 'desktop' application like VolunteerWorks, you need to be at a computer attached to your organization's network to access your volunteer information. With an online ASP you or your volunteers can access your volunteer data over the Internet. A volunteer can sign-up for an event or post hours. A volunteer manager can see how many volunteer hours have been served in a certain department from any location where they have an Internet connection: home, on-site at a special event, and so forth.
"Imagine this example," says Tony, "Over the course of a year, a number of people register online and offline to help as road marshals at the annual walk/run-a-thon.
(Those volunteers that registered offline get entered into the same ASP based program.) With the event drawing near a meeting needs to be held, so the Volunteer Manager logs into the ASP and types a message. The system filters the database and sends the message via email to only the volunteers who have registered to help as road marshals and have an email address in their volunteer profile. The volunteer manager can reach out to the volunteer pool in a matter of a few minutes." After the event the volunteers can log-on to the Internet, connect with the ASP and post their hours of service.
ASPs can meet the needs of volunteer services departments in ways never consider before. It is a way for all sizes and kinds of organizations to take advantage of technology that is just a click away.
*In fear that my computer may
blow-up for not being totally honest I must reveal that
in my consulting and training business, one of my clients is Red
Ridge Software. I conduct VolunteerWorks training classes for
Georgean is a trainer and consultant in the areas of nonprofit management and volunteer involvement. She holds a Master's degree in Education/Staff Training and Development and a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from Indiana University.
Georgean is an Adjunct Faculty member of Ivy Tech State College with the Business and Industry Training Department. Her articles have been published in the Florida Libraries Journal and The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances.
Georgean conducts national and regional workshops on Train-the-Trainer, Customer Service, Conflict Management, Staff/ Volunteer Relations, Fundamentals of Volunteer Management, Family Volunteering, Trends in Volunteerism, and other aspects of Volunteer Management.
Georgean is immediate Past Chairperson
of the National Government Volunteer Coordinator Advisory Committee
for the Points of Light Foundation in Washington, DC. She is Past
Chairperson and Founding Officer of Northeast Indiana Association
of Volunteer Administration, a professional membership organization
representing 60 nonprofit/voluntary organizations. She is a member
of the Association for Volunteer Administration, the Points of
Light Foundation, and the Association for Research on Nonprofit
Organizations and Voluntary Action.
Prior to starting her training and consulting company she served for several years as the Manager of Volunteer Services in healthcare, library, and social service organizations, leading programs of 500 volunteers.