How to improve your medical research charity volunteer program

How to create an engaging volunteer experience that can significantly impact the effectiveness of your fundraising and support efforts.

Volunteers play a significant role for medical charities such as Alzhiemer’s and cancer research organisations.

In this blog post, we will explore the evolving expectations that volunteers have for the programs they choose to support. Additionally, we will share valuable insights from medical research, healthcare, and family support charities that have successfully modernised their volunteer programs and gained tremendous benefits as a result.

The support volunteers offer through a variety of activities such as fundraising, events, community outreach and cause awareness are crucial for the ongoing investment into the research that improves the quality of life for millions.

Despite the value they offer their management, coordination, scheduling, training and recognition of efforts is often under invested. Obstacles for creating an engaging and impact volunteer program for Medical Research Charities include:

  1. Difficulties in managing multiple different types of opportunities for volunteers
  2. Timely and relevant communication to the volunteers
  3. Cross services coordination for volunteer resources within a charity
  4. Keeping up to date with modern expectations on the volunteer experience
  5. Finding a Volunteer Management Software (VMS) platform flexible enough to cater for bespoke needs
  6. Avoiding long, drawn out implementation issues for new software

Let's uncover the secrets of a successful modern day volunteer program and share some practical changes you can start making straight away.


Volunteer Coodinator Medical Research

The Modern Medical Research Volunteer Experience

One of the key challenges of supporting volunteers is being able to build a management process around the multitude of roles they can play.

It’s possible any number of volunteers could be involved in activities such as Event Volunteering, Fundraising groups, Collection Tin Coordination and community project roles. Each of these roles requires unique communication, screening, training and scheduling so how do you manage that en mass?

What’s your strategy around building engagement with younger volunteers? How are you ensuring that your volunteer program is inclusive and represents the diversity of your communities?

The modern volunteer experience for people supporting Cancer, Alzheimer’s and many other medical conditions must ensure the program is welcoming at all ages and meets some of the expectations your next generation of volunteers expect such as:

  1. Real time updates on volunteer opportunities
  2. A volunteer profile with their details and shift history
  3. Simplified scan in and out of shifts with QR codes
  4. 2 way SMS communication
  5. Gamification through reward and recognition tools

Volunteer Management Software is the key to meeting these needs. However, to reach the high standards you want to set you’ll need to make sure you find a cutting edge and configurable platform.


Five ways a highly configurable volunteer management system will improve your medical research volunteer program

  1. Build unique volunteer recruitment journeys based on roles

    Volunteers who dedicate their time and support to medical charities such as Alzheimer's, cancer treatment, and family support organisations play a crucial role in various volunteer positions.

    From organising fundraising events and community projects to even speaking publicly to raise awareness, these volunteers are invaluable. By implementing a strong recruitment and onboarding process, you can ensure that these volunteers receive the necessary information and easily identify them in your system. 

    The challenge that most volunteer programs is operating at scale. Having a well developed recruitment and onboarding strategy is great, but is it sustainable when you could have thousands of potential volunteers?

    With the potential for hundreds of volunteer applications each week it's a sizable challenge for the volunteer management teams to review the application, assign them to training or screen and then run them through the communication and scheduling details for each position.

    Use a platform that can send each applicant on an automated onboarding journey - Rosterfy has redefined volunteer recruitment with our easy to build and simple to follow, step-by-step onboarding journey for volunteers.

    This gives both the volunteer and the coordinating team a comprehensive view of the progress they’ve made and the tasks or checklists outstanding. This will ensure no one is left in the dark, there’s no recruitment bottlenecks and the charity has access to the volunteers they need, when they need them.  

    “For referencing alone, Rosterfy saves us around 15 minutes per applicant, representing a significant time saving across the volunteering functions”
    - Sue George, Volunteer Development Systems Manager at British Heart Foundation

    Read British Heart Foundations story on how they are able to save hours each week by automating their volunteer application process.

  2. More efficient volunteer scheduling

    Coordinating hundreds and thousands of volunteers for repeated volunteering opportunities and events can be very challenging for medical research charities. This is especially true when you are managing across multiple projects and locations.

    The rising operational costs of Charity Retail Stores or Fundraising Events have been a cause for serious concern in the medical research and cancer charity sector. Store closures and cancelled events have become a common occurrence due to rising staffing costs.

    A effective system in place for more efficient volunteer scheduling can significantly reduce no-shows and miscommunication. 

    Choose a VMS that allows you to intelligently schedule volunteers based on availability, their skills and credentials. If you do this you'll save hours by not having to ring around to find the right people or sending blanket emails to thousands. You will be able to clearly identify the people that are willing and able to volunteer and schedule them into your program.

    The right VMS will reduce conflicting scheduling, ensure the right volunteers are available to you and remove any anxiety the volunteer may have by giving them clear, branded and personalised communication.

  3. Secure grants, increased fundraising and improve recruitment with better reporting

    Data and insights from volunteer programs are vitally important to Medical Research charities. 
    your ability to secure future funding is often dependent on the metrics that a Head of Impact, Insight & Development Lead or Program Coordinator can provide to stakeholders and potential funders.

    For Cancer charities that rely on volunteer support for fundraising efforts and Alzheimer's charities that depend on volunteers to raise awareness through speaking engagements, it is crucial to have a comprehensive understanding of the impact of the volunteer program. This includes tracking the number of hours contributed by volunteers and the funds raised directly as a result of their involvement.

    Ensuring a diverse and inclusive volunteer program means taking a closer look at the demographic representation, including encouraging participation from BAME communities. This not only addresses stakeholder concerns but also empowers your marketing and PR teams. Having visibility of the diverse makeup of your program allows you to showcase your commitment to inclusivity and attract a wider range of volunteers.

    NAPCAN, an Australian based Child Abuse charity uses Rosterfy to not only manage thousands of volunteers, they also use the insights within their program to make changes to government legislation and secure funding for their programs. 

    “With the insights we get from Rosterfy we can educate local and national governments on the effectiveness of our programs and the efforts being made for children. It helps us tell a story and paint a picture of the vision of what could be done with more support.”
    - Leesa Waters, NAPCAN 

    Read NAPCAN's story on how they use Rosterfy to manage large numbers of volunteers and leverage their efforts to secure further funding and support.

  4. Create a world-class volunteer experience

    Even if your Medical Research charity has a world wide reputation and your cause is passionately supported, volunteers may still have high expectations of their volunteering experience and expect certain minimum standards to continue to support your program.

    Failure to meet the expectations will result in apathy towards the program and limit your ability to gather enough support to raise funds or run events. 

    Within the next couple of years Gen-Z will be the core demographic for many volunteer programs. Meeting the expectations of Gen-Z can be challenging as they engage with on demand services daily, they prefer direct personalised communication through email or SMS systems and expect to have greater visibility of their profile and volunteer history. 

    Meeting these expectations requires volunteer programs to utilise real time opportunity listings, branded landing pages and role specific communications. Your volunteers will also expect you to acknowledge their efforts and offer a reward or recognition platform. 

    Creating a world-class volunteer experience will take investment. It requires you to work with an experienced software partner such as Rosterfy who can lift the standards of your program and help you introduce best practices into your volunteer experience.

  5. Achieve a ‘whole organisation’ approach to volunteer recruitment

    A common mistake we see from large charitable organisations with extensive volunteer programs is thier tendency to silo the volunteer pool. 

    Even in the most forward thinking Medical Research or Family Support charities we’ve seen first hand how inefficient programs can be if the needs of the whole organisation isn’t taken into consideration.

    Child Bereavement UK recognised this issue early into the adoption process of Rosterfy and ensured their whole organisation was part of the conversion. Initially, they intended on introducing Rosterfy to their Events and Festivals department.

    With the challenge of managing a large number of volunteers, Child Bereavement UK recognised the need for a comprehensive approach to segmenting the volunteer journey based on the specific roles they would take on at events.

    These roles included guest greeting, ticket management, kiosk management, supervisor roles, and more. By implementing a system that could effectively organise and assign volunteers to their specific roles, Child Bereavement UK was able to streamline their volunteer program and ensure a smooth and efficient event experience.

    Lorna Murchie, Fundraising Partnership and Engagement Manager recognised the benefit of introducing the platform across the organisation. By using a single platform across all teams they could offer other fundraising and volunteering opportunities from other services within the charity to those supporting the Events and Festivals team. 

    Read how Child Bereavement UK implemented VMS software to create a 'Whole Organisation' approach to volunteer recruitment. 


Medical Research Charity volunteer programs face distinct challenges that set them apart from other organisations. These programs offer a diverse range of opportunities for individuals to show their support, whether it be through participating in events, engaging in fundraising activities, working in retail positions, taking on speaking roles to raise awareness, and much more.

That presents a challenge to the volunteer coordination team as they battle to ensure they can do the following:

  • Have a robust scheduling system in place
  • Send role-specific communication and guidance
  • Screen candidates based on criteria such as skills, availability, background checks
  • Have access to data and insights to prove the impact of their program

Key actions to build a better volunteer program for your Alzheimer's, Cancer or Medical Research charity

A success and sustainable volunteer program is built on high retention rates and insights you can pull from your program to secure future support, either through extra funding or to empower your recruitment efforts.

  1. Map out all the potential roles a volunteer could carry out in our organisation
  2. Ensure other services within your charity are consulted for that 'whole organisation' approach
  3. Gather feedback from your volunteers on your current program
  4. Use the feedback to identify where you may be losing applicants
  5. Review the operational costs for your current program to create a measurable ROI on a new system
  6. Identify a VMS provider that can create unique customer journeys
  7. Confirm what insights you need to gather from your program for reporting



What You Should Measure From Your Volunteer Program

Creating a solid framework and process for measuring the impact of your well-run and successful volunteering program is the key to making it even more effective and sustainable.

About Rosterfy

Rosterfy is used by nonprofits, charities, sporting federations, and more to better manage their volunteer programs by improving how they can recruit, screen, train, and retain volunteers.

Our market leading technology helps you create an engaging experience throughout the whole lifecycle of your volunteer journey.

Book a call today.


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