The Signup Place Story

It actually started way back in the early 90's when my wife and I decided to get a dog. We picked a Border Collie and then got a second one a year later. We joined a local dog sports club doing dog agility. Over the years I gradually became increasingly involved in the club. Eventually becoming the agility trial coordinator. One of the biggest puzzles in holding an event is coordinating volunteers. Each event needs about ten people helping while each dog is running each course. Holding several events every year created a volunteer coordination nightmare. Our club has a volunteer policy where members are required to give eight volunteer hours per year for each dog. This helped, but the volunteering still had to be coordinated by someone. Our volunteer coordinator would need to negotiate endlessly with people to get all the volunteers organized. Often times she would resort to cold calling members pleading for help, and it would never be a complete success. All of that was happening as the Web took off. I was working as a programmer...

Several years later, after our long serving volunteer coordinator finally got fed up and quit, we had gone through two more volunteer coordinators in two years and the prospects of finding another coordinator in our small club were quite slim. I approached the latest coordinator and asked her to stay on if I wrote a volunteer software application where people could go pick their volunteer positions online. She kindly agreed to give it a try. Over the winter I built a Web based system. The volunteer pages contained tables with jobs down the side and events along the top. Members would click the word "Volunteer" to be presented with a pop-up that let them select the job and the events that interested them (and optionally add a comment). Our volunteer coordinator stayed on!

That was 2008.. Every year, in mid-February, I would send an email out to all of last year’s members saying that the volunteer pages are coming out in a couple of weeks and that it is time to join again. Suddenly, everybody that hasn't joined yet comes back right away. In March, I would send out an email with links to all the volunteer pages for the season and by the end of that day, some 90% of the volunteer slots are taken. People scramble to get the jobs they prefer. (Personally, I like to be a scribe - a job I secretly grab before the links are sent out. A member once told me that she got the volunteer link email, went to get a coffee and when she returned all the spots she wanted were taken).

Our club now runs 13 competitions yearly. With about 90 members we can handle the 13 events, but only because of the volunteer signup software - it would be downright impossible to manage the volunteers without signup software.

I was experiencing some technical problems with the system I had, and I had some available time so I decided to develop a new version of the volunteer signup software. Goals for the new version were to simplify two of the other club jobs: coordinate membership and track volunteer hours worked for each member. The bigger goal was to provide a signup system that other organizations could successfully use. The Signup Place is the result.

My agility club now uses The Signup Place. All the volunteer coordination, membership coordination and volunteer hour tracking jobs have been simplified. The volunteer coordinator job was made simpler with reminder emails generated for each volunteer (individually) that includes their position and events they have committed to along with job descriptions. The Signup Place handles Membership renewal by sending out renewal emails and removing non-renewed members at the deadline. We maintain our membership list on The Signup Place; volunteer hours are now fully tracked. New members receive a link to an online membership form (on the club's private member group) instead of receiving an emailed PDF to be filled out, printed and mailed to a membership coordinator to enter into a spreadsheet. Once they join, each member has their own personal homepage that lists all their trial jobs, volunteer hours, plus a list of available signup pages.

The Signup Place has made several club jobs much easier and improved the volunteer experience for our membership. We still have the same volunteer coordinator.

I hope that you find this software as useful as my agility club has and continues to.

George