Volunteer scheduling for the San Francisco Food Bank

Volunteers at the San Francisco Food Bank play a vital role in processing, sorting, and packaging millions of pounds of food each year. Meeting the growing demand for emergency food meant coming up with an innovative way to recruit and coordinate over 20,000 volunteers. OpenSourcery answered the call, delivering a custom scheduling system for rallying food bank volunteers. Now volunteers at the San Francisco Food Bank can manage their own shift schedules online, volunteer to work in teams, and even manage their own workplace volunteering programs.

Key Features
Here is a sampling of what people had to say:
  • SFFB staff can create a complex volunteer calendar very quickly
  • Staff have the option of setting capacity limits and other exclusions, like age restrictions or volunteering group exclusions, for each volunteer shift
  • Each volunteer shift keeps track of it's own capacity, special restrictions, who has signed up to volunteer, and how much space remains
  • Volunteer coordinators can easily see who plans to volunteer for each volunteer shift
  • Individual volunteers can sign up for available shifts through the website; they don't need to contact a staff member
  • Volunteers can easily see which time slots have space remaining, which are full, and exactly how much space remains in each time slot
  • Families can sign-up to volunteer together
  • Small groups of volunteers can sign up to volunteer together, using an elegant team system
  • Large groups of volunteers can have their own dedicated volunteer calendar, with a custom URL
  • Each individual volunteer or group sign-up results in a confirmation email
  • The volunteer database can be exported by SFFB staff, for reporting, back-up, or data integration
  • Best of all, it's clear from staff and volunteer responses that people love using the Volunteer Scheduling system.
San Francisco Food Bank Staff

Thank you so much for your great work on this online scheduling system! This is amazing and I've had a big smile on my face every day since we started using it. It's so great to have groups and individuals linked according to their relationships, the scheduling process is so streamlined, the ability to search is amazing, and I'm just really really excited to be able to use this each day. I'm pleased to report that the volunteers love it, too. Essentially, half of the 150+ emails I'm getting each day now say something like 'yea! this is great!'

- Lisa, San Francisco Food Bank
Individual Volunteers

The volunteer on-line registration system is great. well done! - M.A.

Thank you. The online volunteer sign-up is a major improvement. 'Reservations you made' = great widget! - H.S.

I did log on and made my reservations. Thanks again...love this new system. - P.M.

The registering process was easy! ... It's clear cut and simple for everyone and anyone to understand. - V.M.

I just checked the schedule, and it works really well. I think it's a good way to let people know when they can attend. - N.P.

Faith-based Volunteering Groups

I just registered and signed up the volunteer service on behalf of [my group] ...The process is very simple. Thanks. - W.S. from a community service program.

This new online system is SO helpful. Thank you! I love it-- just wanted you to know.- K.F. from a youth service program.

Hi, I just signed up my group. I think it is very nice to be able to do this all online and not have to email or call. I think it will make things a lot easier on your end and I know for sure on our end. I really love that it can all be done online. I know for me, I am sending out emails at least twice a week with dates wanting to come to the Food Bank when a non-profit gets busy. Nice to just be able to go online and see how many spots are open and be able to take them right there. Very nice. - K. from a youth volunteering group

Corporate Volunteering Programs

... and by the way, your new system is awesome ! I've already booked a group for November...the calendar is extremely user friendly and the follow-up emails really help with our organization. - J.T. a philanthropy manager for a well-known energy company

My department is interested in coming (~20 people), and they are coming up with the best date and time now. This schedule makes it SO easy! Yay! - A. E. at a biopharmaceutical research company

Thanks, I just used the online sign up and it was fast and easy. It was very helpful and now I can look ahead as well for future dates,... Thanks. - C.E. at an environmentally responsible cleaning company

Hi, I just used the new online system to sign up. So much easier than email!- K.C. at a well established CRM software vendor

The Story

In Spring of 2009 the San Francisco Food Bank (SFFB) was facing some serious challenges in the fight against hunger. The demand for emergency food assistance was growing at an alarming rate, as the San Francisco Food Bank's Executive Director, Paul Ash, explains “The current recession and the rise in unemployment is having a profound effect on residents of San Francisco and the San Francisco Food Bank. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of those turning to the Food Bank for assistance.” As the staff at SFFB struggled to schedule shifts for 12,000 volunteers a year, they knew meeting projected food demands would mean doubling their volunteer force; it was time for a new time saving approach that let volunteers manage their own schedules.

SFFB began searching for a new volunteer management system to keep track of volunteer contact info and allow volunteers to schedule their shifts online. The system needed to have support for enforcing shift-by-shift age restrictions, to allow parent-child volunteering on particular days; it had to allow scheduling for small volunteer groups, to help promote volunteering as a social activity; and it had to be capable of tracking the collective efforts of several very-large volunteering groups – businesses, churches, schools, clubs, or other organizations – who participate in the SFFB's Apple Corps program. There simply wasn't an off-the-shelf solution flexible enough to do it all.

The Solution

Developers at OpenSourcery worked with the San Francisco Food Bank to come up with a volunteer management system that was simple for everyone to use, flexible enough to cover a wide range of volunteering programs, and at a cost the San Francisco Food Bank could afford.

OpenSourcery's lead developer, Jonathan Hedstrom, had the answer; a custom Drupal-based website, constructed almost entirely from contributed modules, could easily provide most of the functionality the San Francisco Food Bank needed. To make it the rest of the way Jonathan created a custom module, CCK Signup, which acts as a keystone for the Volunteer Scheduling system.

CCK Signup was released as a contributed module. Within 3 months of it's release CCK Signup had been used by over 100 Drupal developers.

OpenSourcery has released a free system for general volunteer management, based on the Volunteer Scheduling system, with The San Francisco Food Bank's blessing. That project is called Volunteer Rally.