Match-making in the voluntary sector

The Experience Corps' has implemented business process management software. Karl Cushing reports

The Experience Corps' has implemented business process management software. Karl Cushing reports

A government-backed volunteer recruitment organisation has used business process management software to help develop its recruitment process; align its business processes with its corporate strategies; and support its drive to place 250,000 new volunteers by March 2004.

The Experience Corps, a not-for-profit organisation that encourages people between 50 and 65 to take up voluntary posts, was set up in 2001 using a grant from the Home Office after government research identified that the level of volunteers in this age bracket was significantly lower than in others. "There was clearly a need to reach out to that group in a way they'd understand," says Richard Moore, Experience Corps' finance and IT director.

The corps has 100 field staff in nine regional centres in England dedicated to recruiting, managing and placing volunteers with local charities and non-profit organisations.

These staff, known as "animators", use laptop PCs to access the business process management system, which effectively links the call centre, the Web site and the database. It enables them to automatically match a volunteer's skills to an opportunity with a local charity or other organisation. Staff with IT skills are particularly welcome, says Moore.

The business process management system also allows staff to track their progress by providing instant reporting and real-time analysis. Regular prompts encourage the staff to carry out volunteer contacts such as collecting their details and checking they have received recruitment packs.

Moore says the system has been very important for the Experience Corps. This was especially true at the beginning, as the group had a very short lead-in time and was taking on staff very quickly. A key consideration was that they were building their IT and business processes together and it helped them do this efficiently.

The business process management system is subject to "continual improvement", says Moore. Recently the group radically altered its business processes to speed up the volunteer placing procedure.

Prospective volunteers who contact the organisation via its call centre or Web site are now automatically routed to a member of staff in their area, based on their postcode information. Whereas before it took about a week to place a volunteer after they had contacted the group, now it is often done in the same day. "People respond better to quick contact - that's a big improvement," says Moore.

The Experience Corps currently has about 70,000 volunteers and has amassed a database of more than 350,000 opportunities nationwide. It has still a long way to go to reach its target of attracting 250,000 volunteers from the over-50 age group but Moore insists it is "on target".

The group uses the Java-based Business Manager platform from business process management supplier Savvion, which was implemented by staff from IT consultancy iCore in just 10 weeks.

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