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Community Southwark are the umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in Southwark. They support charities, community groups and individuals through capacity building, networks and training.

Use the data storage and collaboration tool Airtable to manage a volunteer database and show available volunteer opportunities on your website. This Guide is good for organisations employing volunteers and CVS infrastructure organisations advertising volunteer opportunities on behalf of their members.

Steps to using Airtable to track volunteer opportunities and show them on a website

If you want to show information about volunteer opportunities on your website, you might find it helpful to:

  • identify who is going to provide information about opportunities (so they can help you keep it updated)

  • outline who the audiences are - for example ‘young people looking for volunteering opportunities’

Decide what information you need to find out, such as:

  • types of volunteer roles

  • when and where these roles are available

Community Southwark advertises volunteer opportunities on behalf of organisations based in the London Borough of Southwark. They also support people looking to volunteer to find the right role for them.

Previously, organisations would email Community Southwark asking for help to recruit volunteers that matched their needs. Community Southwark wanted a better way for organisations to share this information with them. They also wanted an easy way to show opportunities on their website. 

Airtable is a database which looks similar to Microsoft Excel but has more functions and flexibility. It has ‘workspaces’ containing ‘bases’. A base can contain multiple sheets of data organised in tabs. You can create customised views of any data, choosing what fields to include and omit. You can then share a view without exposing data that is not part of that view.

You can use Airtable for many internal functions. It has the ability to receive data submitted via web forms and to display data views on web pages.

Community Southwark's Airtable home page. You can see multiple bases.

Community Southwark decided to use Airtable to:

  • manage their database of people who had registered an interest in volunteering for a local organisation

  • promote local volunteering opportunities on their website.

They chose it because:

  • it can create forms (good for collecting details of volunteering opportunities, and for allowing people to register an interest)

  • people said they found it easy to access and use. 

“Management on the business end is simple; I just read over volunteer opportunity submissions and approve.” - Ruth Donaldson, Volunteering Officer, Community Southwark

As well as using it to create forms, Southwark CVS uses Airtable internally to track and manage:

  • advice centre appointments (people getting help finding opportunities)

  • data about volunteers - for example who is still looking for an opportunity.

You can make forms in Airtable that let people or organisations submit volunteer opportunities for you to advertise.

First create a ‘base’ that will store all volunteer opportunities. Add fields to collect enough information about the opportunity that would allow a potential volunteer to apply directly to that person, team or organisation. This could include role title, role description, role requirements, link to more information, closing date and contact details or how to apply information. 

Set up categories for the types of opportunities you expect to receive. Then when organisations submit an opportunity via the form, they can tag which category the opportunity fits. This will help you monitor which types of roles receive more volunteers and which need help with recruitment.

Then create a form to collect the data. You can embed this form on your website or share the link in an email.

You can also add opportunities to the base manually. 

Part of the form used to submit volunteering opportunities to Community Southwark.

Organisations submit their volunteering opportunities to Community Southwark using an Airtable form created in the opportunities base.

You can customise a view of your base showing available volunteer opportunities and then display it on your website. Do this by copying an embed code from the form. 

The embed can also allow your website visitors to filter and sort opportunities, for example by closing date or eligibility criteria. They can make their own enquires about roles using the contact details shown for each opportunity.

You can also offer a way for people to submit their general or specific interest in volunteering to you directly. Step 5 shows how to do this. 

How volunteer opportunities show on Community Southwark's webpage. There are instructions for how to filter and search too.

Community Southwark are looking for more accessible and easy-to-read options for sharing volunteer opportunities on their website. They currently mitigate online accessibility issues by speaking to people one-on-one through their advice service.

They also do not have a way to track how many volunteers contact organisations and take up roles.

Collecting information about potential volunteers can help you help them find a role. You can then see:

  • prospective volunteers’ needs and availability

  • who has expressed an interest in a volunteer role

It will also make it easier for you to know when someone has found a suitable role.

The easiest way to do this in Airtable is to set up a base for prospective volunteers and then create a form that lets people register their interest in volunteering. Each form submission becomes a new record on the base.

Be aware of protecting sensitive information when you are sharing Airtable bases with colleagues. If you give them editing rights, they will be able to view the whole base. Consider setting up specific views for them. 

Part of the signup form

Community Southwark have found Airtable works best for case tracking and internal processes. They use it to keep track of:

  • who is actively looking for volunteering opportunities
  • the needs of people looking.

They use it before their advice appointments with prospective volunteers. The volunteer fills in a sign up form to declare their needs and interests, which populates the database. During the appointment they note what was discussed on that person's record.

Volunteer records are not visible to everyone in the organisation. The team control this through Airtable's permissions and views settings.

You can create and customise different types of reports or charts in Airtable, if you need to share information with stakeholders, such as funders.

You can also create surveys or track feedback and get the results delivered directly to an Airtable base.

You can flag information in your database to show characteristics needed for monitoring, such as race, disability and age.

You can use Airtable's categories and tags function to:

  • link records

  • update team members, for example to say that someone might be a good fit for a role

  • create monitoring categories.

You can add fields to show when and how records were updated, such as when you do follow up calls.

Make sure you audit the categories and tags regularly. They can get unwieldy if you don’t remove unused or duplicate ones.

Keep all your fields clean and tidy. Archive in Microsoft Excel or the equivalent if you don’t need them anymore.

Backing up your data

Airtable automatically backs up your data to the cloud. But it is not CRM software and does not have the security protections that products like Salesforce has. Therefore you should consider how you store sensitive data.

Because it’s so flexible and easy to edit, it is possible to delete a chunk of work. However you can use its version history feature to quickly restore information.

Southwark CVS have set up automated quarterly monitoring reports through Airtable, which give a breakdown of people who have signed up for volunteering roles under various categories.

They use automation software Zapier to keep their records updated (i.e. “If this record is created [this process] will be triggered”).

Further information