Dakota County, Minnesota
Dakota County, founded in 1849, stands as the third-most populous county in the state of Minnesota. Encompassing 587 square miles and inhabited by a population of roughly 442,000, it boasts a diverse mix of urban, suburban, and rural areas, enriched by the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. Over the years, the county has experienced significant growth, especially in second and third-ring communities, reflecting the outward expansion of development from Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Since its establishment in 2015, Dakota County’s Volunteer Program has been driven by the mission to extend supplementary services and programs to county residents, with a primary focus on enhancing transparency, unity, and cooperation between constituents and the county government. This concerted effort has not only led to substantial cost savings but has also facilitated the creation of innovative volunteer-driven initiatives. Every year, a diverse array of opportunities, numbering in the hundreds, is made available to volunteers across multiple departments within Dakota County, including Parks, Libraries, Community Corrections, Environmental Resources, Public Health, Communications, Historical Society, and Veterans Services. The program currently engages approximately 5,000 to 6,000 volunteers on an annual basis.
Garrett Zaffke, Community Relations and Volunteer Services Coordinator at Dakota County, has been part of the team since 2015. Leading the creation and management of one of the largest county volunteer programs in the state of Minnesota, his team has worked hard to make a high-quality program that has provided thousands of hours of service to its residents and saving millions of dollars in tax-payer savings.
Before transitioning to Better Impact, the organization primarily relied on a combination of spreadsheets and paper records for volunteer management.
The decision to look for a Volunteer Management Software (VMS) was brought about by a defining moment in which the organization's commissioners came across several people looking for a better way to do things.
After joining the team, Garrett was specifically tasked with ending the use of the outdated system that relied on spreadsheets and paper records and starting the process of building a new program from the ground up. The goal was to establish a volunteer management system that better catered to the desires and needs of the constituents.
🗝️ Key Pain Points:
- Lack of an established program.
- Operational challenges marked by clunkiness, disorganization, and an overall chaotic state in the volunteer management processes.
“We wanted to do things better, to not fall into the ‘it's another governmental dysfunction’ cliché. Our county prides itself in offering efficient and effective government to our constituents and so the volunteer program needed a refresh to better align with those goals.”
- Garrett Zaffke
When Garrett used the ROI Calculator to determine how much time was being spent operating in this manner, it revealed that his team was going to save around 3,980 hours per year on tasks that could be automated or shared with volunteers via a volunteer management software solution.
Here’s a breakdown on how much time was spent in various tasks before using Better Impact:
ROI Calculator Data
Estimated Total Hours Saved
Value of Time Saved
ROI using new Software
Dakota County's software journey started in 2014.
A study group of approximately five individuals was formed to guide the selection of a VMS. Initially, the group collaborated with county staff to assess volunteer and intern management practices across departments. Subsequently, they engaged with state and local government agencies, as well as local nonprofits, to explore and gather insights into various approaches and programs. This inclusive approach aimed to inform Dakota County's decision-making process regarding the adoption of a suitable VMS, drawing from a broad spectrum of perspectives within the community and beyond.
The team proceeded through the following steps:
- Conducted a needs assessment
- Participated in a demo and obtained a quote of two VMS’s: Volgistics and Better Impact
- Checked for references
- Conducted a trial run
- Compared prices
- Made the final selection
Dakota County started using Volunteer Impact in May 2015.
Why Volunteer Impact and Client Impact
Value, security, specialized software features, support, and integration possibilities were among the criteria that convinced Dakota County to choose Volunteer Impact over all other VMSs.
Recognizing the comprehensive nature of Volunteer Impact, the team found that the software excelled across multiple areas, making it a well-rounded solution for their volunteer management needs. The platform's value proposition, robust security features, tailored software functionalities, reliable support, and seamless integration capabilities collectively contributed to the top-tier reasons that influenced their choice.
Regarding data security, Dakota County reports a heightened sense of assurance since switching to Volunteer Impact. The system's robust features have instilled confidence in the team, ensuring that their data is more secure than before.
Dakota County has seen significant advancements after switching to Volunteer Impact.
Enhanced Efficiency and Quality:
- The time saved has allowed the team to channel their efforts into producing higher quality content and opportunities, significantly enhancing recruitment and retention numbers.
Increased Departmental Participation:
- An increasing number of departments are inclined to agree to volunteer hosting, thanks to the assistance of Better Impact in alleviating the overwhelming day-to-day workload that might otherwise deter participation.
Agile Response to Challenges:
- During the Covid-19 pandemic, Dakota County efficiently mobilized Covid Clinics with the assistance of Volunteer Impact, ensuring a swift response to provide essential services to the county. The system's adaptability played a crucial role in facilitating quick adjustments as circumstances evolved, ensuring staff and residents remained well-coordinated.
The implementation of Volunteer Impact by Dakota County is evidence of the transformational potential of effective volunteer management. The change has given the team the ability to not only create possibilities of a better caliber but also to adapt well to changing circumstances. With enhanced departmental involvement and data protection, Volunteer Impact has emerged as a crucial instrument for developing a more efficient and adaptable volunteer program. As Dakota County continues its journey, the commitment to excellence in volunteer management remains steadfast, ensuring a continued focus on delivering a superior volunteer experience to the community.
"Embracing change requires effort and can be intimidating, but the benefits far outweigh the concerns. Better Impact has taken "the little annoying things" and helped manage them so that they don't get in the way anymore, leaving time for us to focus on creating a high-quality volunteer experience to our residents."