Written by Yusuke Wada

Technology makes many things possible in your life–You can connect to your friends and families far away very easily on facebook or Skype.  In the nonprofit world, many organizations use database systems to keep track of donor information. This is the case for food banks too.  

Japan: Online volunteer registration system for a food bank

Second Harvest Japan (2HJ) recently launched its volunteer registration form on its website. When you want to volunteer at 2HJ, you go to their website and fill out the online form with the information such as which day you want to volunteer, what kind of skills you have, and emergency contact information. Volunteer registration at 2HJ comes with volunteer insurance. Information is automatically sent to 2HJ’s Salesforce database system and the sender receives a confirmation email with a PDF introducing volunteering opportunities and other key information.

2HJ's Online Volunteer Registration System
2HJ’s volunteer registration form on its website. 

2HJ Volunteer Handout
2HJ’s volunteer handout–this explains about the organization’s volunteer opportunities and other key information.
2HJ Volunteer Coordinator Megumi Takahara says, “This online registration system made answering questions by emails and registering volunteers much more efficient. With simplified filing and data management, we can use time for planning new projects and renovating the volunteer work place.”
This system might not be the most advanced system used by many nonprofit organizations, but I believe there are many organizations that still only manage volunteers using paper. With this system, we now can save time entering information and looking through files to find volunteer information.

Singapore: Using text-messaging for volunteer management

Another example of incorporating technology to manage volunteers is in Singapore.

Food From the Heart (FFTH) started in 2003 as the first food bank in Singapore. They have 1,800 active volunteers and every day more than 100 volunteers pick up bread at bakeries throughout the city. This bread is then delivered to more than 150 welfare agencies and group homes by these same volunteers. Coordinating this work would not be possible without technology developed by Fujitsu Asia Pte Ltd in Singapore for FFTH that uses a text-messaging reporting system. When a volunteer completes an assignment, they send a text message to FFTH’s server with information on how much was picked and from where. This information is used to track who picked up from where, how much was picked up, and where it was delivered. FFTH’s program manager, Jeneve Lim, commented,  “Without this system, we could not manage all of these deliveries!”

We have not seen many great systems like the FFTH system before at food banks. This is very fascinating, and many food banks both in Japan and other countries who could learn from this model as a way to increase volunteer participation and leverage small donations.

If you are interested to know more about these systems, please contact us at info@secondharvestasia.org. Also, we would like to hear about other good practices using great technology.

Second Harvest Asia will develop the regional food bank network in Asia to share best practices and experiences with other food banks. We hold online meetings regularly with Asian food bank members. If you are interested in joining our regional network, please contact us at info@secondharvestasia.org.