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FAQ: Beta Group Questions on Initiatives and Advanced Events

This FAQ will be updated throughout April 2017 as we receive questions from our advance-release (beta) group.

Because many of our features in version 2.8 allow you to do tasks traditionally associated with the Advanced Events Module (AEM), we've received quite a few questions about how to do AEM tasks in version 2.8. This article is a compilation of the questions we've received thus far, with answers and links to other articles. If you have other questions that aren't answered here, check our our 2.8 articles or contact our Customer Care Team.

Are the version 2.8 enhancements available in the AEM?

Version 2.8 applies to our standard volunteer module only. These enhancements are not available in the AEM; however, you can use version 2.8's features to accomplish many of the tasks previously accomplished in the AEM.

Why is version 2.8 only available in the standard volunteer module? Why not AEM?

As more and more of our clients push their Connect platforms to work in novel situations, it is important that the system maintain a simple code base. The standard volunteer module was designed to expand and adapt; the AEM, on the other hand, was designed for a specific purpose with specific, and somewhat rigid, parameters. Those parameters prevent large changes like shift-based needs and initiatives from extending into the module. Version 2.8 is, in part, a solution for clients who want to use AEM-type features (private needs, grouped needs, etc.) in ways that fit a wide variety of volunteer-management and volunteer event-planning needs.

Is the AEM going away?

The AEM is not going away, at least not anytime soon. You can continue to use the AEM as you always have; however, we encourage you to try using initiatives and user groups for "AEM-type" events. Once you've learned how to use these new features, we believe you'll find version 2.8 to be more intuitive and and convenient than the AEM.

As with AEM, does an initiative has to have a need assigned to it before it can be viewed on my site?

Yes, an initiative must have at least one need associated with it before a volunteer can search for it or view it. If they use the initiative's link, they will get a message that the initiative is not currently available. they will get a If a volunteer has the link to an initiative, they will be able to view the initiative banner and description, even if no needs are yet assigned. They will not however, be able to find the initiative in the Search by > Initiatives feature. An initiative will be available in the need search only after at least one need has been assigned to it.

As with AEM, do I need to create a spotlight for a public initiative if I want my volunteers to be able to find it?

It's always a good idea to create a spotlight to help your volunteers find needs within a special volunteer event. With the AEM, a spotlight (or using the image rotator) is the only way to make AEM needs available from the volunteer's Dashboard. With initiatives, however, needs for a public initiative are displayed with all of the other needs. When the volunteer clicks on the need, they can see the initiative banner and description, which makes it clear that the need is associated with the initiative. In addition, public initiatives can be searched using the Search by/Select a Filter dropdown on the Needs page.

So, while it's a good idea to create a spotlight for a public initiative, a spotlight isn't absolutely necessary to ensure that your volunteers can see and respond to the initiative's needs.

Can a volunteer access a private initiative if they have a link to it but don't belong to one of the initiative's assigned user groups?

No. If the volunteer is not a member of a user group to which an initiative has been assigned, they will not be able to access the initiative, even if they have the private link. If, however, a need within a private initiative is public, the volunteer will be able to see the need; they just won't be able to see that the need is associated with the private initiative.

Does a volunteer have to join a user group in order to respond to a private initiative?

A volunteer doesn't respond to an initiative; a volunteer responds to a need. If the need is private, a volunteer must be able to access it (via a link or by having access to its associated initiative) in order to respond to it. A user can respond to a public need, regardless of whether or not it is part of an initiative, and regardless of whether or not the initiative is private. Click here to learn more about privacy, and click here to learn how a volunteer can be added to a user group.

What happens after a volunteer clicks the "Join User Group" link?

The volunteer is taken to their My User Groups page, and the new user group is displayed there.

Can a team leader be prevented from reducing the number of spots they've reserved?

No. A team leader has the freedom to change the size of their team as desired. They can decrease their team at any time, and they can increase their team as long as there are volunteer slots available. If you are concerned that a team leader will give up all of the team slots the day before the need they've responded to, you may want to keep track of team signups and reach out to team leaders a week or more before the need occurs, to ensure that they are still planning to participate.

If the team leader has created teams for multiple projects, can they send a single link for people to sign up for any of the those teams/projects?

Each team has its own unique "join link." Once a volunteer has joined multiple teams, those teams will show up in their My Teams area; however, a volunteer must click separate join links to join separate teams.

Does version 2.8 have an equivalent to the "agency questions" that were available in the AEM?

In the AEM, a site manager was able to ask questions (such as "Will you be attending our kick-off breakfast?) of agencies that were invited to participate in an event. This feature was rarely used by our AEM clients, and it has not been included with version 2.8 and initiatives.

Why can't I specify a date or date range for an initiative the way I could with advanced events?

One AEM feature that you will not see in initiatives is the ability to associate an initiative with a specific date or date range. We did not include a date option with initiatives for several reasons. The main ones are listed below. 

      • Duration Options - For need duration, the AEM only allows "happens on" needs; it does not offer the ongoing, runs-until, custom-shift, or recurring-shift options. This AEM setup makes it easy to force agency managers to select a specified date (or a date within a specified date range) for a need. Regular needs, in contrast, offer all five duration options; only one of those ("happens on") can consistently be "forced" into a particular date or date range. To allow date-specific initiatives, we would need to redesign regular needs to "ignore" all but the "happens on" duration (or disallow shifts past a certain date) if a particular initiative is selected. To program this would be a very large project requiring more complex code and a great deal of testing--something we would need to consider and plan carefully, should we take that route.
      • Ability to Switch Events - One shortcoming of the AEM is that a need, once in an advanced event, cannot be easily moved to another one. Another is that an existing regular need cannot be easily moved to an advanced event. With initiatives, you can reassign a need to a different event with the click of a button, and you can add existing needs to initiatives easily. If initiatives have time constraints, the freedom to move and add needs (particularly needs with multiple shifts) in this way would be limited.

Since initiatives aren't date-specific, what determines when the initiative "expires" and is no longer viewable on the site?

 An initiative's viewability is determined by the dates of the needs within it. Once the latest need within the initiative expires, the initiative will no longer be seen in the volunteer view. If more needs are added and the dates are current, it will reappear. If your site settings allow agencies to select initiatives and you don't want them selecting a past initiative (such as last spring's Day of Caring), you can give that initiative a "Pending" status.

We already have an advanced event in progress, but I'd like to use initiatives. Can my advanced-event needs be copied to an initiative?

AEM opportunities cannot be copied (or imported) into initiatives for several reasons. One is that AEM needs are programmed and stored differently from regular needs (which are the type that can go into an initiative). Also, because AEM needs include more "slots" for details, many of those details would get lost in the transfer; there is no way, for example, to import the "meals provided" item into an attribute, or to import the contact information at all. Finally, if an advanced event already has need responses, those responses would have to be completely recreated for the regular need.

If your advanced event is already in progress, we recommend continuing to use the AEM, and waiting to use initiatives for a new event.

How do I set up company-management pages with initiatives and user groups?

Because there is no assigned company manager or contact person with initiatives or user groups, there is no "company-management page" as there is in the AEM. As a result, a company representative no longer has to learn the ins and outs of managing their company page; you can just sent them the link to their selected needs, and they can forward that link on!

How should I use initiatives and user groups to set up private needs for companies and other volunteer groups?

You have several options here, and the option that works best for you depends on how you want to share and store your data, and how you want your volunteers to be able to access opportunities. This FAQ article explains the pros and cons of several different options.

How can I keep an initiative need private until I'm ready for it to go public?

If you have initiative needs that you'd like to keep private until a certain time, you can make the initiative private without assigning it to user groups. This allows all of the initiative's needs to be active and ready to go until you're ready to either make them public or assign them to a specific user group.

To set an initiative up this way, simply select Show Only To User Groups and don't select a user group. Once you've created or updated the initiative with this setting, the needs that are attached to it will be hidden from the front end of the site.

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