Every year in Cincinnati, America’s oldest professional tennis tournament, the Western & Southern Open, brings nearly 200,000 people to the Queen City in August. Dozens of the world’s top tennis players along with coaches, umpires and linepersons arrive to participate in a competition that results in not only victory, a raised profile and a healthy purse for the champions, but substantial charity donations to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, the Barrett Cancer Center, and Tennis for City Youth. A staff of 1300 volunteers organized into more than 30 committees makes the event possible. Each committee is headed up by a chairperson who is responsible for ensuring an adequate number of volunteers are available to perform the tasks assigned to that committee during each volunteer shift. Scheduling and managing large groups of volunteers is not a simple matter and the tools at chairpersons’ disposal are less than highly sophisticated applications capable of adjusting to managing a group of volunteers located all around the greater Cincinnati area and effectively dealing with unexpected real-time events.
Volunteer Staffing Challenges
Every chairperson faces a challenge in staffing each shift with enough volunteers and making sure they show up to the right place at the right time. The one falling to the chairperson of the Transportation Committee illustrates how difficult the task can be. Consider the following issues:
- Volunteers calling in sick
- Traffic conditions impacting volunteers’ travel times
- Flight delays impacting player/coach/umpire/lineperson arrivals and departures and thus volunteer schedules
- Simultaneous arrival of unexpectedly large numbers of players/coaches/umpires/linepersons
- Bad weather conditions forcing event delays and transport of all players/coaches/umpires/ linepersons back to hotels
Most scheduling systems have built into them the assumption of a stable demand forecast and are not designed to adjust automatically to real-time conditions. If two volunteer drivers, for example, are scheduled to pick up tournament participants from the airport at 3:00 p.m. but, unexpectedly, more participants arrive than will fit in the volunteers’ vehicles, most scheduling systems cannot immediately address the problem. A geointelligent scheduling system, however, can quickly make the necessary adjustments. Geointelligent scheduling systems track the geo-location of all users during “working” hours and take into consideration users’ attributes to make most appropriate task assignments. In the situation described above, the two volunteers arriving at the airport would use the geointelligent scheduling app on their phones (all volunteers would install it) to notify the chairperson, who would check the system’s management dashboard to instantly locate and message the geographically closest available volunteer to step in and provide additional transportation. If traffic conditions were to prevent a volunteer from reaching the airport in time, a geointelligent system would recognize the delay and automatically notify the arriving participants, locate the nearest volunteer unhindered by traffic and automatically send that volunteer a request to do the pick-up. Each volunteer scheduling issue on the bulleted list can be easily managed the same way with geointelligent scheduling. Without geointelligence, completing these and similar tasks would require a substantial investment of time and effort in searching through the volunteer list and making phone calls (and/or texting) to find an unoccupied volunteer within reasonable distance of the airport.
For large events such as the Western & Southern Open, geointelligent scheduling can facilitate effective volunteer scheduling while also reducing stress on both volunteers and the chairpersons who coordinate and manage them. GigFlex is a pioneer in geointelligent scheduling.