Announcing: MOW Scheduler “One-Time Events”


The focus of MOW Scheduler is to facilitate the scheduling of daily/weekly recurring volunteer jobs such as delivery routes, since this is the most common — and most unique — scheduling need for typical Meals on Wheels operations. However, most of our customers also have other volunteer scheduling challenges, including the need to find volunteers to help with occasional or one-time “events” such as fundraisers, special holiday deliveries, etc.

There has never been a convenient way to schedule these one-off jobs in MOW Scheduler, although some customers have found creative workarounds. The challenge for us was how to address this need in a way that integrates smoothly with the existing week-centric scheduling tools. And we think we’ve found a good solution!

One-Time Events Features

We have a new interface to manage all one-time events, and we’ve also added some one-time events features to existing pages such as the familiar Daily and Weekly schedules.

One-Time Events Management Page

One-time Events can now be managed and viewed as a list and on a simple monthly calendar from the new One-Time Events section under the Jobs menu in the staff interface. You can add a new Event by clicking the + icon inside a calendar cell, or view details and edit an existing Event by clicking on its name. As with “normal” recurring jobs, an Event can be public (shows up on public Help Wanted page) or private (for internal use only), you can specify how many workers are required, and you can award hours and/or mileage credit to volunteers who sign up. And like normal jobs, the Event is displayed with a pink background if the required number of workers has not been satisfied.

Integration of One-Time Events with Existing Features

Most of our volunteer coordinators spend much of their time in the Daily and Weekly schedules, so we wanted to allow them to view and schedule Events without needing to jump to a different section. To do this, we’ve added a new special Job Group “One Time Events” which is by default the last Job Group shown on daily and weekly schedules.  

Like other job groups, you can choose to view or hide this special group in the job group filters. Tip: if you have default job groups specified in your My Accounts settings, you may want to add the new One Time Events group to that list. Any events scheduled for the given day or week are shown in a new row under this special job group, and you can add a new Event by clicking the + icon in this row. Unlike normal jobs, there is never more than one row displayed in the One Time Events job group, and if more than one Event is scheduled on the same day, they are shown as separate boxes within the same “slot”.

One-time Events are treated much like regular jobs in most other parts of the system, including shift activity reports, confirmation emails, daily email and SMS reminders, and monthly reminders. One-time events are shown on the job calendar and One-Time Assignments section of a volunteer’s Contact Profile page.

One-Time Events on Help Wanted Pages

Your volunteers will see a new Job Group at the bottom of the Help Wanted page (either the Public version or inside the Volunteer Portal) — but only if there are any “pink” Events for the week, i.e. Events that have status “open” and the number of signups is less than the “required workers” setting for the Event. The volunteer can click an icon to see your description of the Event and sign up if desired. The signups work the same as with “normal” recurring jobs, after they submit, the signup will go into your Offers Inbox (possibly auto-approved, the rules are the same as for recurring jobs).

There is also a list view of upcoming one-time events on the right side-bar of the Help Wanted page, so that events beyond the current week can be viewed (and signed up for). We expect that some special events will be scheduled further in advance than the “routine” regular jobs.

Each Event has a unique URL that you can use to link directly to the details and volunteer signup form for that particular event. This could be useful in event promotions. You can find this URL on the Event detail page in the staff interface.

Announcing New MOW Scheduler Features for Volunteer Groups

Many Meals on Wheels and similar organizations have special relationships with other local community service organizations in their area. Often, these groups help recruit, supply, and organize volunteer workers for the Meals on Wheels operation.

We’re happy to announce a new set of “Volunteer Group” features in MOW Scheduler designed to facilitate collaboration with these organizations.

Once an organization has been designated as a Volunteer Group, it becomes possible for the Meals on Wheels volunteer coordinators to “delegate” some scheduling capabilities to the Group. The following features become available:

  • Jobs can be assigned by the Volunteer Coordinator to the Volunteer Group (rather than to an individual volunteer) via a special “Group Placeholder” contact. These assignments are readily identified on schedules by a distinctive icon.
  • Designated “Group Leaders” within the Volunteer Group are given the ability to reassign shifts from the Group Placeholder to individual group members. In this way, scheduling for the Group assignments is effectively delegated to the Group Leaders, but the Meals on Wheels volunteer coordinators retain visibility and control.
  • Shifts that have been reassigned within a Volunteer Group are easily identified on schedules by a special Group Assignment icon.
  • Group members can see the assignment schedule and contact info for other members of their group in the Volunteer Portal, facilitating collaboration within the group.
  • Group assignments that are canceled by group members are automatically reassigned back to the Group placeholder (with an email notification to the Group placeholder contact) and remain the Group’s responsibility, unless the entire Group assignment is canceled by a Group Leader.

To get started with Volunteer Groups, you just need to specify a “main contact” for one of your existing organizations (under Contacts > View All Organizations) and then edit the Organization and turn on the Volunteer Group switch. A new Placeholder contact will automatically be created and the Contacts associated with the organization will automatically become Group members and will see the new Volunteer Group section (with group calendar and member contact list) in their Volunteer Portal accounts. For more info, visit the new Volunteer Groups tutorial on the support site.

MOW Scheduler Tips for a Challenging Time

The following is an email we sent today to our Scheduler customers. We have heard from many of them that they are temporarily switching from daily delivery to once or twice a week (with extra frozen meals) until the pandemic has run its course. This requires them to make some mass changes in their schedules, canceling deliveries on some days but needing additional volunteers on the remaining days to help with the increased volume of food needed to see our seniors through multiple days between deliveries. In the email we offer some tips on how to best do this.

If you didn’t receive this email but would like to be on our email list, or if you have any questions, please contact us.


Greetings Friends of MOW Scheduler, 

It has been an unusual and challenging first quarter for all of us. Through the lens of MOW Scheduler, we watched you work hard on nights/weekends to maintain services under new challenges and limitations. we watched in awe of your dedication, and feel a sense of purpose ourselves when we get to help you in some small ways.
We want to share with everyone a few quick tips we learned working with some of you in the last few weeks:

  • If you are temporarily consolidating home deliveries to fewer days a week
    You can suspend the “off days” in two ways:
    1. cancel them individually on the weekly calendar, one day or week at a time – this works well if the changes are flui
    d and temporary in nature.
    2. deactivate them on the “job settings” page – this works well if the changes for this week are staying next week and the week after, for an extended period of time. You can re-activate the off days when things eventually go back to normal. Your previous job settings and ongoing assignments will still be there when you reactivate the day.
  • You may be doubling/tripling volunteers to cover each route because reduced days/visits means bigger pack of meals for each client
    The easiest way to manage that is to simply up the “minimum number” of driver and/or server of those routes (say from 1 to 2, or 3) on the “job settings” page. simply click on the existing number in the gray circle for each shift to change it. A route will be “pink” on the calendar when the new number isn’t met yet. Also a route will stay on the “Help Wanted” board until the increased number is met. 
  • You’ll probably want to communicate operational and schedule changes to all your volunteers
    The “copy email to clipboard” feature that helps email-broadcast a message to a large audience comes in handy in this case. You can refresh your memory on the feature on our “help site”, or here
  • You may be seeing a big surge of new volunteer applications
    … and along with that lots of data waiting to be keyed into Scheduler.  We’d like to remind you that options are available for enabling an “integrated” online application that sends submitted data directly into our database. You can read about two options to make that happen on the “Volunteer Application Form” page, under “System Admin”. Talk to us to find out more if you are interested.

  • Lastly, remember the next Monthly Email Reminder goes out at 9AM on 4/28. If schedules remain fluid and less than predictable 2, 3 weeks form now, consider taking the action that suits you better between the following:
    let your volunteers know that due to unusually-dynamic operational conditions, unexpected schedules may appear in the 4/28 reminder, especially those of latter weeks of the month, and to check with you when they have questions.
    turn off the monthly email reminder (do that on the “Site Preferences” page under “System Admin”) and rely only on the daily reminders which are intrinsically more up-to-date. Make yourself a note to re-evaluate and/or turn it back on at a later time.

stay safe!

The Purplewire Team

MOW Scheduler “What’s New” Newsletter

Hello Friends of MOW Scheduler

We want to send you a quick note to update you on what’s new and happening in 2019:

  • There’s now an option for you to send volunteers text reminders the day before their scheduled shift. Several of you told us that you would prefer an earlier text reminder. We did not forget. Go to “Site Preferences” under System Admin and you will see the new option.
  • Another new feature is to optionally include a “cancellation link” in your email and text reminders. Volunteers who can’t make it can follow the link and cancel the appointment themselves (yes you will get an email notification right away when that happens). You can turn that feature on in “Site Preferences”. If you want to see what the “cancellation link” looks like in a reminder, turn the feature on and then click “view sample”. Leave it off if you are worried about cancellation being “too easy”.
  • You may or may not have bothered to provide descriptions for your job groups. What should I say about the groups, and who will see that anyway and how is that useful? Well, you may consider including information like “site coordinator Linda’s phone # is …”, or “arrival time is 11:30 to 11:45”. We have made these descriptions accessible in a pop-up window next to the job group’s name in both weekly/daily schedules, and on the Help Wanted page.
  • Have you tried to figure out how many “active” volunteers you have? should you count those who only showed up once the whole year? try this simple feature we added to help you decide that. Look for the filter “Minimum # of shifts performed” in the Volunteer Shift Activity Report. It’s there to help you figure out who came in at least twice last quarter, or 10 times last year. Set the bar at what you think is reasonable.
  • We have always had the “Volunteer Shift Activity Report to help you see how many shifts each volunteer has performed or cancelled over time periods. Someone (named Molly :-)) suggested that a similar comparison among routes/jobs is also useful. so we added the Job Shift Activity Report. Take a look at that when you have a chance. Let us know what you think.
  • For those of you who make frequent use of “shift notes”, we have added a “Shift Notes Report” to help you find particular notes that are over a week old. Find the new report under the Jobs menu. You can search for a note by time period and by specific words in the note.
  • If an individual is associated with an organization that has the new “Display on Schedules” setting enabled in its company profile, the organization name will be shown next to the individual’s name on the schedules, for example Mary Cunningham – United Methodist Church. This can be useful when an employer or church group drives a route as a group. Often you don’t necessarily know which individual is to come on which day, because you rely on the group’s main contact to arrange that internally. In that case we recommend that you put the “group coordinator” in the schedule because that’s the person who should get reminders, and it’s his/her contact info you would need in case there’s an issue.
  • Most of you know how to link to your Help Wanted page, say in an email that solicits help. But did you know that you can use a similar link that’s job group specific? Find the new Job Group Public Help Wanted URL from the Admin’s Manage Job Groups menu. Or, select multiple job groups using the filter on the Help Wanted page, and copy and paste the URL from your browser.
    We hope you will enjoy the features/tips in this email.

Happy scheduling!
The Purplewire Team

[newsletter sent by email to current MOW Scheduler customers and selected prospects on 2019-05-06]

New MOW Scheduler Release

Today, we’re rolling out a major new release of MOW Scheduler. This release includes a new feature we call the “Offers Inbox”, which helps staff (“Volunteer Coordinators”) manage volunteer shift signups (“offers” to help) that are submitted online. Previously these submissions were sent and received by email, outside the system. This new feature makes things easier for both the volunteers and staff, and it also paves the way for some exciting new features such as “auto-approval” that will be available soon.

New Features

Some of the more visible changes in today’s release:

Navigation changes
To accommodate several new and upcoming features, we’ve eliminated the old “Reports” menu and moved the volunteer performance reports to the bottom of the “Jobs” menu. The “Admin” and “Help” menus have been moved to the right and are now represented by icons.

New “Shift Sign-Up” form on public calendar, and new “Offers Inbox”
Volunteers may offer to volunteer for an open shift found on the public “Help Wanted” page /helpwanted (formerly known as “Available Shifts”, see below) by filling out a form that:

  • creates a new entry in the volunteer coordinator’s “Offers Inbox”
  • sends the Volunteer Coordinator an email notification.

The new form replaces the old “mailto:” links, which don’t work well with web mail programs like gmail
The Offers Inbox has tools for the coordinator to easily turning these volunteer “offers” into filled slots.

We invite current customers to view the new “Offers Inbox Tutorial“, available through the “Help” link the main menu bar of your MOW Scheduler site.

“Pickups” are now called “One-time Assignments”
The term “pickups” was a source of confusion. Gone.

Simplified contact data
A contact’s email address and phone numbers may now be edited directly in the main contact form.

Prettier emails
All email notifications to staff and volunteers now use a more polished layout, and include a notice that explains that the notification is sent by MOW Scheduler on behalf of your organization. This eliminates a source of confusion with new volunteers about where the emails are coming from (us) and why (because they volunteer for you).

You may now preview a “sample” of all notification emails (and SMS texts!) through the Admin/Notifications section.

New Home page
Previously, anyone who wasn’t signed in that tried to load your site’s home page was redirected to the login page. This made sense for staff users, but could be confusing to volunteers who were looking for the public “available shifts” page. The new home page is helpful to all types of users.

Public “Available Shifts” page is now “Help Wanted”
You can now link to the simpler url
The old url still works, but it now redirects to /helpwanted, so you don’t need to worry about broken links or obsolete bookmarks.

Coming Soon

We’re planning to release 3 other major new features in the coming weeks that integrate with the new Offers Inbox:

Volunteer Portal

Your volunteers will be able to self-register for an account that will allow them to sign up for shifts, view their current commitments and past volunteer activities, cancel shifts, update their contact info, etc. — without needing to contact their Volunteer Coordinator directly.

Auto-Approval of Volunteer Shifts

When volunteers who have signed into the Portal sign up for a shift, we’ll know exactly who they are. So we have the opportunity to automatically complete the shift assignment and update the calendar — without staff intervention. You’ll be able to control which volunteers are eligible for auto-approval.

Staff Notification Subscriptions

Currently, all notifications related to shift signups and cancellations go the the email address (or addresses) specified for use on the public Help Wanted page. The new feature will allow individual staff members to “subscribe” to notifications related to the Job Groups they’re involved with. In this way, it will be possible for Volunteer Coordinators to get notified only about Kitchen shift signups, or only about routes that start from the West Side location.


Managing your Volunteer Score Board with MOW Scheduler

Our new and improved “Job Settings” page makes it super easy to update the miles and hours that volunteers contribute on each job.

Most of the time you probably don’t even notice that MOWscheduler is quietly keeping volunteer score for you: who drove which route on what day, and the mileage and time they spent doing that. When those numbers are needed, whether tax season, PR or grant-writing time, they are right there with a few simple clicks on the “Volunteer Credits” page.

Occasionally though, work is needed when clients are added, deleted, and/or reshuffled from one route to another. That’s when estimated shift duration and distance required to deliver the impacted routes need to be reviewed and adjusted to keep the records accurate. To make that work as easy as possible, we recently redesigned the “job settings” page.

Screenshot: Job Settings Page

Volunteer resource requirements such as miles and hours, plus volunteer head counts and the weekdays applicable to each job, can all be reviewed and adjusted in one intuitive and productive environment.

Finding a Substitute Driver with MOW Scheduler

Our “Advanced Search” tab makes it easier to find a substitute driver for a route.

Figuring out where to start when looking for someone to substitute for a route isn’t always simple. Determining which volunteers are likely to “step up” can depend on a number of factors that may be hard to remember, especially in a rush. There are several tools in MOW Scheduler to help you with that.

Screenshot of Advanced Search

For example, some routes may be tricky to navigate, so volunteers who have driven the same route before might be the best candidates. Or, possibly a pool of “regular substitutes” is the place to start. MOW Scheduler keeps track of the factors that may be most useful to you, and puts that information right where you might need it.

So next time when you need to fill an open route, the “Advanced Search” tab is here to help.

MOW Scheduler New Feature: “Service Anniversary”

The Volunteer Coordinator’s dashboard now includes a widget for “Upcoming Anniversaries”. This new widget, and alongside its older sibling the “Upcoming Birthdays” widget, prepares the coordinator to greet and congratulate his/her volunteers every week.

This new feature was suggested by our users at @MOWDurham. We liked it, so we did it. Thanks for the suggestion!

MOW Scheduler Feature Update: “Available Shifts” Public Page

The “Available Shifts” page in the MOW Scheduler is a public page that can be linked from your social media or email requests for volunteers to help in filling “open routes”. The Available Shifts page shows current route and other job openings, and is continuously and automatically updated as openings occur and are filled in the system.

New feature: Volunteers can respond by phone, text, or email, but previously we allowed only one email address to be used for receiving volunteer responses. Thanks to a suggestion by our users at Senior Connections in Atlanta (@SrConnections), you can now list multiple emails so that several people can be “keeping an eye” on volunteer responses at the same time.

MOW Scheduler Feature Update: A Slicker “Ongoing Assignments”

At Meals on Wheels, we rely on many volunteers who come in regularly to drive a route or pack meals. Even though they are “regulars”, they often have very different schedules. Mary may drive route 3 every 2nd and 4th Wednesdays, while Bob drives route 10 only on 1st and 3rd Tuesdays. MOW Scheduler’s “Ongoing Assignments” feature, which stores different types of recurring schedules and uses them to automatically populate the job calendar, has been a major time-saver for the volunteer coordinators.

The following additional improvements to this feature were introduced recently:

1. Multiple weeks of the month can be added (or cancelled) in one action.
2. An existing schedule can now be simply modified without having to vacate and start over.