Project Sunshine is an international nonprofit that partners with medical facilities to help pediatric patients feel like the kids and teens they are during the course of their treatment. Their programming supports patients and families by providing opportunities for play and authentic engagement with a network of trained volunteers.
We made giving back a fundamental part of our Silverline Cares initiative by partnering with Project Sunshine. And when the COVID-19 pandemic forced their volunteer and patient interactions to go virtual, we jumped in to help them coordinate their efforts.
Since Project Sunshine was already using Salesforce to manage volunteers, donations, donor information, and grants, it only made sense to double down with Silverline’s CalendarAnything application.
The challenge: scheduling hundreds of volunteers
Project Sunshine already had their work cut out for them when it came to scheduling volunteers. Each chapter works with a specific hospital partner, in groups that vary from 30 to 70. Smaller groups of 5-7 volunteers would coordinate visits directly with the hospital, sending emails between one another and collecting RSVPs in spreadsheets.
This kind of back-and-forth took a lot of administrative effort on the part of the chapter leaders, but also for Volunteer Engagement Director Kaitlin Garzia. Garzia helps organize patient visits, but also works to train volunteers and monitors how the programs are doing within each hospital.
After COVID-19 hit, Project Sunshine took their volunteer efforts virtual, creating a program called TelePlay, where volunteers play trivia, bingo, and other fun word games over Zoom. Since anyone can dial in from anywhere in the country to participate, things got complicated pretty quickly. She knew that there had to be a better way to organize everything.
“We started thinking about this in late March,” she said. “What we’ve done over the past six months is develop this new program that brings together small groups of patients and families, using trained volunteers to facilitate programs. We needed a way to streamline everything.”
Coordinating with ease
Silverline helped Project Sunshine implement CalendarAnything, a Salesforce application that allows users to create easy-to-use customized calendars. Patients and volunteers alike can find open slots for upcoming Zoom sessions and RSVP directly within Salesforce.
The team uses CalendarAnything in two ways:
Training effective volunteers
“Every volunteer gets trained, so we have multiple training sessions across national chapters and time zones,” said Garzia. “CalendarAnything is way more seamless, and it saves Project Sunshine a lot of time creating sessions.”
In addition to standard training sessions, using CalendarAnything gave Garzia and her team the flexibility they needed to meet volunteer needs, particularly now that everything was going virtual. She started running office hours for lead volunteers to answer questions as they came up, making it more accessible for everyone as they’re not only learning how to engage with patients effectively, but also how to use new technology to do so.
By consolidating everything in Salesforce, Project Sunshine also has a record of each volunteer, noting which sessions they’ve attended and what additional training they need. Meanwhile, volunteers can access RSVP information and input any session feedback directly into the database, making the program much more transparent.
“Not only has it made it easier to schedule things, it’s also given us more flexibility,” said Garzia. “We need volunteers to report [attendance], and before, we just had to depend on them to go in and make a report. Now, with CalendarAnything, it’s much easier to just generate it.”
The more quickly volunteers get up to speed, the easier it is to focus on what matters: bringing joy and a sense of normalcy to pediatric patients.
Giving patients easy access to play
CalendarAnything makes it easier for patients, too.
Because the majority of patients are minors, before any patient attends a Zoom session, Project Sunshine has to collect a consent form signed by the parent or guardian. Now, chapter volunteers can double check that they have the right forms from any patient in the system in real-time.
“It’s allowing us to streamline our processes and make it easier for the volunteers, but also to be able to have a more direct line to patients and families,” said Garzia. “It allows us to have more direct contact with patients while complying with HIPAA regulations.”
Now volunteers can log into Salesforce directly and add upcoming program sessions onto the calendar, generate their Zoom link, and add capacity for the number of attendees at a particular session. When patients log in, they can easily see all the available games and options that suit their schedule.
“Now we can collect the number of registrants and attendees, which is critical to the success of the program.” said Garzia. “It’s not back-and-forth in personal emails anymore.”
Not only does this help patients, but it gives the Project Sunshine team more insight into what programs resonate the most with patients and families, so they can tweak their offerings accordingly.
“It’s a whole new world for us,” said Garzia. “It’s all in Salesforce, so I have more insight into what programs are happening that I never had before.
Bringing a little bit of sunshine to patients, even when meeting virtually
All of this makes it easier for Project Sunshine to focus on what matters: patients.
Adding CalendarAnything to their existing Salesforce implementation streamlined their various efforts and lifted the administrative burden off of volunteers and staff members. Every piece of information they need is all in one place, so whether it’s volunteers looking for training sessions or patients looking to add a bit of play into their day, everyone knows where to go.
“The different levels of how our system is organized makes it complicated,” said Garzia. “It was such a pleasure to work with the Silverline team to help us build this. I can’t say enough about them!”
About Project Sunshine
Project Sunshine’s TelePlay program is open to any pediatric patient facing any medical challenge, mental or physical. To learn more visit ProjectSunshine.org/TelePlay.