VSP User Spotlight: Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding

Since 1991, Charleston Area Therapeutic Riding (CATR) has been offering therapeutic riding lessons to children and adults with disabilities and military veterans. Today, CATR is supported through the tireless efforts of 150 volunteers, all of whom must be scheduled based on their availability and training levels. This monumental task motivated the CATR team and Kenna Brookshire, CATR's Volunteer Coordinator & Philanthropy Assistant, to choose Volunteer Scheduler Pro (VSP) in 2017 to manage their volunteer scheduling.

One unique need in equine assisted therapy is volunteer consistency. Kenna explained, "We need the same people to volunteer for the same lessons so they learn the horses and the students that they're working with." This led CATR to choose VSP since the program's flexible scheduling options make it easy to create repeating shifts for volunteers.

To create the schedule, Kenna adds all the lessons and times for the first week of a session and then sends the schedule to the volunteers. Once volunteers sign up for shifts online, all Kenna has to do is highlight the assignment and check the "Repeats" box. Volunteers are then scheduled for that lesson at that time each week for the entirety of the 6- or 12-week sessions.

What's more, since being qualified for each role is highly important, Kenna uses VSP's Custom Fields to keep track of volunteers' training. The two foundational volunteer roles in therapeutic riding are side walkers and horse leaders. Side walkers assist the students while horse leaders are in charge of the horse. Volunteers become qualified as side walkers after their first orientation, but moving on to roles like horse leader requires more training. "It's really important that horse leaders have previous experience and they attend a special training," Kenna explained. She's able to designate those qualifications in the schedule using Custom Fields.

Additionally, Custom Fields make scheduling easier since they create an important filtering system for CATR volunteers. When Kenna sends the schedule to volunteers to sign up, they're only able to sign up for assignments they're qualified to fill based on the criteria Kenna specified in their profiles within VSP.

Even with careful planning, life can still throw volunteers unexpected surprises, requiring them to find a substitute for a particular shift. This has made VSP's Sub Request feature a favorite for Kenna. "The sub request is my favorite thing about VSP because I don't have to personally call volunteers and find a replacement. They do it themselves, and I just approve it. It saves me a ton of time because I don't have to be the middleman."

When the school year is done, the staff, volunteers, and students at CATR enjoy celebrating their many accomplishments at the annual CATR Student Horse Show. Students display what they've learned and CATR staff give out volunteer awards and student scholarships. This important annual event requires 20 to 30 event volunteers to accomplish, including regular session volunteers, such as side walkers, and event-specific volunteers, such as food servers.

"I like that I can create lots of different volunteer time slots with VSP. Being able to break it down into a specific shift with a specific job makes it easier for our volunteers to choose when is the best time for them to come. And it's more organized for me because I don't have to ask volunteers, 'Can you do this right now?' They know exactly what they're doing and when they're doing it and where they need to be."

Kenna and the staff at CATR have proven that using technology to streamline volunteer scheduling gives everyone more time to focus on the reason they are a part of CATR: to assist students through therapeutic riding.

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