Gleaning organizations typically rely on crop donations from a variety of sources and a large force of volunteer labor. The primary task, and the biggest challenge, is in efficiently managing and coordinating between these two resources. Many gleaning organizations are grass-roots efforts with limited financial and personnel resources. Gleanweb provides organizations with an independent website that includes an internet-based, largely automated system for all stages of operations: registering volunteers and crops, planning harvests, posting harvests for online sign up by registered volunteers, compiling harvest rosters, tracking attendance and maintaining records.
Recently added features include:
- A fully automated carpool,
- Unlimited additional web pages that can be edited directly by the organization,
- Complete control over the color palette of the site,
- Volunteers' personal page for managing signups and contact information,
- Instant translation of the text of all public pages into nearly any language.
With Gleanweb each participating organization has a complete website with database integration. Those with existing websites can use the Gleanweb pages as an extension with connecting links between them. Installation includes adapting the Gleanweb platform to include the features that are needed by the organization. With Gleanweb each organization can directly customize and update much of the content of the public pages its site.
The Gleanweb data management system uses separate, secure databases for each organization. The web pages are fully integrated with the databases with facility for adding, modifying and extracting information, largely with automated methods. The design intent, of necessity, has been, at all steps to minimize the need for manual input and sorting of data.
Gleanweb – typical installation
Crop owners register crops through a form on the website that gathers the basic contact and crop information. The crop registration triggers an automatic email to the organization staff and the database manager. The crop owner is contacted and, if necessary the property is scouted so additional information gathered for planning. The owner signs an Entry Authorization form allowing the organization to go on the property and harvest the produce and plans for the harvest are made with the owner. From the harvest plans - including the date, time, number of pickers and harvest leader - a new harvest of that crop is added to the harvests list and appears on the Season Planner. The Season Planner has both list and calendar views with extensive crosslinks to crop details, harvest details and rosters.
Volunteers and groups register through a form on the website. They must check off an online Terms of Participation Agreement that spells out the basic rules. They automatically receive an email with links to information that they need to participate at harvests. Registered volunteers can go to the Volunteer page of the website at any time to:
- Review information for all volunteers about participation at harvests,
- Update their contact information,
- Request an automatically generated copy of their attendance history,
- Request to be re-sent the information for harvests that they are currently signed up for, or
- Read the Terms of Participation.
Those volunteers that have a most recent contact date (that is, their original registration or most recent harvest signup) that is 12 months old are automatically sent an email asking them to renew their registration.
When a harvest has been scheduled but is not posted and ready for sign up on the Harvests Page, volunteers sign up for specific harvests that are listed there. They must check off a boxes indicating that they have read and agree with the terms of a Liability Waiver. The text of the liability waiver is completely customizable by the organization to meet their individual needs. Volunteers can also indicate if they are available to help the harvest leader at the harvest.
If the harvest roster is full, pickers can request to be added to a waiting list. An email is sent to them that requires them to click a link to confirm the request for the waiting list. If they do that, they are added to the roster with a status of ‘waiting.’ Volunteers on the waiting list can check their position on the list using a link sent to them. Those who sign up for harvests receive an email with the details of the harvest and links to a page where they can cancel their roster spot if they find that they cannot attend. If someone cancels, and there is a waiting list, then the top person on the waiting list is promoted to the roster and sent an email notifying them. All of these steps are automatic and require no staff intervention.
On signing up or being promoted to the roster from the waiting list, the detail page for the volunteer includes customized information including, if desired, turn-by-turn driving directions from the volunteer’s home to the harvest.
The harvest may include a carpool that tracks the number of extra seats that volunteers can provide and the ones who need a seat, is integrated with the waiting list, and automatically sends emails to volunteers about status changes in their position on the waiting list, carpool and roster.
When the harvest day arrives, the roster is printed and attendance marked on it as pickers check in. The roster is the only paper that is needed in the whole process, although smart phones or tablets could connect to the site and manage the roster entirely without paper. The harvest leader returns the roster (and other forms) to the database manager who then enters the attendance information into the database.
Other information is added to the record for that harvest: donated weight, total weight, where donated and the date the tax donation receipt was sent. As attendance and harvest records accumulate, reports extracting information in a wide variety of correlations is easily done. Crop owners can be sent an individualized, pre-composed invitation to take an online survey following the harvest.
This website is set up as a Gleanweb site for demonstration purposes. There is limited functionality in some areas, but you can access nearly all features as a volunteer named Pat Potato. Your administrative logon is:
Database pages are accessed by clicking on the Administrative link on the right sidebar of the home page. Many of the database pages have descriptions and assistance at the Page Help link on the third row, right-side, of the top navigation panel.
Please do not make extensive modifications to the information in the database as this may make it more difficult for others to understand what features are available.
More detailed orientation to the Gleanweb system is available through video tutorials on the Salem Harvest website. Most of these are about the technical details of managing information. However, one of the tutorials gives a broader overview for new volunteers.
In 2010 a small group of neighbors, all living on the same block in Salem, Oregon began a gleaning organization initially intending to service just the local neighborhood. The creation of a simple, online website by Salem Harvest led to far more volunteers and crop donations than had been expected. The complexity of the site evolved to meet the expanding scope, although all operations continued to be run by fewer than eight part-time, volunteer staff. By 2015, 5,000 volunteers had registered and in that year 320,000 pounds of produce were rescued at more than 200 harvests. The harvests vary in size from single trees picked by one person to harvests of field crops relying 150 volunteers.
During the winter following that season, when Oregonians get several months’ break between harvest seasons, a Salem Harvest pilot project exported the website as a complete, independent package for a similar organization, GleanSLO, in San Luis Obispo, California. That experience led to the further sites, each with additional features that are now Gleanweb.