One year after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down live events, the team behind Des Moines software firm VolunteerLocal is raising their hands to help in the vaccine distribution effort.

The staff started reaching out to connections in the medical field after a current customer called operations coordinator Isabel Reed in February to ask if VolunteerLocal’s scheduling software could assist their local clinic in managing vaccine administrator shifts.

“Her comment to us that really struck home is that a day at a vaccine clinic is a lot like an event. There’s a lot of moving parts, scheduling and getting resources and people put into place,” said Brian Hemesath, founder and “very technical person” at VolunteerLocal.

VolunteerLocal had already worked with an Ohio health care facility in early 2020 to schedule employee COVID-19 testing. Today, the company is finding its software platform is already tailor-made to handle large amounts of vaccine administrators for the pop-up vaccine clinics being swiftly organized in the U.S.

VolunteerLocal is now working with “less than a dozen” vaccine clinics in multiple states to handle vaccine administrator onboarding, shift management, hours tracking and site communication using VolunteerLocal’s existing platform. Team members are reaching out to existing customers and contacts who might be able to refer them to health care connections.

“We just kept getting more phone calls of a similar vein, not as much from existing customers, but from other organizations that hadn’t heard of VolunteerLocal but had the same needs,” Reed said. “We can get [volunteers] going on the same day, which is really nice when you hear the urgency in their voice and you get to hear a little bit of relief by the end of the day.”

Although there is potential to expand VolunteerLocal more broadly into the health care services space, Hemesath said that’s not the current goal in making connections.

“At this moment, we are a solution to what we hope is a static problem,” Hemesath said. “There’s a longer-term opportunity for us to learn what this particular solution looks like in the [health care] industry, but right now we have a very narrow focus on this. … We’re not giving the software away for free, so this is still a commercial endeavor. But we know we can be part of the solution.”

For a software company dependent on live event organizers, “2020 was definitely a survival year,” Hemesath said. “Our primary customer is typically not in health care. It’s events, athletics, colleges and nonprofits.”

Festival and athletic event cancellations cut 2020 short, but VolunteerLocal remained engaged with most of their nonprofit customers and used the slowdown in general customer service to improve the overall software products, he said. The company’s own indicators suggest that clients expect to return some live events in quarters three and four in 2021.

“We are seeing our customers start to return and ask about renewals and setting up for 2021. So if there’s anything that people take … events are on their way back, and we can’t wait for that,” Hemesath added.