Because initiatives and the Advanced Events Module (AEM) provide similar benefits, you may find yourself wondering which tool is best for your upcoming event. This article goes over how the two tools are alike and how they're different. For a graphic representation of the differences, see Initiatives vs Advanced Events (graphic).

So you know: The Advanced Events module is a legacy feature that isn't available on all sites. If you're curious about this feature, please email

Important: In most cases, Galaxy Digital recommends using initiatives. Not only are they easier to create and maintain than advanced events, but their use of standard needs (rather than AEM needs) makes initiatives easier to access and use for both agency managers and volunteers.

This article explains how the two tools are different and suggests which tool might be better for different situations. Click a topic below to learn more.

Initiatives and Advanced Events: How They're Alike

Initiatives and the AEM both provide these benefits:

  • Ability to group volunteer needs (opportunities) under a single "umbrella"
  • A unique banner on the screen that shows the volunteer that the needs listed belong under that "umbrella"
  • Needs within both AEM and Initiatives can be public, privately available to a group, or a mix of both
  • Needs can be made public or private in bulk, and they can be assigned to companies (in AEM) or user groups (in initiatives) in bulk
  • Site managers can limit events or initiatives to certain agencies
  • Custom questions for volunteers (such as for t-shirt size)
  • Custom questions for agencies/programs (added to the need-posting form)
  • The person posting the need can enter helpful information about required tools, inclement weather plans, wheelchair accessibility, and more
  • Site managers can export all responses to all needs within an advanced event or initiative
  • Site managers can easily send a message to agency managers who have posted needs within an advanced event or initiative

About the "Umbrella"

Both advanced events and initiatives can serve as "umbrellas," or mechanisms by which multiple needs are grouped under one heading. Typically, this "heading" is a large-scale event such as a Day of Caring, but site managers have used these tools in many different ways--for holiday volunteer opportunities, for example, or opportunities for a certain group.

Your Connect site uses a banner to show that a group of needs falls under a single umbrella, whether it is an advanced event or an initiative.

The Advanced Event Banner

When you click to create a new advanced event, you're prompted to provide a title, a description, and a date or date range. You can also pick the color of the banner and banner text. All of that information shows up on the AEM banner (example below), which anyone can access by going to the AEM link that you provide.

The "heart" icon shown on the banner is the same for all AEM banners; there is no option to change it.

The Initiative Banner

When you click to create a new initiative, you're asked to provide the title, description, and banner information (including banner color, text color, and icon). That information shows up in the initiative banner, which can be accessed by anyone who has permission to view the needs within the initiative. (If the initiative contains public needs, it will be available to anyone who visits your site.) Here is an example of an initiative banner:

Note that no date or date range is provided, and that the site manager was able to select something other than the "heart" icon.

Standard Needs and AEM Needs

This article discusses two types of needs:

  • Standard needs are (typically) posted by an agency manager from the Needs tab of their agency management area. A volunteer can find standard needs by clicking the Needs menu item on a Connect site. Standard needs can be added to initiatives. They cannot be added to an advanced event.
  • Advanced event (AEM) needs are created as part of an advanced event. They cannot be switched or cloned to standard needs, and they cannot be part of an initiative.

The following section goes over a few benefits of using either type of need and should help you to understand which type of need you want to use for your event. The sections after that look at special considerations regarding private and public needs, customization, teams, reports, and waivers.

General Benefits of Using Standard Needs

Because initiatives apply to standard needs, site managers and agency managers may want to use initiatives if:

You want to apply initiatives to existing needs. One of the biggest benefits of initiatives over AEM is they can be applied to standard, existing needs; there is no need to open a new module and create new needs that are specifically for the initiative.

You have needs that are ongoing, run until a particular date, or occur in shifts. Unlike AEM needs, standard needs can have one of five durations: ongoing, runs until, happens on, recurring shift, or custom shift. An AEM need can only have a duration of happens on; the other four durations are not available.

Note: You can create shifts in the AEM, but the process involves cloning needs and is more labor-intensive than selecting shifts for standard needs.

You want volunteers to be able to find needs the way they usually do. With AEM, you must provide a special spotlight (or send out a link) for people to be able to see your advanced-event needs; otherwise, they may not know where to find them on your site. With initiatives, needs are easily viewed and searched from the Needs page (accessed by clicking Needs in the left-hand column of any Connect site).

You want more freedom in what details you provide about the needs. You can add attributes to standard needs. These appear under the Additional Details area of the need posting.

Note: You can provide additional details for AEM needs, but they must be included in the need description.

General Benefits of Using the AEM

While there is a great benefit to using standard needs and initiatives, there are some instances where you might want to use the AEM instead.

You want to prevent agency managers from posting needs outside of a certain date range. With the AEM, you must specify the date or date range of the event. Once you've done that, any need posted must fall on that date or within that date range. The AEM expires once the end-date passes, and it is no longer shown on the front end of your Connect site.

Note: An initiative does not expire. If it has current needs, it will be available on the front end of your site, either publicly or to the users who have access to its private needs. Once the needs within it expire, the initiative will no longer be displayed to volunteers.

You want to limit the additional details agency managers can provide outside of the need description. The AEM need form includes questions about required tools, meals provided, and more, but it doesn't have a special "attributes" area for entering additional details that are of interest. If don't want a free "attributes" area for need-posters, you may want to use the AEM.

You don't want the needs to be mixed in with standard needs. If the needs within your advanced event are public but you don't want them to be searched and viewed with all of the other needs on your site, you may want to use the AEM.

Public, Private, or Both?

Prior to Connect version 2.8, the AEM was the only option if you wanted to make needs privately available to one or more groups. You now have more options for making needs private. With version 2.8, you can now make standard needs private, whether or not they are associated with an initiative. Read on to see how privacy works within both tools.

AEM: Using Companies to Offer Private Needs

The AEM includes a "companies" feature, where a site manager can set up groups to which private needs can be assigned. These groups are traditionally companies, but they can be church groups, Scout troops, or another group of volunteers who are to have access to a private need. A site manager can then assign individual needs within the advanced event to individual groups. Below are some of the situations for which AEM needs may be preferable over standard needs.

You want to have a designated "company manager" who can see what needs their employees/group members are signing up for. With the AEM, each company has a primary contact person known as the "company manager." That person has access to a "company dashboard" listing all of the needs that have been made privately available to that company. The company manager can view the needs and can add or remove responses on behalf of employees or group members. The company manager can also see who has signed up for which needs and how many slots are still available. The company manager can send out a unique "employee access link," which employees or group members can use to sign up for the privately available needs themselves. Finally, the company manager can export response information into a spreadsheet.

You want the needs to be private by default. With the AEM, the site manager has to complete two steps before making a need available to volunteers: (1) activate the need, and then (2) either make it public or assign it privately to a group. Any new need added to the advanced event must go through those steps; as a result, AEM needs are never public by default.

Notes: (1) With standard needs, an agency manager can select to make a need private when they create or edit the need. As a site manager, you can change a need's privacy setting as needed. (2) AEM needs cannot be assigned to user groups.

Making Standard (non-AEM) Needs Private

Both site managers and agency managers have the ability to make a need private by marking a "Private" option on the need-posting form or by marking off needs and selecting them to make them private.

  • If a private need is not assigned to a user group, a volunteer can access it only by clicking a private need link that is provided to them.
  • If a private need is assigned to a user group, all members of the assigned user group will be able to view the need on your site.

If an initiative contains private needs only, all volunteers will be able to access the banner, but only those volunteers with permission (or a private link as described above) will be able to see the needs within it. 

Custom Questions and Custom Notifications for Participants

Both the AEM and initiatives provide a level of customization not available for standard needs alone.

Customizing the Participant Experience in the AEM

You can add three types of "custom questions" to the AEM:

  • Agency Application Questions - These questions appear for the agency manager before they can get to the need-posting page.
  • Supplemental Need Questions - These are event-specific questions that you can add to the need form itself. 
  • Volunteer Questions - These questions appear for the volunteer before they can complete their need response.

For more information on AEM custom questions, click here.

You may want to use the AEM if you want to include agency application questions, where agency managers can answer one or more event-specific questions as a prerequisite to posting needs. Because Initiatives include the options to both add questions to the need form and include volunteer questions, AEM is not necessary for either of those.

Note: You cannot customize automated notifications for needs within an AEM. Any changes to an AEM notification will automatically apply for all active advanced events on your site.

Customizing the Participant Experience for Initiatives

With initiatives, you can add custom volunteer questions, which appear for the volunteer before they can complete their need response. While initiatives doesn't have a "supplemental need questions" feature, you can add questions to all standard needs in Site Settings. There is no option for agency application questions in initiatives.

For each initiative, you can add text to the automated notifications that go out--specifically, the confirmation, reminder, and follow-up emails.

You may want to use initiatives if:

Agency application questions are not important to you. If you don't need to get information from agencies as a prerequisite to posting a need, then initiatives may be your best choice.

You have concurrent initiatives and want to customize the notifications that go out to the volunteers. You have this capability with initiatives but not with the AEM. With AEM, the notification will pull the name of the advanced event, but you cannot add event-specific information to the message body, since the same message goes out for all ongoing advanced events.


Both AEM and initiative needs can accept team signups; it's up to the person posting the need to decide whether they want to enable the team sign-up feature. The team enhancements included in version 2.8 apply to standard needs only; they are not available for AEM needs. Below is a summary of those enhancements.

  • Site managers can create and manage teams from the site manager panel.
  • The team creator must provide a team leader's email address, preventing the possibility of a team without a contact person.
  • Team leaders can email all of their team members, both individually and in bulk.
  • Individuals can join a team via a "join link" sent to them by the team leader or a site manager.
  • Team leaders can edit team members' need responses and can submit volunteer hours on their behalf.
  • Team leaders can reuse an existing team in response to a need.
  • Teams can view their team resume.

These features are available for all standard needs--not just those that are part of an initiative. They are not available for AEM needs.

Reports and Exports

You can access reports for both initiatives and advanced events in the Reports area of your site manager panel. In addition, there are several areas where you can generate exports of raw data for either tool. The following section explains what reports and data exports are available for each.

Initiative Reports and Exports

Your site manager panel includes the following initiative-specific reports:

  • Initiative Summary - Shows needs, responses, and submitted volunteer hours for each initiative. Each initiative has its own row in the table displayed, and you can view data by a selected date range.
  • Need Responses By Initiative - Similar to the need-responses export for an advanced event, this report lists all responses to all needs within an initiative. Other details include the agency, need, start and end dates or times, volunteer contact information, and team name. The export includes additional information (such as team leader and need response date information) not shown on the displayed report.

Initiative information is also included in related exports and in Data Explorer reports. The user and email blast filters also include an option to export or email all volunteers or agency managers who are associated with a particular initiative. 

AEM Reports and Exports

The Advanced Event Summary, located in the Reports area of your site manager panel, lists all active advanced events on your site. It shows the start and end date of each, along with the associated agencies, needs, companies, and teams. It also shows the total volunteers needed, the total responses received, and the total volunteer hours submitted for each advanced event. 

Several exports of data are available in the AEM section of your site manager panel.

  • Agency Application Data - If your advanced event includes custom agency questions, you can export agency managers' answers to those questions.
  • Companies - If your advanced event includes needs assigned to companies, you can export the company information. The export includes basic information about the companies, along with the number of needs assigned to them.
  • Teams - If your advanced event includes team signups, you can export the teams.
  • Needs - You can export all needs within an advanced event. The export includes the number of volunteer slots available for each need and how many have been filled at the time of export.
  • Responses - You can export all need responses in an advanced event. The export includes any company information, team information, and waiver information, as well as user data for each volunteer who responded.

Initiatives provides similar exports for teams, needs, and responses.


You can currently attach both an agency waiver and a volunteer waiver to an advanced event. The agency manager must agree to the agency waiver before they can post a need, and the volunteer must agree to the volunteer waiver before they can complete their need response. If a waiver is uploaded for an advanced event, it will be a required field.

You cannot currently attach a waiver to an initiative, but you can required waivers for individual needs within an initiative. If a waiver is attached to a need, it will be a required field.