Online Policies for Efficient Volunteer Crowdsourcing
Manshadi, Vahideh, and Scott Rodilitz. "Online Policies for Efficient Volunteer Crowdsourcing." Forthcoming in Management Science.
50 Pages Posted: 24 Mar 2021 Last revised: 29 Jul 2021
Date Written: March 11, 2021
Nonprofit crowdsourcing platforms such as food recovery organizations rely on volunteers to perform time sensitive tasks. Thus, their success crucially depends on efficient volunteer utilization and engagement. To encourage volunteers to complete a task, platforms use nudging mechanisms to notify a subset of volunteers with the hope that at least one of them responds positively. However, since excessive notifications may reduce volunteer engagement, the platform faces a trade-off between notifying more volunteers for the current task and saving them for future ones. Motivated by these applications, we introduce the online volunteer notification problem, a generalization of online stochastic bipartite matching where tasks arrive following a known time-varying distribution over task types. Upon arrival of a task, the platform notifies a subset of volunteers with the objective of minimizing the number of missed tasks. To capture each volunteer’s adverse reaction to excessive notifications, we assume that a notification triggers a random period of inactivity, during which she will ignore all notifications. However, if a volunteer is active and notified, she will perform the task with a given pair-specific match probability that captures her preference for the task. We develop an online randomized policy that achieves a constant-factor guarantee close to the upper bound we establish for the performance of any online policy. Our policy as well as hardness results are parameterized by the minimum discrete hazard rate of the inter-activity time distribution. The design of our policy relies on sparsifying an ex-ante feasible solution by solving a sequence of dynamic programs. Further, in collaboration with Food Rescue U.S., a volunteer-based food recovery platform, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our policy by testing it on the platform's data from various locations across the U.S.
Keywords: nonprofit crowdsourcing, volunteer management, notification fatigue, online platforms, competitive analysis
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