Online Policies for Efficient Volunteer Crowdsourcing
Nonprofit crowdsourcing platforms such as food recovery organizations rely on volunteers to perform time-sensitive tasks. 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. We develop two online randomized policies that achieve constant-factor guarantees close to the upper bound we establish for the performance of any online policy. Our policies as well as hardness results are parameterized by the minimum discrete hazard rate of the inter-activity time distribution. The design of each policy relies on modifying an ex-ante feasible solution, either by properly scaling down the notification probability prescribed by the ex-ante solution or by sparsifying that solution. Further, in collaboration with Food Rescue U.S., a volunteer-based food recovery platform, we demonstrate the effectiveness of our policies by testing them on the platform's data from various locations across the U.S.
Paper Link: https://arxiv.org/abs/2002.08474
Seminar poster: https://go.fuqua.duke.edu/www/fsc/poster.jsp?number=28879
Vahideh Manshadi is at the Yale School of Management.