Tag Archives: Plan

So Much to Learn!

TechSoup publishes a great list of free online webinars on 2.0 topics.

I often schedule time to attend or listen to webinars over lunchtime, or on a particular day of the week as a break. They’re also great learning tools for interns, and I include relevant webinars as part of a volunteer intern’s training plan.

How do you squeeze in time for online learning? Have any favorite sites or learning strategies to recommend?


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Leaf Peeping

The Internet allows us a glimpse at an ever-expanding world, and as Michael Pollan precociously noted in his 2002 Botany of Desire, might actually be a viable industry some day :-). Its pervasiveness into our everyday lives makes a good ol’ fashioned glimpse out the window seem like a whole new revelation.

In my case, that glimpse recently took the form of a mother-daughter trip to Maine–not just the coast and the spectrum of fall leaves, but some of the urban areas worn down by the passing of the mills (both lumber and woolen) and the North Woods of Thoreau and hardiness.


The Internet now affords us the chance to collaborate, to collectively plan by sharing documents via software, email, and ‘track changes’ features. I recently installed Microsoft’s Office Live and will be giving that a go as an alternative to file sharing sites. Turning to spreadsheets as a way to create and share a schedule is recognizing their ability categorize data–and a step gingerly taken by those who now have the familiarity of word processing fully integrated to their work at the computer.

To plan a weeklong trip, my mom and I first shared just such a spreadsheet–with dates, times, reservations, weblinks and ideas–trading latest updates via email. In our Web 2.5 world, of course, there’s always a clever tool lurking around the corner. Wanting to update the proposed schedule at odd hours and not knowing if there were any updates from my travel buddy, select activities from a list of choices, and see how far we could journey each day–not to mention the growing file of car, hotel and plane reservations–created a need for something more current than a document emailed back and forth. Information overload began to take hold, just s it does for any business trip or conference. Enter:

A site I’d used before, TripIt, proved immensely valuable in collaborative travel planning. By using TripIt’s online, interactive itenerary planning, the current version was always in play. With both my mom and I signed up as travelers, each could edit the itenerary with suggested activities, weather reports, travel directions, key phone numbers, and our reservations–including links to interactive maps, attractions’ websites and online check-in.

And, in a miracle of modern technology, once you’ve booked reservations, you simply email them to your TripIt account whwere they are posted to your trip’s website; a long list of compatible reservations systems include airlines, Evite, StubHub, HI Hostels, hotels, Expedia, OpenTable, Amtrak, car rentals, SuperShuttle, and AAA as well as specific travel agency and online booking sites. I found it useful to block out driving times, hold hotel reservations and directions, and insert notes about activities such as the days and hours of museums, as well as links to restaurants for later booking dinner reservations. As the trip approached, I was able to all at once print out the maps and directions I’d previously stored online, as well as a copy of the final itenerary.

Using TripIt proved to be a paperless way to manage the number of reservations involved in long-distance travel and to share the details of my travel with others. A friend who travels frequently for work uses TripIt to share her exact flight plans with her spouse. An office where one person makes travel arrangements for others could make clever use of TripIt for holding reservations, receipts, and iteneraries. I can see its usefulness for non-profit travel to meetings and conferences–anyone using this in a business situation who can comment to its effectiveness?

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Losing Control…It’s a Good Thing!

There’s already lots of info in cyberspace about how to be successful at using social media in non-profits.
But before we can be successful, there’s still a major hurdle to get over.
It’s control.

turtle by tsakshaug

turtle by tsakshaug

The idea that we can control what’s out there about our organizations is one that’s come and gone.

Here’s why we need to let go:
Try searching for your organization and the word ‘sucks’ or ‘hate’. Or just searching for your organization’s name or mission.
So, what will you do with this info?

Will you use this as an opportunity to accept feedback and make change? Will you reach out to the offended customer and ask for another chance? Maybe, you’ll use this to implement what I call the ‘turtle assignment’–like asking the first-grader who’s out of control to be the one to take care of the classroom turtle, turning those negative energies into a positive contribution.

There are some strategies to protect our brands, though:
Have a goal so success can be measured. Measurements can be used over time to make the case to the powers-that-be that, yes, social media can be helpful in communicating.

Create a policy–but not one that’s any different in principle or practice from your regular communication policy!
WildApricot’s blog gives you lots of ideas for social media policy.

At this year’s NTEN conference, keynoter Clay Shirky, (author of Here Comes Everybody reviewed here), gave his thoughts about what’s out there: “When bad things happen with your brand (and they probably already have), people no longer blame your organization. Control has already been lost.”

And from one of the conference sessions on managing tech change (BTW, one of the co-presenters joined in via Skype!) come these notes about addressing your social media strategy internally:
Who of your various staff are early adopters vs. laggards? The nay-sayers can sabotage new technology adoption.

Why tech projects fail:
lack of executive support, lack of user involvement, inexperienced project management, unclear business objectives, too large of a scope…..(The results of this survey, done every year since 2001, has never fundamentally changed.) People are obviously very critical to change!

People not only want information, they want to be involved. Understand that change naturally creates anxiety; your people need a warning system and a grieving process for the old system.

Tie your change to your mission.
Not everyone thinks technology is cool; be sure you’re not implementing technology for fun. How will this tool help you magnify your impact, and by how much? You need a leader (buy-in necessary from the top level, but your champion can be someone else). Get engagement from all levels.

And learn about getting started with some basic good practics from Deb over at CommunityOrganizer2.0:
* Set up “listening posts” to monitor online conversations about your organization.
* Buy your domain name, those related to your organization, and potential common domain name misspellings.
* Create a blog so that your organization has a platform from which to issue its own stories.
* Pick two social networking sites to join where your stakeholders hang out, and begin to converse with people there.
* Create an organizational social profile on a handful of social networking sites. You don’t have to be active on them, but you’re ready to be if need be, and it will help increase your organization’s search engine rankings.

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Top 5 Roles for Virtual Volunteers

Wondering what virtual volunteers can do for you?
First, you need to put your creative thinking hat on. It’s about breaking the traditional volunteer position into much smaller pieces. For me, Carter McNamara has long been a go-to resource regarding non-profit management. It’s no different for volunteers, where he’s updated his list of info to include some links on virtual volunteering.

That’s where I found this definition of virtual volunteers, from the Virtual Volunteering Project of Serviceleader.org:
Virtual volunteering is a form of volunteering in which the tasks are completed, in whole or in part, via the Internet and a home or work computer. It is also known as online volunteering, cyber service, telementoring, teletutoring, and various other names. Virtual volunteering allows agencies to expand the benefits of their volunteer programs, by allowing for more volunteers to participate, and by utilizing volunteers in new areas.

So what can virtual volunteers do?
In my recent experience in coordinating and managing a cadre of virtual volunteers for Hostelling International, I’ve been able to hone this down to a list of tasks that are ideally matched to virtual volunteers.

• Research
Locate area campus contacts for student interns, study abroad, etc.
Develop list of similar organization and businesses

• Social media
Manage one of your social media sites, or establish one!
Conduct online outreach and promotion for one of your social networks
Metrics–recommend and/or count social media metrics for you at a shared google doc

• Planning
Create a marketing plan
Develop an events marketing timeline

• Program Design (programming or geographic)
Host a Meetup group as a focus group for your interest area
Develop a plan to match families in need with donated household items

• Marketing
A budding social news maven can research and tell you about what social news sites are out there, and which you should use. And, teach your staff about what social news sites even are!
Tag your website and news releases in social bookmarking sites

Excepting skill-specific areas–where, if you’re lucky enough to have captured the attention of a highly qualified professional, you’ll want to invest time in developing a particular objective with that volunteer–these positions are ideally time-limited (even one-time) and can accommodate volunteers with limited expertise but with access to a computer. Be they 20-year technology veterans, digital natives, or someone in-between willing to learn about new technologies, social media roles present an excellent opportunity for a volunteer to help out while learning something new. And that appeals to Boomers and Millennials alike!

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Step 2: Get Organized

Narrow the Field
There’s going to be a lot of ways to be distracted on social networks, so plan your windows of time and choose your arsenal. Listening is a good way to get started, but there’s plenty to ‘listen’ to out there. Here are some tips for organizing your online listening and reading.
Consolidate your Reading Material
RSS, which I wrote about here, is a general term that means ‘really simple syndication’ or in plain English, Read Some Stuff. What it does is allow you to ‘subscribe’ to blogs and news sites. Much like the newspaper delivered to your door, new articles will be delivered to your inbox or your ‘feed reader.’

If you’re really into reading lots of blogs, try NetVibes, where you can categorize blogs by topic. Categorizing in this way would help me stay on task whereas my current RSS set up on my iGoogle homepage just throws them all together; as a result, I find myself going from a news article to a recipe to a business blog to a non-profit blog–ahgh!

Label your ‘Folders’
When you’re exploring things online, it can be like a messy desk. Once you can start organizing websites with topics like folders. For example, you can bookmark your favorite web pages. One way to categorize them is by adding ‘tags’ when you save them to particular locations, e.g. with bookmarking tools available online.

Tags are words that represent categories. You’ll often see these represented on blogs or sites in a ‘tag cloud’ where the largest, boldest words are the most frequently used. In Delicious, a social bookmarking site, you can tag things for other users by simply adding a tag

If someone else you know is using Delicious to tag similar interests, you could just ‘follow’ them on your RSS feed. To do so, you click the RSS feed button at the bottom of their account. Here‘s a page of sites referencing library diversity.

You can also tag pages at news sites. Here‘s a page where travel was used as a tag. By adding tags, you’ll have a page where your selected sites with similar topics–and tags–will be grouped together.

Lastly, you can keep your own running list of favorite pages on your web broser with the tool Zotero. If you’re doing research on a particular topic, I find this handy button an easy way to mark things for later reading, and to group them by subject tag.

You’re still going to have to ‘clean out’ your tags and feeds periodically, just like you clean up your inbox and email accounts periodically.

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Start Connecting

It’s hard to think about how to get started in this new virtual world, but what’s important is to try something.

When you do, think about how it can be:
visual…are there photos or things that grab attention?
easy…do you require more than 2 clicks to sign up, are you requesting too much of your readers?
incentivized…contests, counters that tally participation, recognition–what will you offer?
community-oriented…can people feel part of a group, are there special people (large donors, stars) already involved?
fun…are there games, quizzes, fun ways to interact?

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