Tag Archives: volunteer

Volunteer Time Equals Computer Use

While this interactive graphic from the New York Times has many fascinating aspects, one of the most thought-provoking for me is the trendline for volunteering.

According to the NYT, Americans spend about an hour a week on volunteer activities, including tutoring, coaching teams, working in a soup kitchen, ushering at church and handing out political fliers. That averages to less than 10 minutes a day, which peaks mid-morning and in the evening, and is about equal for men and women. Further striking is that the unemployed spend only slightly more time volunteering than the employed.

How Different Groups Spend Their Day

How Different Groups Spend Their Day

Is that the ‘busiest people get the most done’ syndrom, or a lack of awareness that volunteerism during unemployment could be a very satisfying, motivating and skill-building experience, or something in-between??

What I’m most struck by is that volunteerism is equal in time spent on the computer. So, with all the Facebooking and emailing that we hear about, people are spending an equal amount of minutes volunteering. Or has volunteering taken a cut to give over time to online activities?

And even more awe-inspiring is how to capture more of this time–online or otherwise–and engage the unemployed and employed alike in community improvement and volunteerism. Are we as organizations doing enough to combine online activities and volunteerism, are we making the best use of volunteers’ time? So many questions, so little time.

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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
Listening
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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Evidently Even I Can Podcast!

Podcasts are really just a way, like TV, of diplaying audio and video content. And iTunes is the TVGuide of podcasts.

Podcasting for Nonprofits 101 is one of the workshops covered at NTEN’s National Technology Conference 2009–blowing all economic predictions out of the water with a record and 300+ over expectiations 1500 attendees. Hot, hot, hot!!
podcast photo by the mrbrown show
Flickr photo from Mr Brown

So you want to do a podcast?
Make a plan! Consider:
Where will people be tuning in? Driving audience–more conduicive to audio. Urban subway–great format for video.
What concise content will you cover? Remember that the adult attention span is short–think 3 minutes!
So plan ‘mini-topics’; if you have sponsors, be sure to call them out in the beginning.

Let’s get started!
a href=”http://www.wearemedia.org/ntc+podcasting”>We Are Media Podcasting wiki describes (and links to!) the tools and software that can have you podcasting (or at least practicing) in 90 minutes!

Audacity is the main sofatware you’ll need to download. If you have a mike, then you’re ready to begin. This follows along my earlier ‘intro’ post, but that was before I had the power of the tools in my hands!
So, this is what you need to record. But there’s more–add video, edit, and post and share your podcasts–more to come, but this is a place to get started!

As far as function, I am thinking of non-serial podcasts as a way to train volunteers, kick off a focus group or project, and to provide an organizational overview.
Are there other tools or uses you’d recommend?

P.S. If you’re hungry for more, or more details, Deb at Community Organizer 2.0 covered this same info in much more detail and knowledge!!

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Engaging Techie Volunteers

From the TechSoup webinar, Managing IT Volunteers.

A techie can be ‘into social media’, an enthusiastic learner, or can be from the IT profession–with specific skills and interests. Since I’m engaging virtual volunteers, I’ve modified some of the in-person hardware/software type suggestions to include working with virtual tech volunteers, too.

Step 1: List tasks.
Ask staff, volunteers, & brainstorm. Ask first what staff need help with, and then if IT volunteers could possibly help.

Short-term IT volunteer task suggestions:
• Host a workshop or webinar on a particular social media tool for staff or other volunteers
• Updating (free) virus software on staff computers
• Set up a (free) survey online
• Create list of possible IT volunteer tasks
More from experienced volunteer management guru Jayne Cravens on tech volunteers here.

Long-term (with end date) IT volunteers can:
• Provide technical support for website
• Develop tech plan
• Developing a social media tool
• Measure social media usage
• Tech volunteer screener/interviewer
• On-call tech support for various hardware/software/social media areas

Step 2: Design volunteer positions.

Need written description. Define frequency, end date & benefits to both parties.
Before recruiting, define how you’re going to reply to and select candidates. Define tasks and end outcomes clearly so that volunteer can meet your needs–not all techies do all the same tech things!

Step 3: Recruit.
Don’t start worrying about finding the volunteers until you’ve defined your needs. You never know when someone who fits the bill might appear, and you’ll be ready.

Post to VolunteerMatch, Craigslist (if this is popular in your area), and local volunteer center (1-800-volunteer.org), college & university career/volunteer centers to recruit for interns (in August & January, particularly), businesses with IT departments in your neighborhood, and word of mouth with current volunteers & newsletters.

Step 4: Recognize.
Tech volunteers should be included in your regular volunteer recognition program. Online-only volunteers also need to be recognized, but be sure to ask how they like to be acknowledged–some would like to receive online recognition on social media, but others would like a simple online thank-you or periodic connection with other volunteers.

Now what?
To learn more, talk to folks in the tech arena. Ask them about possibilities and the proper language to use that appeals to techies.

To begin planning, see TechSoup’s manual for working with hardware/software tech volunteers which has some great specific worksheets. One is a questionnaire on tech skills (which helps those of us who don’t know, outside of general categories, what tech skills are out there!!) that would be a good point of discussion during a tech volunteer interview.

As your volunteer and tech volunteer program grows, recruit for ‘volunteer volunteer managers’ and ask them to manage ‘task teams’ of volunteers.

Investing your time in engaging tech volunteers could lead to better computer operation systems, but it could also lead to new corporate contacts, a wider network of supporters, younger volunteers and beginnings of a social media campaign.

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Meet. Up.

I’ve finally taken the Meetup.com plunge.
Meetup logo

I’ve been a lurker, joining some groups around town, and even a few in other places just to see how different groups operate. I’ve even attended a few area meetups. Wow–was that a personal challenge for this introvert, or what?! I feel comfortable with the online interface as a user, so I figured it was time to start a group.

Oh, that, and I have some fabulous volunteers who are interested in managing and hosting groups!
That’s key to my outreach strategy for non-profits. It can be overwhelming managing all of these social networking tools. So I crafted some volunteer descriptions specific to meetups, and they’ve just been waiting for the right souls to fill them.

I’ll keep you posted, but wanted you to check out Meetup and share if you’ve had any experiences with joining or running groups of your own. And has anyone done this in relationship to a nonprofit?

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Readings in Virtual Volunteerism

Since only about a fourth of the U.S. volunteers, this writer posits that we’ve tapped out the market until we get a little more creative. There’s definitely a need with virtual volunteers to the ‘chunk it up’ theory of dividing volunteer tasks into tiny bits for our busy world.

While it’s still of the utmost importance to ASK volunteers to contribute, it’s also important to get a little creative with what volunteers are asked to do. Maybe you can’t sit with a kid and tutor them, but could you send them a word of the day via Twitter? SURE! But all of this creativity takes time, granted.

The original blog post was shared recently on ARNOVA (Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action)’s discussion forum and created quite the outpouring. Ultimately, it will take time (and as was underscored in the discussion, new management structures and effective volunteer support) to reframe volunteer positions into smaller pieces. Human nature (until we’re implanted with chips) will still drive some to seek responsibility and others recognition, so it’s important that even virtual volunteerism connects like-minded groups and provides a ladder of opportunities. Well-known volunteer management guru Jayne Cravens added in that this ‘new’ form of volunteerism isn’t new at all.

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Web 2.0 for Volunteer Management

Here’s an article on Enhancing Your Youth Program With Web 2.0 Tools, which is really a basic overview of 2.0 tools for your non-profit. There’s a bibilography of links to the tools and other info on virtual volunteering.

This is Susan Ellis’ Energize, Inc. (volunteer management guru) ‘bible’ to virtual volunteering.

Get informed, get connected: Idealist links articles and ways to learn & connect around volunteer management in general.

Watch tutorials or attend webinars on using online marketing from ConstantContact

View my presentation to AmeriCorps Alums on diving into this whole social networking world with an eye towards connecting with potential volunteers.

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