Welcome to the very first edition of Tech Tips. The dictionary defines technology as, "the sum of the ways in which social groups provide themselves with the material objects of their civilization." Technology surrounds our daily lives at home, play, and work. Its impact on volunteer management is exciting, challenging, and at times baffling.
Each month we will explore technology together. It is my hope to bring you exciting new offerings, challenge you to utilize new technologies in your volunteer programs, and uncloak some of the more puzzling aspects of technology.
I firmly believe in collaboration and the collective wisdom of others. So, I encourage you to share your views, experiences, and knowledge of technology with me. Just send your email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Technology is no place for wimps, but as your knowledge increases you won't be a wimp for long. You'll be hooked and eager for more.
Jayne Cravens is an internationally known expert in the field of virtual volunteering. As an advocate for utilizing technology in our volunteer programs and a volunteer services manager herself, Jayne has much to share on this topic.
Describe your job and responsibilities.
I direct the Virtual Volunteering Project. That means I do everything from researching and developing guidelines for organizations to involve online volunteers, to involving online volunteers myself.
As a volunteer manager, I am constantly exploring ways to involve online volunteers, writing task descriptions, and trying to match volunteers with appropriate assignments at this organization. I've become a delegation queen -- for every project that comes up, I look for ways that online volunteers could be involved.
I do very little recruitment of volunteers, since I barely have enough work for the VV Project's current volunteers to do. Plus online volunteers come looking for online opportunities -- I don't really have to go looking for them at this point.
What are two or three of the most innovative ways you have seen technology (or the Internet) used in volunteer management?
Definitely, the most innovative is involving online volunteers, and I am continually amazed at the different ways organizations are doing this.
My favorite is probably San Jose Children's Musical Theater in California. Their stage productions are produced entirely by youth volunteers. Now, youth online volunteers can contribute as well, helping to write plays and even design sets!
We profile more than 100 organizations involving online volunteers on our site.
What are two or three suggestions that you have for volunteer program managers to incorporate technology and the Internet in order to enhance their volunteer service programs?
First and foremost: make sure you are asking for e-mail
addresses at the same time you are asking volunteers for their phone numbers and postal addresses. You can't involve volunteers online unless you have this information! Even if you don't anticipate using this information in the next six months, now is the time to start tracking it.
Start communicating with volunteers online. This can be as simple as a monthly reminder e-mail about upcoming events, changes to the web site or reminders about policy. Get used to communicating with volunteers this way, and get them used to hearing from you online. It doesn't have to replace your other communications with them (orientations, regular meetings, quarterly newsletter, etc.).
Be prompt in responses to volunteers or potential volunteers
online. Always provide next steps or an answer to their question, not just "thanks for writing, we'll get back to you."
All three of these things sound simple, I know. But when volunteer program managers have trouble using the Internet to involve volunteers, I can usually trace the problem to one of these three items.
Looking through a technology/Internet pair of glass, what does the future
hold for volunteer service programs?
Volunteer program managers must incorporate use of the Internet into their work, period. Eventually, it will no longer be optional. It will never
replace face-to-face interaction with volunteers, or traditional volunteer
recruitment methods altogether, but to deny people this easy, quick,
terribly efficient way of communicating with your organization will turn
many, many people away, and give your organization the image of not being well-managed.
You may contact Jayne Cravens via:
- Virtual Volunteering Project - - http://www.serviceleader.org/vv/
- Resources for Involving Volunteers in Schools - - http://www.tenet.edu/volunteer/
- Email: email@example.com
- University of Texas, in Austin, TX - - (512)-232-2295
Understanding terms associated with technology (download, ISP,
modem) can be daunting at times. Check out these two websites
that are great resources for definitions of terms. Both of these
are searchable and easy to use.
Georgean is a trainer and consultant in the areas of nonprofit management and volunteer involvement.
She holds a Master's degree in Education/Staff Training and Development and a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from Indiana University.
Georgean is an Adjunct Faculty member of Ivy Tech State College with the Business and Industry Training Department. Her articles have been published in the Florida Libraries Journal and The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances.
Georgean conducts national and regional workshops on Train-the-Trainer, Customer Service, Conflict Management, Staff/ Volunteer Relations, Fundamentals of Volunteer Management, Family Volunteering, Trends in Volunteerism, and other aspects of Volunteer Management.
Georgean is immediate Past Chairperson of the National Government
Volunteer Coordinator Advisory Committee for the Points of Light
Foundation in Washington, DC. She is Past Chairperson and Founding
Officer of Northeast Indiana Association of Volunteer Administration,
a professional membership organization representing 60 nonprofit/voluntary
organizations. She is a member of the Association for Volunteer
Administration, the Points of Light Foundation, and the Association
for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.
Prior to starting her training and consulting company she served for several years as the Manager of Volunteer Services in healthcare, library, and social service organizations, leading programs of 500 volunteers.