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Learn tips and hints to use a variety of electronic and technical equipment to enhance work with volunteers.

~ June 2010 ~


Editor's Note: Welthea Christman offered some suggestions on how to use online media in volunteer program on the volunteer administrators listserv CYBERVPM. We asked her to expand the posting to an article for Volunteer Today. Many thanks for her volunteer efforts! NM

Communication is defined as “The imparting or exchange of thoughts, opinions or information by speech, writing or signs.”  Today there are a variety of methods to impart information and interact with volunteers.  ‘Managers of Volunteers’ determine the most efficient and effective ways of contact.  What method is best for each communication and most important what does each volunteer prefer?  Complicated maybe, but with persistence and practice it can work well. 

Some Tips for Consideration:

1) Basic communication methods:  Telephone, Postal Mail, Online and Face to Face.  With each there are essentials take into account. 

  • Telephone – 3 types: home, work or cell.  Within these are sub-types such as iPhones and Instant Messaging.  Considerations: Does the volunteer have an answering system or voice mail?  Do they “text? Not everyone can be reached at the time you are at work.  In addition are they allowed to receive personal calls at work?  Even telephoning can get confusing.
  • Postal Mail.  Is it always efficient and timely?   Considerations: your mail system’s way of work. Do you mail directly, is your mail picked up or do you send it to another office to mail? Timing: for example will they have time to respond before emails ‘fill up an opportunity?
  • Online – Vast variety of types out there: Email, Website, Blogs, Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Wikis, YouTube, Chat Rooms and more. Conferencing has become popular via telephone or computer.  Considerations:  How ‘tech savvy’ are you and your volunteers?  “Seasoned” volunteers can range from savvy to novice to resistant even if they have email.  Younger volunteers may have more knowledge and skills than staff personnel! Also some volunteers may have email but do not use it often or effectively so it may not be the best method to connect with them.
  • Face to Face – always acceptable with proper considerations of who, what, when and where.

2) Recipient Organization - Develop systems to track each volunteer’s preferred communication method(s).  There are very good volunteer management database programs that do this.  Keep notes as to what is the best way to reach each individual.  Spread sheets work well if you don’t have a database.

3) Targeting – Create categories within your contacts. 

    • Utilize email program features.  Create sub-category “groups” to relay messages to only those who need it and to pinpoint recipients so not to miss people by individual  clicking names.
    • Develop mailing label lists. Saves time and money.
    • Revise constantly.  Make it an on-going priority

4) Best Practice – stay up to date yourself.  Classes are available to attend in person or take online.  Connect with local colleges, professional groups and community organizations that offer training. Search the internet on a regular basis for new ideas and tips.  Websites, newsletters, and online forums are all educational, helpful and fun!  Talk with other people who work with volunteers to find out what works well for them.  And share your knowledge.  You may find out you are the expert! 

H. Welthea Christman, CVA, Coordinator of Volunteer Services

Burchfield Penney Art Center

Buffalo State College

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Current Events, Please

  • Are you a news junkie?  Want to know what’s happening around the world? Is it important to your job to be well informed?  Here's how to find some current events online.  You can type in the web address of your local newspaper if local news is what you need.  But, how about news from India to Alaska? 

Google News:

Go to http://www.google.com and select the “News” tab in the upper left hand corner.  Or, look below for the current top stories in the U.S.:
When you get there you see a list of the top stories by category. The stories are
gathered from online news resources from all around the world. You can even see how old the stories are.  Some of them are only minutes old. Categories include Science & Technology, Sports, U.S. National News and even Entertainment.  To find more stories in that category just click on the tabs in the top left of the web page.

A nice feature at Google is the ability to get news from Russian, Chinese or Indian perspective.  Just click on the country of your choice at the bottom of the screen and view current events from those countries:

Other News Aggregators:

    • Bing.com/News - This search engine from Microsoft has a news button on the left hand side of the home page.  They also have an aggregator for News Video. http://www.bing.com/news?FORM=Z9LH8
    • News.Yahoo.com - Though not exactly like other news aggregators, Yahoo does have a comprehensive news site. Simply go to the home page for up to the minute news. http://www.yahoo.com/
    • News.Ask.com - Another news aggregator that gives multiple sources for the same top stories. http://news.ask.com/news

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    Are you writing a grant?  Penning an e-newsletter?  Having a disagreement about something.  How do you find the truth online?  How do you check the facts?

    Here are websites to help sort fact from fiction and outright lies:

    • For sorting through urban legends and dubious emails there is no better website than: http://www.snopes.com/
    • Factcheck.org was made famous in the last presidential election.  To sort through all the political information out there the Annenberg Foundation set-up http://www.factcheck.org

    If the interest is in specific political opinions, consider one of these two websites:

    http://www.mediaresearch.org/  Fact checking with a conservative slant

    http://mediamatters.org/  Fact checking with a liberal slant

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