Monthly Archives: February 2011

Donated service or donated cash?

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersThe discussion group for volunteer managers in Ireland and the United Kingdom, UKVPMs, brought to my attention a question from Directory of Social Change:

Which would most benefit your organisation, a £10,000 cash donation or an equivalent value in volunteers (or volunteer hours)?

My answer was this:

But what is “equivalent value in volunteers”? How many volunteers do I get for £10,000? Is it one pro bono obstetrician, working for a month in my free health care clinic? Is it three Java programmers for my online mentoring program interactive platform? Is it 300 volunteers that show up every weekend for a month to fix up the trails and visitor areas of a large park?

I would most definitely take the cash – because I could use it to fund the training, management and support needed to involve more volunteers, involve volunteers in new areas, etc.

What I wish I had said additionally: if you took £10,000 worth of volunteers (which, as I’ve pointed out, can mean oh-so-many things), how much extra is it going to cost to involve those additional volunteers? Volunteers are never free!

So, yes, I would take the cash – and put it toward volunteer engagement!

Also see

Volunteers – still not free! Even at Wikipedia!

Government support re: volunteerism increasing worldwide (but not their financial support)

Girls Are More Likely to Support Charities Using Social Media

A survey commissioned by World Vision, a Christian international relief and development group, says that girls in the USA are more likely than boys in the USA to “friend”, “like” or “follow” causes they believe in on social media (41 percent vs. 27 percent) and that girls are more likely than boys to say they’ve become more aware of the needs of others as a result of their use of social media (51 percent vs. 38 percent). The study also found high overall levels of social media use: Four out of five USA teenagers surveyed said they used social networks like Facebook.

The study was conducted online in January by Harris Interactive among more than 500 youth ages 13 to 17 years old.

According to the survey, nearly 1 in 4 teens (23%) say they volunteer during their free time. How easy would it be to make that percentage even greater? Consider the answers to these questions:

How strongly do you agree or disagree
with each of the following statements?
Summary of Strongly/ Somewhat Agree (Net)
It is more important than ever to help others who are less fortunate. 90%
I wish I could do more to help those in need. 88%
It is important to support charitable causes or organizations symbolically even if you can’t do so financially. 86%
I have become more aware of the needs of others as a result of the current economic climate. 79%
My family has been negatively affected by the current economic climate. 73%
The benefits of using social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) outweigh the risks. 66%
I have become more aware of the needs of others as a result of my use of social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter). 44%

When you see just how strongly these young people in this study felt about charity, social responsibility and volunteering – something you can see echoed per the questions from teens on YahooAnswers Community Service – you have to wonder why many nonprofits are doing such a lousy job of reaching out to teens and pre-teens as volunteers and participants! If your organization isn’t getting youth involvement at the numbers you want, or should be, it’s time to look at how your organization is using social media.

World Vision sponsored the study to coincide with its annual 30 Hour Famine, scheduled for February 25-26, in which teenagers fast for 30 hours to raise money for global poverty. The event, which raised $10.4-million dollars last year, has set a goal of $11-million for 2011. World Vision expects 200,000 participants.

Advice for nonprofits, NGOs, charities, civil society, government agencies and others looking to use the Internet to mobilize young people as volunteers and program participants:

Nonprofit Organizations and Online Social Networking: Advice and Commentary

Evaluating Online Activities: Online Action Should Create & Support Offline Action

What nonprofit & government agencies “get” FaceBook?

Microvolunteering is virtual volunteering

Imagine if I announced that a one-day beach clean up, or a one-day walk-a-thon, that brought hundreds or thousands of people together for one-off service in support of a nonprofit organization or cause, wasn’t really volunteering. Imagine if I said it isn’t volunteering because most of the participants who are donating their time and service aren’t screened, aren’t interviewed, aren’t background-checked, and aren’t trained beyond maybe a 10 minute speech about things to keep in mind during the experience. Imagine if I also said it was because most participants may never volunteer again with that organization or for the cause.

Imagine if I claimed that people who sewed or knitted items from their home, in their spare time, for some nonprofit group helping kids in hospitals or people suffering from a particular disease, weren’t really volunteers. They also aren’t screened the way most other volunteers are, aren’t background-checked, and usually have no deadline for their work – they get it done when they get it done, if at all.

I would look ridiculous to make such claims. The volunteer management community would laugh me out of the workshop or conference (or the conference hotel bar, as the case may be). Or off the Intertubes.

Of course all of these activities are volunteering. In fact, they are all MICROvolunteering, without a computer! (most volunteer managers call such episodic volunteering, but the new name is much snazzier)

The folks behind the microvolunteering movement The Extraordinaries (though their web site is now called continue to try to say microvolunteering isn’t virtual volunteering. Which is as preposterous as me claiming those other one-off volunteering gigs like one-day beach clean ups aren’t really volunteering. Of course microvolunteering is virtual volunteering: it’s unpaid, donated service in support of nonprofit organizations, provided via a computer or handheld device. How much time it may or may not take, and how volunteers are or aren’t screened or supported, is immaterial.

I’ve had an ongoing battle with the people behind the Extraordinaires for a while now. They burst online a few years ago, claiming that there was no need for traditional volunteering, or traditional volunteer management, because everything nonprofits need by online volunteers can be done through what they were calling microvolunteering: people who volunteered for just a few minutes at a time whenever they might get an inclination to help, from wherever they were. Web sites would be built. Topics would be researched. Logos would be designed. Marketing plans would be written. Children would be mentored. All by people waiting for a plane or during time outs at sporting events. No need to make time to volunteer — just volunteer whenever you have some spare time, even if that’s just for a minute or two.

I challenged them on various blogs and the ARNOVA discussion group, pointing out that, indeed, microvolunteering can work for some tasks – and I had been saying so since the late 1990s, when I called the practice byte-sized volunteering – but most certainly not for mentoring a child (online or face-to-face, mentoring is effective only if its a long-term, ongoing commitment that builds trust – something I learned when working with the National Mentoring Partnership in launching their standards for online mentoring) and many other activities undertaken by community-serving organizations. I pointed out that microvolunteering most definitely can work for something like logo design — which, in fact, I wrote about back in 2006, per the first NetSquared conference that highlighted several examples of such. But I also pointed out that successful volunteer engagement isn’t about just getting work done; it is, in fact, about relationship-building — recruiting people who could turn into donors, for instance, or raising awareness and changing behaviors — and it’s also about reserving certain tasks for volunteers specifically, because some tasks are actually best done by volunteers.

This recent blog shows that some of those arguments are starting to seep into their thinking – Hurrah! – but they still need to evolve their concept. They are right to point out that microvolunteering doesn’t employ some volunteer management techniques in the same way as other volunteering, but they just can’t get their mind around the fact that LOTS of volunteering doesn’t, like a one-day beach clean up doesn’t. But that doesn’t somehow negate microvolunteering as volunteering, or as virtual volunteering.

Volunteer management and support must be adjusted for a wide variety of volunteering scenarios, online and off; while there are certain fundamentals of volunteer management that are always the same for all volunteering, online or offline, microvolunteering or longer-term, such as capturing volunteer contact info, ensuring volunteers are invited to future opportunities, thanking volunteers for their contributions and showing volunteers how their service has been of value, other aspects of volunteer management have to be tailored to the unique situation, and that does, indeed, mean not recruiting micro-volunteers the same way as long-term volunteers, on or offline. 

In addition to their continued refusal to accept that, indeed, microvolunteering is virtual volunteering, they also continue to make some other misguided statements, such as:

With microvolunteering, ‘You hire EVERY volunteer.’ The end result gets better as more people work on and peer-review your project. You turn no-one away.

You do NOT hire every volunteer in a microvolunteering or crowd-sourcing project. In fact, you reject MOST of them — for a logo design, for instance, most people’s ideas are rejected – most ideas are not used. For open source software design that allows anyone to contribute to the code, not every submission gets included in the released version. It doesn’t mean those volunteering efforts aren’t appreciated and that you shouldn’t thank them and celebrate such, but the reality is that you are not going to use most of the work submitted for such a crowd-sourcing endeavor.

And as for their comment that The end result gets better as more people work on and peer-review your project, I could point to dozens of pages on Wikipedia that have gotten worse as more people have worked on them. The idea that more volunteers automatically means better is something that only someone who does not work with volunteers regularly — particularly online volunteers — would say.

If they want to claim that microvolunteering is the coolest form of virtual volunteering, or even the coolest form of volunteering, I wouldn’t be quite so passionate in my arguments – what’s coolest is, ofcourse, entirely subjective. Of course, I’d still argue that it wasn’t — I’d be speaking as a person who has been both a long-term online volunteer and a micro-volunteer, and has recruited and managed both kinds of online volunteers. To me, mircrovolunteering is like a one-night stand: interesting/fun in the moment, but then quickly forgotten. Um, not that I know what a one-night stand is… Such might lead to something more substantial, but usually, it won’t – and that means it’s not for everyone.

But this fact Ben and Jacob will have to eventually accept: microvolunteering, online, is virtual volunteering. And it’s been going on long before the Extraordinaires showed up. Proposing that it isn’t creates only confusion, segregates them from terrific conversations and resources and networks, and holds them back from the full success they could have with their efforts; accepting that they are part of virtual volunteering would open many more opportunities for their endeavor and ensure their long-term success.

Also see:

Micro-Volunteering and Crowd-Sourcing: Not-So-New Trends in Virtual Volunteering/Online Volunteering

But virtual volunteering means it takes no time, right?

What online community service is – and is not

Is group volunteering all its cracked up to be?

Do most nonprofits really need groups of volunteers from corporations or other organizations showing up for one-day volunteering activities?

I’ve been thinking about this for a few months lately, and now the British-based company nfpSynergy has scooped me with its own thoughts on whether or not corporate volunteering really all its cracked up to be. An excerpt from its blog:

There is nothing more difficult to deal with than an employer who rings up a charity offering 30/300/3000 employees who want to do a bit of volunteering as part of their team-building on Thursday afternoon in three weeks time. Charities quietly (for fear of upsetting their corporate partners) dislike employee volunteering while companies are much more enthusiast.

It’s so true!

I started thinking about blogging about this myself when I saw that a certain corporation had won a certain state’s group volunteering award for its participation in a range of one-time events. IMO, this corporation was being honored for “volunteering” in events that had been created more to accommodate the corporation and others looking for a one-time, feel-good experience (and photo ops) than to actually make a difference in the community.

As any person who has worked with nonprofits knows, one-time volunteering events – walks, runs, dances, auctions, benefit performances, beach clean-up days, house painting, etc. – are very expensive and time-consuming. They are worthwhile for most organizations only if they result in one or more of the following:

  • measurable results regarding community awareness of a particular issue or organization
  • candidates for longer-term volunteering in more substantive activities regarding service delivery
  • funds raised to cover all costs, including staff time to organize and supervise the event, insurance, etc.

A school once asked me if it had to accept a corporation’s request for a group of their employees to hold a pizza party for two of their classes of fourth graders just before the students went home on an upcoming Friday. The corporation considered this as somehow a great thing for the kids, and as a volunteering experience for their employees. The teachers balked at losing even an hour of teaching time, and saw nothing beneficial about such an event for the kids whatsoever. They were reluctant to tell the corporation no, however, for fear of losing the chance of a grant down the road. The school representatives were at first stunned, and then relieved, when I told them they had every right to refuse any such offer, that they could say, “Thanks so much. Because every hour of teaching time is vitally important, we can’t do anything that takes away such time. But here’s information about our lunch-time mentoring program; we would love any of your employees attend our next orientation about this program. Or we could do a presentation at your corporation about the program and how your employees could get involved. We have some other volunteering activities we would welcome your help with as well.”

(In case you are wondering, the corporation declined. Lunch time one-on-one mentoring wasn’t the kind of experience their employees were looking for, and they didn’t have time for employees to sit through a presentation by the school. Sigh.)

The nfpSynergy blog continues, with an experience very similar to my own:

For nearly five years now nfpSynergy has had a company policy of giving each employee 5 days of paid volunteering time. Doesn’t that make us wonderful? Well no not really because it didn’t work: very few staff used their volunteering days. And this is despite the fact that almost everybody who works for us is very committed to the charities and non-profits.

So why didn’t people use their volunteering days? The answer is simple. Five days is ‘diddly squat’ in the world of volunteering. It was like telling people they could go and buy a free lunch on the company but only giving them 10p with which to do.

My experience exactly: once upon a time, I ran the philanthropy activities for what was then a Fortune 500 company with hundreds of employees at headquarters and at another location in the USA, and thousands abroad. We also gave USA employees five days of paid time off to volunteer. In the two years I oversaw the program, less than a dozen individual employees took the days. Only two groups of employees did, in events organized by me: people from our facilities department painted a room at a nearby family homeless shelter, and three employees from our IT department networked the new computers of a nearby nonprofit over two days. It took me twice as many hours to organize these two group volunteering events as it took the volunteers to actually do them! 

Right now, I’m trying to find group volunteering activities for Girl Scouts in my area. And the reality is that, not only are most organizations not prepared, in terms of insurance, supervision and program, to host groups of girls under 16 (most under 13, in fact) as volunteers, most organizations do not want a group of young girls as volunteers; the staff have critical activities that must be taken care of, that cannot be delayed in order to give a group of young girls a feel-good experience.

Attention corporations and governments: if you want to see more group volunteering activities by corporate employees, youth groups, professional associations, etc., prepare to pay for it. Money is needed to fund the staff, material, training and other resources to not only make the activity happen, but to make the activity a meaningful part of the organization’s mission or outreach efforts.

Also see:

Creating One-Time, Short-Term Group Volunteering Activities

One(-ish) Day “Tech” Activities for Volunteers

Finding Community Service and Volunteering for Groups

Pro Bono / In-Kind / Donated Services for Mission-Based Organizations: When, Why & How?



Survey for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers Re: Safety

A followup to my blog from back in January, Peace Corps must better address assaults and murders of members, which talked about the USA television network 20/20 piece about women Peace Corps members who were sexually-assaulted while serving abroad, and how these women’s needs both before and after these crimes were not addressed by the Peace Corps. You can view the interviews with some of these former Peace Corps members here. 20/20 also did a profile of a slain Peace Corps volunteer, Kate Puzey, who was murdered after the Peace Corps leaked her name to a suspect she had accused of sexually abusing children. You can view part of the story here.

Among the women interviewed on the program was Casey Frazee, whose story and request for change were first published in the Winter 2009 issue of the National Peace Corps Association’s (NPCA) WorldView magazine.  A follow-up blog post was published in September 2010. She formed an ad hoc group, First Response Action (FRA), that “advocates for a stronger Peace Corps response for Volunteers who are survivors or victims of physical and sexual violence.”  The group envisions “a Peace Corps with policies that reflect best practices in all areas of training, prevention and response.”  FRA is currently conducting a survey of current and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers about their experiences during sexual assault training in the Peace Corps. 

NPCA also offers the following information about Peace Corps Resources on Safety and Security:

If you have experienced sexual assault or safety and security issues during your Peace Corps service, here are some resources from the Agency:

  • As noted on the Peace Corps website, Peace Corps works in some of the least developed countries and in some of the most remote areas in the world, therefore health, safety, and security risks are an unavoidable part of life and of Volunteer service. Peace Corps has gathered the key points about Volunteer safety and security on the following website page:  Safety and Security in Depth for Family and Friends.
  • Although the Peace Corps is not authorized by law to provide medical care or counseling to Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, all Volunteers who leave Peace Corps service after having been the victims of sexual assault are eligible for counseling under the Federal Employees Compensation Action (FECA), the workman’s compensation program for federal employees, under which Peace Corps Volunteers are covered.  Peace Corps offers three counseling sessions following sexual assault to serve as a bridge for Volunteers until they can arrange counseling under FECA, with the cost paid by the Peace Corps, not the Volunteer.  FECA is administered by the Department of Labor. Full information on FECA can be found here on the Peace Corps website.

I’m going to continue to monitor how Peace Corps responds to complaints about the safety of its members, particularly women, and continue to post updates here on my blog. To be fair, such information is not available about other volunteer sending organizations, at least than I can find. If you have a heads up about such information, please let me know.

More on the UK’s Big Society

David Cameron, the prime minister of the UK does not like all of the criticism of his plan to cut government funding and replace paid staff in schools, transportation offices and other public offices with volunteers, under the guise of getting more people more involved in their communities. He defended his program. And then came this outstanding response.

Here’s my previous blog on the UK’s Big Society efforts, with lots of links to the building backlash and government missteps regarding this effort.

Even if you don’t live in the UK, if you work in the nonprofit or government sector, you need to be staying up-to-date about what is happening in the UK regarding this issue!

volunteer online & make web sites accessible part II

Comedian, writer, broadcaster and prolific tweeter Stephen Fry is backing a new campaign in the U.K. called Fix the Web, launched to tackle the problem of inaccessible websites. The project aims to have 10,000 online volunteers within two years, all reporting problems regarding web site accessibility for people with sight impairments (not just people who are legally blind, but people who wear glasses – like me!), hearing impairments, mobility issues, and other disabilities back to web site owners to get fixed.

And as I reported earlier, Knowbility is hosting a terrific online event, AIR Interactive, that gives online volunteers a chance to either

    1. create an accessible website for a musician or arts web site of your choice and submit the URL by March 5th.


  1.  choose from these sites and critique the accessibility features and redesign one page for accessibility. Submit by March 5th.

AIR-Interactive participants help ensure that as arts go online, rich cultural experiences can be enjoyed by everyone – including people with disabilities. Online volunteers need to register and then access online tutorials. There are two call-in conferences for participants to receive live consultations. The AIR Interactive event also allows anyone with Internet access to participate and is another a great example of virtual volunteering. So far teams from Manchester in the UK, Mumbai India and Buda, Texas have joined (in addition to Austin, ofcourse).

One caution about both of these online volunteering opportunities: they take real time. It is so easy to say yes to volunteering via the Internet that many people sign up to do so before really considering their schedule. Most volunteers who take this approach end up never having that spare time originally envisioned and do not complete an assignments they committed to doing, leaving the organization scrambling to get the work done by others. Saying yes to virtual volunteering but then not completing an assignment also affects the organization’s view of online volunteers: staff may decide online volunteers are not trustworthy nor reliable, and challenge or even halt attempts to expand virtual volunteering at an organization.

So please DO sign up for either of these virtual volunteering activities. But also be sure reserve some time to actually get the activities done!

Advanced Volunteer Management Retreat in New Zealand May 25-27, 2011

The 2011 Australasian Retreat for Advanced Volunteer Management will be held in New Zealand for the first time, in partnership with Volunteering New Zealand. The retreat takes place May 25 to 27, 2011 in Wellington.

If you are working with volunteers in New Zealand, there’s no question that you should look into attending this conference. People working with volunteers in Australia, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, or anywhere else in the region should also consider attending this conference. But note that this conference is not open to just anyone: this is an advanced retreat, limited to just 52 participants who have a minimum two year of ‘hands on’ experience managing volunteer programs.

Accepted attendees must agree to attend the retreat in its entirety. If you wish to attend, you fill out an online application via the web site, which will be vetted by an independent panel of managers of volunteers. In most cases, a decision will be made about a person’s attendance within 72 hours of submitting an application. The application asks questions about what you want to learn at the retreat, what specific experiences, skills or resources you have to offer others at the retreat, what would you like to gain from the retreat, etc.

I really cannot emphasize enough the advanced nature of this retreat:

    • This isn’t how do I recruit volunteers. This is how have you created a diverse volunteer corps? How do you reach new groups as volunteers? Here’s what I’ve tried myself.


    • This isn’t I don’t have enough time to use the Internet to support and involve volunteers and am tired of people telling me I should do it. This is here is what I am already doing to use the Internet to support and involve volunteers. What are you doing? What works? What doesn’t?


    • This isn’t what should be on my volunteer application? This is what might I be doing that’s turning great volunteers away from my organization? Do I need to change the way that I work?


    • This isn’t how do I say thank you to volunteers? This is how do I move volunteers into critical roles that involve decision-making at my organization?


  • This isn’t give me the safe, easy, quick way to deal with this volunteer management issue. This is push my boundaries, give me new ways of thinking, challenge me, scare me, inspire me! 

There are discussions. There are disagreements. Tears may be shed. But there is also a lot of laughter, a lot of ah ha! moments, lots of encouragement. If you are ready for the next level of volunteer engagement, this retreat is for you.

There is nothing like this retreat in the USA, unfortunately. Which is particularly sad since I believe that organizations in the USA are doing the most innovative, exciting things regarding the involvement of volunteers in the world. But there is no conference here in the USA that captures and shares those innovative experiences; our volunteerism conferences are the usual, with corporations telling nonprofits how they should operate, celebrities talking about all the great volunteering they do, large, traditional organizations talking about experiences and resources that aren’t at all possible for small nonprofits, and everyone having the same old same old discussions. Conflict is avoided, debates discouraged.

I was honored to be the keynote speaker at this advanced retreat last year in Australia, and to then travel across the country presenting intensive workshops on trends in volunteer management, diversifying volunteer ranks, and, ofcourse, using the Internet to support and involve volunteers. Here are my blogs from that experience, which reflect the level of discussions that happen at the retreat “down under”:

Are You a Member of the Cyber Sweatshop?

One of the most contentious discussions ever on OzVPM, an online discussion group for volunteer managers in Australia and New Zealand, was whether or not it was appropriate for people to volunteer for for-profit companies. The discussion started with a question on April 7, 2010, and it exploded with 221 messages for the month, on a group that averages about 35 messages in a month. Boundaries were pushed. Tempers flared. Teeth were gnashed. No conclusion was every reached.

Of course I was in the middle of it all. I said that, indeed, volunteers already DO contribute to for-profit organizations. I talked about volunteers in for-profit hospitals and for-profit hospices. I talked about volunteers at a recent Triumph motorcycle event I had attended. I talked about how these companies didn’t involve volunteers to save money; they involved volunteers because volunteers were the best people for the jobs. I also brought up that at least 90% of the content on Facebook was generated for free by users, meaning that we were all volunteering online for a for-profit company.

A year after I was bringing this up in workshops and online, The New York Times has thought of it as well, publishing a commentary, At Media Companies, a Nation of Serfs, which laments:

the growing perception that content is a commodity, and one that can be had for the price of zero… Old-line media companies that are not only forced to compete with the currency and sexiness of social media, but also burdened by a cost structure for professionally produced content, are left at a profound disadvantage.

Journalists aren’t happy. “The technology of a lot of these sites is very seductive, and it lulls you into contributing,” said Anthony De Rosa, a product manager at Reuters, in the article. “We are being played for suckers to feed the beast, to create content that ends up creating value for others.”

This isn’t the first time this concern has been vented, and that a backlash has been built against an online media company by users providing its content — remember America Online? Several of its users sued over ownership of the content they had created for AOL, content they weren’t paid for. Note this from the article Disgruntled users called it a Cyber Sweat Shop from a few years ago:

Call them volunteers, remote staff, or community leaders – they are the human face of AOL. They host chats, clean scatological posts off the message boards, and bust jerks for terms-of-service violations. Fourteen thousand volunteer CLs not only play hall monitor to AOL’s vaunted “community,” they are that community. Their hours? Flexible: Some work as few as four per week, others put in as many as 60… Six months ago seven former AOL community leaders asked the Department of Labor to investigate whether AOL owes them back wages.

A disgruntled AOL community leader started making noise about his unfair treatment as far back as 1995. Here we are, 16 years later, having a very similar conversation about the Internet. Is there another backlash coming?

Volunteers don’t necessarily save money, even online volunteers: Wikimedia’s content is created and managed primarily by volunteers, yet Wikimedia still needs to fundraise every year to cover the many costs that come with involving several thousand online volunteers. And look at the quality of Wikimedia content – if I can’t find a fact in an academic article or newspaper article, I won’t quote it in something I’m working on, and many people feel similarly; without professional editors, the information there cannot be fully trusted.

I certainly have my own limits regarding when I think it’s appropriate to ask someone to work for free, and when I think such goes too far. I am on numerous online discussion groups, and I freely share a lot of resources – and it takes several hours of my time to do so. I admit I’m not doing it just to be nice; I’m also hoping that it could lead to paid work. I’m happy to share my time for free only up to a point, however: at least once a week, I have to turn down at least one request asking me to review a business plan, offer advice on a web site, etc. – for free. Unfortunately, the utilities company, DirectTV, my car insurance company, grocery stores, gas stations, my Internet Service Provider, and others that charge me for products and services do not accept volunteer time helping nonprofit organizations or aspiring entrepreneurs as payment.

I used to freely provide answers on the community service section of YahooAnswers, where the same questions about volunteering, community service and fund raising events get asked over and over again. At first it was to learn more about teen perceptions about volunteering, but it dawned on me finally that I was adding tremendous value to this Yahoo service, without being paid for it. So I created a series of web pages on my own site to answer these frequently-asked questions, and started pointing questioners to these pages; if visitors click on the GoogleAds on the page, I get a few pennies. In less than a year, I’ve raised enough money to pay for my web site hosting and my domain name ownership. Without this financial incentive, I’m not sure I would continue answering questions on YahooAnswers.

I also have seen a different trend emerging: more and more sites that pay people for their time to contribute to projects, instead of asking them to volunteer it: CrowdSpring, Yahoo’s Associated Content service,,, and similar sites pay people for the content they create. If the companies using these services could get the quality content they need for free, they would NOT be paying for it. Will other sites now getting their content for free, like YahooAnswers, eventually have to follow suit in order to get the quality content more and more users are demanding?

I’ll end with this: the hilarious Should I Work For Free chart that was brought to my attention during my presentation in Hungary last month.

What it is like to be a consultant

A frequently-asked question to me is, “What is it like to be a consultant? How can I be one?”

I’ve offered what advice I can, like about how to telecommute/work from home and how to pursue a career in humanitarian activities, but today, I’ll share a Friday funny that shows what it’s often like from a financial standpoint to be a consultant (thanks to Martin Cowling for the heads up):