Category Archives: Uncategorized

Share! Spout! Debate! Discuss!

You’re work or volunteer at nonprofit or an NGO or a government agency – some sort of mission-based organization. Or you want to.

Therefore, you have things to say, or ask, about the Internet, or computers, or smart phones, or any tech that plugs into those. YES, YOU DO!

There are some terrific threads on TechSoup awaiting your comments and questions, like:

GooglePlus – forcing users to use it?

UNV campaign: #actioncounts

Scheduling Volunteers for Therapeutic Riding Center

Library computer system needed for equipment reservations and checkout

Bohemian broadband & fossmaker culture

small nonprofit seeks affordable, reliable automated reminder call service

How to start a computer distribution program for low-income/needy people

Will Facebook kill your web-based online community?

Writing for the web

Which apps would people like?

what video conferencing tools have you really used.

Or start your own thread! You have things to say, to discuss, to share, to whine about when it comes to how you use the Internet, or computers, or smart phones, or any tech that plugs into those. YES, YOU DO!

You can also:

View the TechSoup community by subject matter/branch

View the TechSoup community by latest post


So many young people

Youth bulge: Almost 40 percent of the global population is under 24; over one billion people – one in five people – are aged 15-24; in one third of the world’s countries, more than 60 percent of the population is under 30; and 85 percent of the world’s youth live in the developing world. “Youth are a dominant demographic reality… a reality that demands urgent focus and consideration, especially in our development plans,” William Lacy Swing, director-general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), told the conference.

“Without investments early on, youth remain trapped in situations of poverty and dependency, and are easily co-opted into criminality, social conflict, and patterns of inter-generational violence.”

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Participants also stressed the need to better engage youth in humanitarian aid. “People under-estimate the capacity of youth,” said Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, wife of the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and a UN Messenger of Peace. “How is it that we give them so little role in setting the global development agenda or helping find new routes to ending political conflicts that deplete our energy and resources?”

Nonprofits & NGOs: Get to Know a University

Nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs):

Do you know what community colleges, public universities and private universities are nearest your agency, geographically? And do any of the degrees or classes they offer relate to the mission of your organization in any way?

For instance,

  • If your organization provides counseling, have you investigated to see if the nearest college or university has a graduate degree program in psychology?
  • If your organization assists victims of domestic violence, have you investigated to see if the nearest college or university has a degree program in social work?
  • If you are focused on the environment in any way, have you investigated if the college or university offers any environment resource management-related courses?
  • If you work with people trying to start micro-enterprises, have you investigated to see if the college or university nearest you offers business management classes, or even an MBA?

Here’s why your organization needs to be able to answer these questions:

  • Your nonprofit or NGO has the real-world environment that college and university faculty and graduate students need for academic research and practical experience.
  • Higher ed institutions have the skills and knowledge your organization may need as well as probono consultants or researchers or on-loan staff.
  • Faculty at colleges and universities get contacted by the media, and if the story is going to be something related to your organization’s mission, they will refer those reporters to you as well.
  • Faculty may hear of funding opportunities that might be appropriate for your organization. 
  • Faculty may find themselves in a conversation with public officials or business leaders where they could recommend your organization’s work.

How can nonprofits and NGOs network with university faculty and get on their radar for potential partnerships?

  • Look at course offerings of college and universities, and identify the faculty teaching courses that relate to your organization’s work. Build a database of people you want to contact; phone numbers and email addresses for most of these folks will be easy to find online, either on the college or university’s web site or through a Google or Bing search.
  • Look to see if faculty with which you want to connect has a Twitter feed and, if so, and it’s regarding their work, follow such. Same for a Facebook profile or a GooglePlus profile. Get to know more about their work through their updates. If the person posts something that relates to your work, reply to a post.
  • Read something by that faculty member in an academic journal (you can get access to this through your local library) or other publication.
  • Add appropriate faculty to your press release distribution list.
  • Invite the faculty you have identified to your open houses and public events. Send a personalized invitation, noting exactly why you are inviting this person to such. 
  • Invite the faculty you have identified to a meeting at your organization set up just for that person, or even to lunch. Let them know about your organization’s in-house expertise. If you already have partnership ideas, propose them. If you don’t, talk about what the faculty member’s courses and research have in common with your organization, and say that you would love to collaborate in some way but you aren’t entirely sure how.

It’s an ongoing cultivation process. You are building relationships, and that won’t come from just an email, a phone call or meeting face-to-face once. Colleges and universities are a HUGE resource right in your backyard – not just as one-day student volunteers, but as potential program and funding partners. Don’t wait for them to find you – seek THEM out!

Look what partnerships with universities can lead to:

Western Kentucky University Entrepreneurship students working to revitalize downtown businesses

I need your email address

I cringe when people say I’m a techie. Because I’m not I’m technically-savvy. I know how to use technology for outreach, absolutely, and I’m proud of that ability, but if I get an error message in using software, I’m stuck. Screen projectors regularly stump me – they plug in well to my Mac, usually, but I can never get them to work on IBM Clone PCs.

It’s like saying I’m a motorcycle mechanic because I have ridden more than 12,000 miles on motorcycles. I take those machines many amazing places – but I couldn’t even change a tire on one.

I say this because, in trying to upgrade my operating system on my MacBook, I annihilated my hard drive. And while I back up regularly, I apparently did something wrong two years ago, because it turns out that none of my email from the last two years backed up (I changed my email client two years ago).

All my files, documents, presentations, photos, etc. are safe (whew!), but all of my email from 2010, 2011 and the start of 2012, is gone. That includes my email address book.

So if you emailed me recently, or even in the last six months, and are wondering why I haven’t emailed you back – that’s what’s up. Please email again. If this message is for you, then know my email address – I won’t post it here, so I can keep it away from bots. Otherwise, try this web page (be sure to remove OINKMOO from the address).

I’ve tweeted this, I’ve posted it to my Facebook page, but word isn’t reaching everyone – so here it is, blogged.

And let this be a lesson to you aspiring independent consultants out there: you really are on your own when it comes to IT.

What I wish I’d known two years ago: where my email client (Thunderbird) puts my email on my hard drive (yes, I have some email on the cloud, but I need to access email even when I do NOT have Internet access!).

(there was a guy from MercyCorps who lives in the Portland, Oregon area that I have been trying to get together with for many weeks – if you are out there, PLEASE email me! I can’t remember your name!)

Same thoughts as last year re International Women’s Day

Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Last year, I blogged about the history of the day, as well as why this day isn’t a day to give women flowers or take them to lunch – but, rather, to remember that women are denied access to education, health care, income generation and life choices at a staggering rate compared to men. I have the same thoughts this year.

survey re: volunteer management software

Rob Jackson, an independent consultant based in the UK ( and Jayne Cravens, an independent consultant in the USA ( — ME — have put together an online survey to gather data about what software/systems are being used to track and manage volunteers, and how satisfied various organizations are with the software/systems they are using.

The goal is to gather data that might help organizations that involve volunteers to make better-informed decisions when choosing software, and to help software designers to understand the needs of those organizations.

All of the data submitted as a part of this survey will be made public WITH THE EXCEPTION of email addresses and identifying information of respondents; in other words, the identity of respondents will be kept confidential.

If you are responsible for tracking information about volunteers at an organization or program, or you are involved in this task in some way, we welcome your completion of this survey. More than one person from an organization or program may complete this survey. Feel free to forward this message to others.

This survey takes approximately 20 minutes to complete.

The deadline for responses is Friday, March 23.

To know when the survey results are available:

Follow Rob on Twitter at @robjconsulting

Follow Jayne on Twitter at @jcravens42

Follow Rob on Facebook

Follow Jayne on Facebook

Subscribe to Rob’s newsletter

Subscribe to Jayne’s Tech4Impact newsletter

Add Jayne to a circle on Google+

Subscribe to Rob’s blog

Subscribe to Jayne’s blog – he RSS feed for this blog is

I’m a volunteer & you should just be GRATEFUL I’m here!

On a LinkedIn group, someone asked for a resource to help with volunteer evaluations (forms, policies, etc.). A couple of folks, myself included, responded with some references/resources.

And then came these two comments:

    Volunteers generally do not expect to be evaluated, after all, they are doing the organization a favor.

    As someone who has volunteered in over 30 organizations in a large array of positions, some with intense responsibility, if I had to be vetted each time I volunteered, I would never do any of it. In fact, if I had been appraised, they probably would have disqualified me in the first place when in actuality, I did better than some of their paid and “experienced” staff. It is not worth my time to go through that nonsense, I am a volunteer for goodness sakes. Whenever someone imposes requirements, I just walk away. I have sat on advisory boards of non-profit organizations, as well, and have been entrusted with finances, operations, etc., if they had said you will have to go through some job interview hoops, I would have just laughed and also kept my wallet closed to any further contributions.

Volunteer managers have been working to raise the standards of volunteer involvement schemes for a few decades now, often with success. Yet, there are still oh-so-many entitlement volunteers, those folks who think organizations should take ANY volunteer and whatever that volunteer offers, and simply be grateful for what they get. No standards, no quality control, no performance measurements when it comes to volunteers. To demand quality from volunteers is insulting.

For me, as a volunteer management practitioner and someone who is committed to the success of nonprofit organizations and NGOs, I’m only to happy to show those people the door. I don’t need nor want their services as a volunteer. My organization — and those it serves — deserve better.

Nonprofit organizations are businesses. They aren’t there to be nice, they are there because they are necessary. A nonprofit has a mission — to house stray animals and reduce pet over-population, to present quality, professional theater performances, to educate people about HIV/AIDS, to provide care for victims of domestic violence, to keep a local environment clean, to help family farms survive even the worst economic times, to keep a state park clean and vibrant and accessible, and on and on. For a nonprofit, that mission trumps everything else — including the egos of entitlement volunteers. Nonprofit organizations have very limited resources to meet their mission, and they cannot waste those resources waiting and hoping entitlement volunteers maybe possibly might spare some time this week to staff the information booth at the local fair or come to the board meeting or counsel clients or attend a training or coach a youth soccer team or lead a childcare class or raise the money they have committed to raise or follow the rules.

Let’s say it again: volunteers are not free. An organization has to expend a lot of time and resources to involve volunteers. Organizations have to provide at least one staff member to supervise volunteer work and ensure volunteers don’t do any harm. Staff has to develop activities for volunteers to do — activities that often would be probably be cheaper and done more quickly by staff themselves. The organization has to monitor the volunteers and record their progress to the board and donors. And they must make sure the work volunteers undertake is of the quality and type the organization’s clients deserve.

Therefore, organizations want the people who volunteer to be worth all that investment of time and money. They want volunteers to take their commitment seriously, finish what they’ve started, and continue to support the organization, as volunteers and, maybe, as donors. They don’t want volunteers who aren’t going to show up, who do substandard work, who won’t be on time, who won’t follow policies and procedures, and who will reduce the trust and respect clients, donors and partner organizations have for the organization — those volunteers not only aren’t worth the effort, they aren’t worth the damage they may do.

When I am in charge of recruiting and screening volunteers, I have raised the bar high for applications – and the higher I have raised the bar for new volunteers, the more strict I’ve been regarding standards, the more hoops I’ve required volunteers to jump through with regard to reporting and work quality:

  • the less volunteer recruiting I have to do
  • the fewer conflicts among and with volunteers I’ve had to deal with
  • the fewer volunteers that drop out mid-assignment
  • the fewer volunteers I’ve had to let go (in fact, I’ve had to fire a volunteer just once)
  • the higher the quality of the volunteers contributions
  • the happier volunteers have been (based on their comments and how long they volunteer)
  • the less time I spend trying to put together reports showing volunteer effectiveness (because they provide the information automatically; I always have the information on hand, ready when needed)
  • the less time I have to spend trying to restore the faith of clients, staff and the general public in the work of the organization, and in volunteers in general, because of volunteer missteps

Nonprofit staff should never be afraid to say no to an offer of volunteer services. They should remember that their organizations and those they serve deserve the very best when it comes to services, including services provided by volunteers. And there are plenty of people out there ready to jump through your hoops and commit to quality volunteer service — and have their own service evaluated.

A version of this blog appeared 11 August 2010

Also see:

Corporate Volunteer Programs: What Do Nonprofits Want From Them?

In defense of skills over passion

No more warm, fuzzy language to talk about volunteers!

Corporate Volunteer Programs: What Do Nonprofits Want From Them?

A blog today lists what corporations want from nonprofits, schools and other mission-based organizations for employee volunteering. It’s called Corporate Volunteer Programs: What Do They Want From Nonprofits?

Yes, yes, nonprofits, schools and others know what you want, corporations. The corporate world has written endless presentations and blogs about it. You remind us of it during your lectures at conferences on corporate – nonprofit “partnerships.”

But here’s a thought: how about considering what nonprofits, schools and other mission-based initiatives want from corporate volunteer programs?

(1)   Respect the expertise at the organization where you want to volunteer

Teachers are not teaching because they couldn’t make it in the corporate world, and just because you are a marketing director at a Fortune 500 company does NOT you can do their job for a day. The same for all the other people working at nonprofits and other mission-based organizations: many have experience, training and certifications you do not have. Respect their professional training and experience. Don’t imply that you could step into their roles for an hour or two – just as you know they couldn’t step into your role at your company.

(2)   Volunteering is not free.

It takes a tremendous amount of resources to design volunteering experiences that will give you the things you want, as detailed in this blog, like encouraging greater teamwork amongst employees, or enhancing skills development for your staff “resulting in deeper job satisfaction and retention.”

Are you ready to pay for the time of staff at these nonprofits, schools and other organizations to develop these volunteering opportunities for you, not to mention the time they need to supervise and support your employees? Are you ready to say to nonprofits or schools, “Tell me how much staff time will be required to create these opportunities, including staff time for meeting with us and supporting us as we do these activities, and we will pay for that time”?

(3)   Nonprofits & Schools Needs > Corproate Volunteering Needs

A mission-based organization is driven by its mission, and that may mean saying no to your offer of volunteering, no matter how “skills-based” you want the volunteering to be. Your fantastic idea for a one-day volunteering event for your employees which will make your staff feel all the things you want might not fit into the schedule or priorities of the organization. Your marketing team’s stellar idea on a new online community may not fit the organization’s critical organizational needs – or may be beyond the time or capabilities of staff to manage when your corporate volunteers move on to something else. Respect that.

A good starting point for developing your corporate volunteering partnership is to sit down with the nonprofit, the school or other organization you want to help and ask, “What do you need? What are your biggest challenges? What does success look like at this organization?”

And then listen. Not just for one afternoon – listen for days and weeks. Go to the events and activities the organizations already undertakes, and sit in on their staff meetings, and just listen. When offering your volunteers, frame the offer on what the organization needs, not on what it is your corporation wants to do. And work together to develop what success will look like for the organization as a result of your volunteering, and how the organization can communicate best to you when things aren’t working.

Here’s a radical idea: why not treat the nonprofit or school or other organization as your client?

Also see:

No more warm, fuzzy language to talk about volunteers!

Volunteers are neither saints nor teddy bears.

But you would never know it from the kinds of language so many people use to talk about them.

Back in November 2009, I got a mass email sent out from United Nations Volunteers to several thousand people that illustrates this oh-so-well. It said, in part:

This is the time to recognize the hard work and achievements of volunteers everywhere who work selflessly for the greater good.


And then there are those companies that sell items for organizations to give to their volunteers, with phrases like:

Volunteers spread sunshine!

Volunteers… hearts in bloom!

In a word – yuck.

Not all volunteers are selfless! Yes, I fully acknowledge that there are still some volunteers that like to be thanked with pink balloons and fuzzy words – but could we at least acknowledge that there are many thousands of volunteers who do not respond to this way of being recognized?

Volunteers are not all donating unpaid service to be nice, or to make a difference for a greater good of all humanity or to be angels. Volunteers also donate unpaid service:

  • to gain certain kinds of experience
  • for a sense of adventure
  • to gain skills and contacts for paid employment
  • for fun
  • to meet people in the hopes of making friends or even get dates
  • because they are angry and want to see first hand what’s going on at an organization or within a cause, or to contribute to a cause they feel passionate about
  • to feel important
  • to change people’s perceptions about a group (a religious minority in a community may volunteer to demonstrate to the majority that they are a part of the community too, that they care about other people, etc.)

NONE of those reasons to volunteer are selfless. But all of them are excellent reasons to volunteer, nonetheless – and excellent reasons for an organization to involve a volunteer.

These not-so-selfless volunteers are not less committed, less trustworthy or less worth celebrating than the supposed selfless volunteers.

Let’s quit talking about volunteers with words like nice and selfless.  Let’s drop the fuzzy language and start using more modern and appropriate language to talk about volunteers that recognizes their importance, like


Let’s even call them mettlesome and confrontational and demanding. That’s what makes volunteers necessary, not just nice.

In short, let’s give volunteers their due with the words we use to describe them.

And don’t even try to say volunteers save money, because that starts yet another blog rant…

Can Komen recover?

No matter how you feel about abortion services or Planned Parenthood, you have to agree that the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation handled its decision-making and communications regarding its defunding of Planned Parenthood very, very poorly:

  • They did not discuss the decision with their affiliates, let alone involve those affiliates in the decision. Some of the affiliates (Oregon and Connecticut, and perhaps more) even issued press releases after the Komen headquarters announcement asking for their HQ to reconsider. When your organization’s own affiliates are asking PUBLICLY for you to reconsider a decision, you have made a grave error.
  • They gave contradictory statements about why they were defunding Planned Parenthood. Sometimes they said it was because of a new policy not to fund any organization under investigation by state or federal authorities – yet they had no plans to discontinue funding for Penn State! They said the decision wasn’t political, nor because they had hired a dedicated, outspoken advocate against the right to abortion services – Karen Handel – who retweeted this on her Twitter account, contradicting Komen’s statements about this NOT being a political decision:


The original image from Lisa McIntire

Today, Komen somewhat reversed its decision regarding Planned Parenthood, but left the door open to stop funding the organization after the current funding cycle. It has not gone unnoticed that Komen has also stopped funding stem cell research. It has also has not gone unnoticed that Karen Handel is still a senior vice president at the Komen foundation.

This PR nightmare is not over for the Komen foundation. Can the foundation rebuild trust with the thousands of women who are saying they will never support the organization again? Can it successfully make this switch in its work, avoiding any organization that garners criticisms from far-right religious advocates, and therefore be the target of women’s rights advocates?

How should have Komen handled both this decision and the communications of such? Or is there any way for them to have done this without suffering such massive fallout with so many (now) former supporters? Share in the comments section here.

Also see: How to Handle Online Criticism.