Tag Archives: blogging

My most popular blogs of 2017

logoEach year, I review which of my blogs have attracted the most traffic. Sometimes, a spike in traffic is because several people tweeted about the blog, or shared it on their own blog. Sometimes, I just have no idea why a blog starts seeing a lot of traffic. I also look at blogs that didn’t go anywhere, that have been seen by just one or two people – that does happen, and I need to figure out why.

I draw my material from my consulting work, from updating the Virtual Volunteering Wiki, from conversations with colleagues, from my own volunteering – even from things I’ve seen on TV or overhead somewhere. I never know what’s going to be popular. I’m frequently surprised what attracts so many readers – and what never catches on.

This list of my most viewed blogs probably isn’t of interest to anyone except me… but it’s something I like to do every year, to look for trends.

My top 20 most viewed blogs that I published in 2017:

I won’t help you recruit a receptionist/volunteer coordinator

Welcoming immigrants as volunteers at your organization

The harm of orphanage voluntourism (& wildlife voluntourism as well)

Anti-volunteerism campaigns

for volunteers: how to complain

Treat volunteers like employees? Great idea, awful idea

Mike Bright, Microvolunteering’s #1 Fan, Has Passed Away

Sympathy for one group – but not the other?

A plea to USA nonprofits for the next four years (& beyond):

Want to work internationally? Get involved locally.

J.K. Rowling speaks out against orphan tourism

Why Girls Want to Join the Boy Scouts

Creating a Speak-up Culture in the Workplace

When mission statements, ideologies & human rights collide

Volunteering, by itself, isn’t enough to save the world

What effective short-term international volunteering looks like

Resources re: labor laws and volunteering

Short-term deployments with Peace Corps & UNV

Medical Voluntourism Can Cause Serious Harm

Measuring social media success? You’re probably doing it wrong

If humans can do it, so can volunteers (who are, BTW, also humans)

That said… these weren’t my most visited blogs in 2017 – 17 of my 20 most read blogs in 2017 are from previous years, five of them having to do companies that sell letters saying someone has done community service for the courts and also claiming that the service is virtual volunteering (it’s not).

Also see:

My top blogs of 2016

My top blogs of 2014 (didn’t track it for 2015)

Marketing staff: either help promote volunteer engagement or GET OUT OF THE WAY

logoMy blog today is actually for public relations and marketing staff at nonprofits, rather than those managers of volunteer programs. And my message is this: either help promote your organization’s volunteer engagement OR GET OUT OF THE WAY.

I talk to people managing their organization’s volunteer engagement activities – recruiting volunteers, supporting those volunteers, creating the majority of opportunities for those volunteers, helping other staff engage with those volunteers in their work, etc. – and among the many complaints I hear about challenges to their success is this one: the public relations and marketing staff won’t support me.

Those leading volunteer engagement at your organization need a variety of support from marketing and public relations staff:

  • in using the organization’s Facebook page, blog, web site and other online activities to recruit volunteers and tout the accomplishments of such
  • in reaching out to the media about what volunteers are doing
  • in connecting media to those working with volunteers at the organization when the media says they want to do a story about volunteerism
  • in understanding when volunteers are doing something particularly special or innovative, or staff working with such are, such that it would be worthy of external attention (or internal attention, for that matter)
  • in including information about the organization’s volunteer engagement in all traditional publications, including paper newsletters and annual reports
  • in talking about volunteer engagement as more than just the monetary value of volunteer hours

Yet, I hear from staff again and again that the outreach staff won’t create a link on the home page to information on volunteering (though they will regarding donating money, no problem!), that they won’t include any volunteer-related messages on Facebook, that they won’t use any photos from a recent volunteer engagement event in outreach materials, and that they will include information about volunteerism in the annual report only regarding the monetary value of the volunteer time given.

Public relations and marketing staff: if you are not going to create a detailed strategy for supporting your organization’s engagement of volunteers through all of your various outreach methods, then let the manager of that engagement do it him or herself, and stay out of the way as they execute that strategy. If you aren’t going to include information about volunteer recruitment and accomplishment in social media channels as often as you do about fundraising campaigns, then say nothing as staff in charge of managing volunteers at your organization create their own blogs, web sites, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and Instagram or Flickr accounts to share the information they want out.

What would be FAR better than forcing managers of volunteers to do marketing and public relations on their own? If you, public relations and marketing staff, sat down with the staff that work with volunteers at your organization and said, “How can I support you? Tell me what you’re doing. Let’s meet once a month and talk about it.” What you might find is that, instead of additional work, you get much-needed information to raise your organization’s profile online and in the media. Maybe volunteers are taking amazing photos of your organization’s work that you could use in a variety of ways. Perhaps there is a really marvelous story waiting for you to discover: maybe your organization is engaging in virtual volunteering in some really innovative ways, or is involving someone as an online volunteer who could never do so onsite. Maybe some hot current trend, like micro volunteering, is happening at your organization but you don’t even know it. Maybe volunteer engagement has helped your organization engage with communities or demographics you never would have reached otherwise. An organization that involves volunteers can be seen as more transparent and open to the community than one that doesn’t – are you leveraging that image properly in your outreach work?

No more excuses, public relations and marketing staff: support your staff that recruit and engage with volunteers – or get out of the way and let them do their own publicity themselves.

This message brought to you by: Grumpy Jayne

It’s official: my new blog home

It’s official: this is my new home for my blog. Welcome!

Supposedly, posterous.com will be sending me all of my blog posts in a format such that they can be uploaded here at my new blog home. Time will tell… the blog is not pretty, because I’m still trying to figure out how to edit the template, and I am NOT a web designer.

So, to recap: when I got word in February 2013 that posterous.com is shutting down, I needed a new blog host STAT. The posterous announcement was really horrible news, because it meant I would have to change my blog home for a second time: I used forumer.com for years as my blog host, because it was simple and blogs on the site could be read by people using older operating systems. I was satisfied until my last year on the site, when customer service became non-existent and the site became wretchedly slow. So I switched to posterous.com, on the recommendation of a friend, and when Twitter bought the site, I thought, great, that ensures it’s not going anywhere! I was wrong… I have really loved being on Posterous – I still quite upset that it’s going away.

I loathe blogger.com / blogspot.com – I have a couple of personal blogs there, and I find these platforms extremely hard to use and inflexible in terms of design. I also hate how you have to have the very latest everything (operating system, browser versions, etc.) to access blogs on these sites.

I’m not a techie; I know basic .html, that’s it.

So I asked for recommendations on my Facebook page, my Twitter account and, of course, my posterous blog. It came down to a choice between Tumblr and WordPress. After some research, I went with WordPress because my blog can be hosted on my web site – my wonderful web host, HostGator, makes that unbelievably easy to do!

So, here’s my blogs new home – right on my own web site.

And, again, I second what this blog notes about blogs themselves: Businesses should always invest in a comprehensive website, and then use whatever social networks and other services they can find that will help promote the business and engage other people. Do not depend on any single network, and definitely don’t leave your unique content on someone else’s platform.

Thanks to everyone who offered suggestions! If any of you, as a volunteer, can help me to edit my blog template, give me a shout (I’ll be happy to edit your résumé or cover letter for you, or otherwise offer some pro bono consulting for you in return).

To know when this blog is updated:

Follow me on Twitter: @jcravens42 follow me on Twitter

Like me on Facebook like me on Facebook

Add me to a circle on GooglePlus add me to a GooglePlus circle

Follow my blog via RSS RSS Feed

Why I won’t follow you on Twitter

A few organizations and individuals have told me they aren’t happy that I don’t follow them on Twitter and Facebook and Google+, and, in addition, that I don’t also subscribe to their email newsletters and subscribe to their blogs.

Here’s the deal: you have to earn my follow on Twitter.

I follow you on Twitter if most of your posts are:

  • conversation starters
  • provocative (make me think)
  • elicit feedback
  • directly, immediately relate to my work

If, by contrast, I really like your organization, but your tweets are mostly positive, benign PR pieces like

  • “We have a new catalog”
  • “Our volunteers are hugable”
  • “Our Executive Director is at such-and-such conference”
  • “Our shop hours are changing for winter”

I’m probably going to follow you on Facebook rather than Twitter (if at all).

In addition, if you post to Facebook and you gateway those posts to Twitter, I’m probably going to just follow you on Facebook as well, and not at all on Twitter, because it’s doubtful your message is something I need to read ASAP, and it’s probably too long for Twitter anyway (I really hate truncated Tweats that end with a link to a Facebook status).

I check Twitter at least twice a day. To me, it’s a place for information exchange and debate, and for breaking news, for you need to look at this NOW messages. I’ve noticed that organizations, institutions and consultants that use Twitter with this in mind aren’t surprised when they get comments or questions via Twitter – they even seem to delight at such. By contrast, organizations that use it primarily as an announcement tool get immediately defensive when someone tries to engage them on Twitter – and it’s why I prefer to follow those organizations on Facebook.

Same if most of your posts are “I’m at the airport” or “I’m at such-and-such conference.” It’s nice to know that, but it’s not that much of a priority, so I’ll follow you on Facebook instead.

I check my professional account on Facebook about once a day. I scroll through the updates to get a general idea of what organizations are up to. Not much in term of exchanges or debates are going on over on Facebook among the organizations and institutions I follow – it’s more of a “hey, look how fabulous we are” or “hey, we need money!” place. That’s a shame – it could be so much more – but that’s how it’s shaking down among the organizations I follow on Facebook (and GooglePlus, for that matter). So I pour myself a second cup of coffee and slog through your Facebook status updates, rarely finding anything that makes me go “Wow.” Exceptions? There are a few – and I’ll highlight those on next week’s blogs.

And I may choose to read your email newsletter instead of following you on Facebook or Google Plus or Twitter. Don’t be hurt. I like email newsletters. I like that long moment of single focus and well-written narrative that gives me a more detailed picture about your work than any Tweet or Facebook status update could allow. I do my best to make time to read all that I subscribe to. And as I still have more subscribers for my own email newsletter, Tech4Impact than Twitter or Facebook followers, I appreciate the value of email newsletters.

So, how should you follow me online?

  • Follow me on Twitter if you want lots of short updates from me regarding nonprofits / NGOs, volunteers / volunteering, humanitarian / development / aid, communications, tech4good, and empowering women & girls (updates regarding national and state parks, and tourism as a development tool, are also showing up as well). Or if you want to engage, today, right now, about any of those topics, in a very public way.
  • Follow me on  Facebook or Google+ if you want just 1-3 short updates from me a day, mostly only about what I’m doing: a new web page, a new blog, a conference where I’ll be speaking, etc. And, FYI, there’s nothing I post at Facebook or Google+ that I don’t also post on Twitter; I repeat probably only 25% of what I post to Twitter on Facebook and Google+. And, yes, I post exactly the same things to Facebook and Google+ – I’ve yet to see any reason to use them differently.
  • Subscribe to my email newsletter if you want to hear from me just once a month, or you want a once-a-month tech tip, in detail, especially for nonprofits, then subscribe to Tech4Impact. You will also get a list of all the blogs I’ve published in the last four weeks or so. I get the impression that each of my email subscribers also follow me on Facebook OR Google+ OR Twitter, but not all three.

That’s not how everyone uses social networking. But that’s how I’ve decided to use it. And it could change. In fact, it’s guaranteed that it WILL change, as social media changes.

I would never expect anyone to follow me on on Twitter and Facebook and Google+, and to subscribe to my email newsletter. Unless you were some freaky stalker. Please don’t be a freaky stalker. You probably don’t need to hear about a web page I’ve just updated four times in one morning.

What about LinkedIn? Those connections are for my professional colleagues, PERIOD. Keeping it as a professional networking space has what kept it so valuable to me.

Also see:


Please comment on these blogs by Afghan women

The Afghan Women’s Writing Project presents short essays, in English, by Afghan women in Afghanistan. They write about their lives, their favorite recipes, their favorite moments, their dreams, their fears, their families — anything, really. The project, a nonprofit, is aimed at allowing Afghan women to have a direct voice in the world, not filtered through male relatives or members of the media. Online volunteers in the USA help the women produce their blogs.

Many of these Afghan women have to make extreme efforts to gain computer access in order to submit their writings to the project. Many have to keep their participation secret because of disapproval from their family and neighbors — and that disapproval could turn violent if they were found out. But the women are willing to risk quite a lot to participate in this program. Giving a voice to their experience — an experience you rarely see in traditional media stories or in any commentary by government officials or international military officials — makes their voice heard, makes us all a witness to their experience. And the women feel heard. It is incredibly empowering to be heard.

I have an Afghan friend who is writing essays for this project, and I hope you will read any or all of her six short blogs. Even better, I hope you will comment on any of her blogs — or comment on any of the blogs written by any these women. Comments mean so much to these writers.

To help the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, you can volunteer online or you can donate to help pay the rent for the project’s office in Kabul (I know first hand how crazy expensive rents are in Kabul) and pay for the center’s Internet access ($300 a month!).