Tag Archives: crowdsourcing

Wikipedia needs improvement re: volunteerism-related topics

wikipediaI’ve been updating Wikipedia again. I do that from time-to-time. This time, specifically, I’ve been updating information regarding days, weeks and months that have been designated for volunteers or about volunteerism by a major organization, a country or the United Nations, as well as updating information about organizations and associations for those that manage volunteers. You can see all my updates on Wikipedia, ever, here.

It’s unfortunate that there is no program or organization – not one – that sees what I’m doing on my own, when I have time, as an independent, lonely volunteer, as part of its own mission. The result of this lack of an official champion to mobilize contributors is that Wikipedia is severely lacking in accurate information related to volunteerism, and the volunteerism field is losing a lot of its history. For instance, many major events related to volunteerism aren’t mentioned on Wikipedia or are barely mentioned, like the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, a major event in 1997 in Philadelphia headed by then President Bill Clinton and former President George H. Bush.

But I’m getting tired. Cleaning up Wikipedia and making it an accurate, content-rich resource regarding volunteerism should be a group effort – it shouldn’t just be me. Because I don’t have time and I don’t have all the knowledge! And it shouldn’t be ad hoc, because what’s happening is that people are going on to Wikipedia and changing content on pages related on volunteerism based on how they feel, not based on facts and cited sources, and they know that no one is going to find their edits, because no one is really watching.

There should be an official edit-a-thon to make Wikipedia an accurate, content-rich resource regarding volunteerism. And I just do not have the resources, on my own, to organize an edit-a-thon. I would love to be a part of such an effort – and with funding, I would be happy to organize it, to ensure a range of people and organizations are involved. An edit-a-thon would get a lot of pages created, updated, and linked together, as appropriate, in a two days. It would be a concentration of forces to get the bulk of the work done quickly. It would help people after the hack-a-thon keep contributing accurate, appropriate information. It would create benefits long after the edit-a-thon ended.

Oh, well… in the meantime, hbelow is what I’ve outlined as needing to be done on Wikipedia regarding volunteerism, in case anyone out there wants to help.

Pages that need to be created on Wikipedia:

Pages related to volunteering that need updating, preferable from people intensely familiar with the organizations that are in charge of them (I created some of these pages, FYI, hence why they lack full info – much of what I wrote I had to track down on old web sites on archive.org because the associated web sites aren’t up-to-date for 2016):

Aug. 3, 2016 update: There is now an International Year of Volunteers – there is a Wikipedia page for IVY+10, and I’ve put on its “talk” page that it should be deleted, and remain a subsection of this main IYV page. I also note this on the IYV talk page. The IYV page needs much more information about national conferences that were held, publications that were made, and big events and activities that were organized in conjunction with IYV all over the world. It’s going to be a challenge, because all IYV web sites are long gone; if you remember the URL for an IYV-related initiative, you can type it into archive.org and review the old information. But do NOT cut and paste information from those sources onto the IYV page! You have to rewrite things and cite every source for every sentence or paragraph! Otherwise, the page will get deleted. end of update

The entry for EU Aid Volunteers is a subsection on the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations page. It should have its own page!

Pages that I consider a hot mess and in dire need of content improvement:

Three pages that I’m not allowed to update anymore because other Wikipedia volunteers feel that my expertise gives me too much of a bias (oh, yeah, you read that right), but really need a cleanup:

There are Wikipedia pages regarding human resources management, but nothing on that page regarding how the management of volunteers is different, and there’s no page on the management of volunteers. There’s a page on virtual management but, again, no page on the management of volunteers. What I’m trying to say is that there needs to be a page about the management of volunteers!

One page that is decent, but needs to be reviewed to make sure it’s up-to-date: list of volunteer awards. Maybe there needs to be one page of days, weeks and years regarding volunteerism, like there is for this page for volunteer awards.

And then all of these pages need to be linked together appropriately, and then be linked to and from other pages I haven’t mentioned here.

And all of that is just a START. My outline above isn’t comprehensive, and it is quite USA-centric. Volunteerism is a global phenomenon, yet you might not suspect such reading the aforementioned pages. And what are the Wikipedia pages like on these subjects in Spanish, German, French, Polish, Russian, and on and on?

Will anyone out there take up the call to host an edit-a-thon? Or will others with expertise in volunteerism join me in trying to improve these pages, without waiting for an edit-a-thon?

(Update July 21, 2016): If you decide to start helping with this effort, some advice:

  • Make sure the page you want to create doesn’t already exist under a different name.
  • Read carefully this official Wikipedia page: Wikipedia is not here to tell the world about your noble cause.
  • Make sure you keep information neutral. Write for an encyclopedia, not a brochure.
  • Use LOTS of citations for what you write, and don’t just use the official web site as your source material.
  • Look at similar pages as a template for the page you want to create or improve. For instance, I used existing pages regarding designated volunteering pages as a template to create new ones. A page on volunteer management should follow the style of the existing pages for human resources management and virtual management.
  • Once you create a page, make sure every Wikipedia page that mentions that organization or phrase links to it. For instance, whoever creates the United We Serve page needs to do a search on United We Serve on Wikipedia and make those phrases on other pages link back to the new page. Also, create links to the page under “See Also” on other pages, as appropriate. If you create a new page and don’t immediately create lots of links to it, it will be deleted.

If you decide to have an edit-a-thon to address these many problems on Wikipedia regarding its lack of accurate, complete information related to volunteering and national service, please carefully read these official Wikipedia guidelines on how to hold such.

Wikipedia has a guideline on conflict of interest that states, “You are discouraged from writing articles about yourself or organizations (including their campaigns, clients, products and services) in which you hold a vested interest.” If you represent the organization being talked about on a Wikipedia page, you are supposed to make any editing suggestions on the article’s talk page, using the template {{Request edit}}; supposedly, this will help draw attention to your request and some Wikipedian somewhere will make the edit. The reality is that this rarely happens, and your edit request may languish forever (mine do on the pages Wikipedia has decided I can’t edit anymore). By all means, use the Talk pages as recommended by Wikipedia, but once you do that, it’s best to mobilize your own volunteers that are familiar with Wikipedia and your organization to actually get these edits done.  Make sure those volunteers have user talk pages that provides full details on who they are, and their entirely volunteer, unpaid status with your organization.

Why Do So Few Women Edit Wikipedia? Insights into virtual volunteering

wikipediaJulia Bear of Stony Brook University’s College of Business and Benjamin Collier of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar published “Where are the Women in Wikipedia? Understanding the Different Psychological Experiences of Men and Women in Wikipedia” in the journal Sex Roles in January 2016.

Those that contribute information and edit Wikipedia, help others on the site, are called Wikipedians, and are online volunteers. So this study relates to virtual volunteering without ever actually saying that phrase.

From the abstract of the paper:

“We proposed that masculine norms for behavior in Wikipedia, which may be further exacerbated by the disinhibiting nature of an online, anonymous environment, lead to different psychological experiences for women and men, which, in turn, explain gender differences in contribution behavior. We hypothesized that, among a sample of individuals who occasionally contribute to Wikipedia, women would report less confidence in their expertise, more discomfort with editing others’ work, and more negative responses to critical feedback compared to men, all of which are crucial aspects of contributing to Wikipedia. We also hypothesized that gender differences in these psychological experiences would explain women’s lower contribution rate compared to men in this sample… Significant gender differences were found in confidence in expertise, discomfort with editing, and response to critical feedback. Women reported less confidence in their expertise, expressed greater discomfort with editing (which typically involves conflict) and reported more negative responses to critical feedback compared to men. Mediation analyses revealed that confidence in expertise and discomfort with editing partially mediated the gender difference in number of articles edited, the standard measure for contribution to Wikipedia. Implications for the gender gap in Wikipedia and in organizations more generally are discussed.”

Their study is summarized in this 02 June 2016 article “Why Do So Few Women Edit Wikipedia?” That article notes that Jimmy Wales, the founder of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the site, said that the organization failed to meet its goal of increasing women’s participation to 25% by 2015, despite launching several initiatives.

This is great information for anyone that works with online volunteers – or wants to. While most reviews of the makeup of online volunteers at organizations, at least in the USA, show more women than men participating, and women providing more hours during their service, Wikipedia attracts far more men in its online volunteer ranks. Your organization might also be unconsciously excluding a particular group of people from participating, and this study can help you think about ways to find that out. Kudos to the Wikimedia Foundation for acknowledging this gender gap problem and wanting to address it.

vvbooklittleInformation about this study of the gender gap among Wikipedians has been added to the Virtual Volunteering Wiki list of research regarding virtual volunteering, the most comprehensive list you will find anywhere of such, with information about virtual volunteering research dating back to 1997 (though most starts in 2000). Wikipedia’s engagement of online volunteers is talked about in The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, available both as a traditional printed book and as a digital book. The book is for anyone that works with volunteers – the marketing manager, the director of client services, and on and on – not just the official manager of volunteers.

February 10, 2017 update: @Wikimujeres_ES: voluntarias de Wikimedia que intenta reducir la brecha de género incorporando nuevas editoras y generando más contenidos relacionados con mujeres (Volunteers from Wikimedia who are trying to reduce the gender gap on the service, by incorporating new female Wikimedia editors and by generating more content related to women). Here is the web site of this volunteer effort. Here’s a nice 09 January 2017 article by the Association for Progressive Communications about their efforts, in English.

Also see:

OCHA guide to crowdfunding: a review

409571-OCHA_TB16_Crowdfunding_for_Emergencies_onlineThe United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has released a briefing called Crowdfunding for Emergencies. Not really a how-to guide, more of a look at how it might work in the very best of circumstances. I’m glad to see a UN agency – OCHA, in particular – talking about crowdfunding – about how individuals can donate financially, directly, to humanitarian efforts – but any talk of crowdfunding needs to come with a reality check. And there’s no reality check in this short report.

So, here’s my reality check regarding crowdfunding for humanitarian crises:

  • Most of the time, a crowdfunding effort does NOT raise lots of money. Most crowdfunding efforts fail to meet the expectations of the initiatives that attempt them. We hear only about the campaigns that are wildly successful – not the many more that aren’t successful at all. Let’s look at just Kickstarter, which is mentioned repeatedly in the report — but without these statistics: less than 41% of approved Kickstarter campaigns get funded — and Kickstarter says another 20% of projects submitted are rejected by the site. Out of the over 72,000 projects funded on Kickstarter since its inception, as of October 2014, only about 1,600 raised more than $100,000.
  • The wildly successful crowdfunding efforts you have heard about – for Haiti, for Nepal – have had a tremendous amount of marketing and media coverage behind them. Vast amounts. People were hearing about the dire circumstances in Nepal on the news, on the radio, on their social media networks, and on and on, for days and days. Most initiatives won’t have that kind of outreach behind their crowdfunding effort.
  • The wildly successful crowdfunding efforts you have heard about have, later, lead to some very bad feelings among donors, who later read stories about the misuse of funds. Crowdfunding might get your initiative lots of money, but if it does, it will also get you lots of scrutiny. Are you ready to handle such? Are you ready to show the impact of the money you raised, in hard facts and figures, on demand?
  • Donor fatigue is real. People get exhausted from seeing images depicting desperate circumstances. They are moved the first time, maybe the second time, but then they feel overwhelmed, emotionally-drained, even under siege. If your crowdfunding effort for a humanitarian crisis happens soon after another humanitarian crisis, it might not matter that you have an excellent outreach campaign and lots of media coverage.

I was glad to see this risk talked about in the publication:

“Financially supporting a few crowdfunded projects at the potential expense of the community-at-large is a substantial risk, as crowdfunding platforms tend to target individuals as compared to agencies.”

Crowdfunding is, absolutely, something humanitarian organizations should be exploring. But keep expectations realistic.

hey, corporations: time to put your money where your mouth is re: nonprofits & innovation

logoI started talking about virtual volunteering – without knowing it was called that – as early as 1994, more than 30 years ago. Soon after I started babbling about it, I directed The Virtual Volunteering Project, based at the University of Texas, back in the late 1990s. Back then, I thought that, by now, well into the 21st century, there would be corporations clamoring to sponsor virtual volunteering activities and events. I could see back in the 1990s that this wasn’t just a fun idea – it was an effective one for nonprofits, NGOs, and volunteers themselves – and that it would become a widespread practice. I just knew corporations would want to be seen as leaders in the movement and, therefore, fund it.

Yet, 30 years later, while thousands of nonprofits all over the world have embraced using the Internet to support and involve volunteers, corporations remain largely silent in their involvement and support. I am frequently contacted by nonprofits and NGOs looking to expand their involvement of online volunteers, or that want to do something particularly interesting or innovative regarding virtual volunteering, but they need funding, and they want to know if I can help. And I can’t. Because corporations clamoring to be a part of virtual volunteering just hasn’t happened.

It’s not true of all corporations: the international telecommunications company Orange seems to get it, to a degree: Fundacja Orange (the Polish branch) partially funds the ground-breaking Discover E-Volunteering competition, the best showcase of new virtual volunteering initiatives on the planet. But, sadly, the UK branch of Orange seems to have already discontinued its Do Some Good smart phone app to help people volunteer through their mobile phone, launched in 2012 – less than three years ago. Hewlett-Packard used to have a pioneering e-mentoring program, bringing together their employees, as mentors, with high school students, and the program is frequently referenced in academic literature 20 years ago about the promise of e-mentoring – but that program is long gone, and I can’t find any association between HP and virtual volunteering anymore. Rolex seemed somewhat interested in microvolunteering, a version of virtual volunteering that engages online volunteers in micro tasks, but that initial interest seems to have quickly, completely waned. Cisco was a key financial and in-kind supporter of NetAid, a part of which became the UN’s Online Volunteering service, but that support ended in 2001.1

You’ve heard it and read it so many times: corporate folks chastising nonprofits and NGOs, saying those mission-based initiatives need to be more innovative, saying they need to embrace the latest network technologies and revolutionary management styles and on and on. Yet these same corporations demanding nonprofit innovation aren’t funding virtual volunteering-related initiatives.

Time to put your money where your mouth is, corporations: there are some terrific virtual volunteering activities out there. There are outstanding innovations happening at nonprofits and NGOs all over the world. You say you want more risk-taking, more innovations, more tech-use by mission-based organizations – okay, they stand ready to do it. All they need is the investment. Are YOU ready to put your money where your mouth is?

vvbooklittleAnd also… why haven’t you bought The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook?

😉

1: The last sentence of this paragraph, regarding Cisco and NetAid, was added on July 24, 2015

Nov. 11, 2015 update:  Nonprofit leaders are not focusing enough attention on innovation, measuring the impact of their efforts, and creating funding structures that encourage risk-taking, according to a new report from Independent Sector. Great – who is going to FUND THOSE ACTIVITIES?!

Spontaneous online volunteering/crowdsourcing in response to Eric Gardner grand jury decision

Have you seen the remarkable, spontaneous online volunteering / crowdsourcing that’s happening in response to grand jury decision about the death of Eric Gardner in New York City? There are thousands of tweets with the tag , with various people identifying as white in the USA posting about times they have committed crimes and come in contact with police as a result, and even been confrontational with the police at those times, and how they were not arrested as a result. It’s meant to refute the justifications for police use-of-force regarding the killing of Eric Gardner.

Powerful stuff.

More about spontaneous online volunteers.

 

Good Housekeeping UK Flubs Virtual Volunteering story

One of the reasons I created the list of myths about virtual volunteering was because of journalists who kept writing articles that did not reflect the realities of online service. They loved to say “this is so new!” and that “it’s great if you don’t have time!”, for instance – despite virtual volunteering starting in the 1970s with the advent of the Internet and all volunteering, online or off, taking real time. I ask every journalist that calls me to read those myths before they interview me – and I can always tell if they have or not. 

I have been in positions to develop assignments for online volunteers and to recruit and support volunteers in those assignments since 1994. When I lose volunteers in virtual assignments – the ones that disappear with their assignment undone – the excuse is almost always the same: I didn’t realize how much time this would take. Never mind that I tell all volunteers, up front, how much an assignment might take – and often, it’s a micro assignment, taking just minutes a day or a week. But even a few minutes a day, just once, is A FEW MINUTES A DAY.

This article by Good Housekeeping UK is representative of what so many journalists get wrong about virtual volunteering. Not only does this article claim the practice is new (it’s more than 30 years old), not only do they think it’s great for people that don’t have much time (most virtual volunteering assignments take just as much time as onsite volunteering assignments, just without the need to travel and park), and they think the terms micro volunteering and virtual volunteering are inter-changeable – they just can’t get it that, while micro volunteering online IS virtual volunteering, not all virtual volunteering is “micro.” You know, like group volunteering is volunteering, but not all volunteering is group volunteering.

The magazine even highlights one of my favorite initiatives, the online mentoring program Infinite Family, and then brands it as micro volunteering – despite the program requiring volunteers to make an ongoing commitment of several hours regularly – because that’s what kids deserve, not just a few minutes here or there that a volunteer might be able to spare.

You want to do a story on JUST micro volunteering? Great. Here are some initiatives you can mention:

Carnamah Historical Society virtual volunteering initiative (Australia) – Online volunteers help with transcription and indexing projects to make historical records more discoverable and searchable.

ebird database, supporting the National Audubon Society. You go “birding” or bird-watching, observing birds with your eye or binoculars, and then enter into the database when, where, and how you went birding, completing a checklist of all the birds seen and heard during the outing

Help From Home has a mix of volunteering activities you can do from home, both online and without a computer.

Koodonation, part of Sparked / Extraordinaries, hosts a database of online microvolunteering assignments (tasks that can be completed in around an hour or two online) in support of different nonprofit organizations. Both nonprofits and volunteers must register on the site to view microvolunteering assignments.

NetSquared, an initiative of TechSoup, is a place where nonprofits, corporations, government agencies, NGOs and individuals propose ideas that involve “the intersection of technology and social impact.” Anyone is welcomed to comment on the proposed projects on the site, and there are often opportunities to vote on which projects should receive funding.

Smithsonian Digital Volunteer program. The Smithsonian seeks to engage the public in making its collections more accessible. “We’re working hand-in-hand with digital volunteers to transcribe historic documents and collection records to facilitate research and excite the learning in everyone.” Transcription turns handwritten and typed documents into searchable and machine-readable resources, creating an incredibly valuable asset for art, history, literary and scientific researchers across the globe.

TechSoup has a series of discussion groups where nonprofits ask questions about technology. You can log into the community at any time and try to help nonprofits and volunteers with questions about software, databases and more. TechSoup also needs people to transcribe its most popular archived webinars (requires that you listen to the pre-recorded webinar and type what is said, re-listening as you need to in order to capture what is being said). 

Wikipedia, the largest online volunteering initiative in the world. To volunteer, you simply find an article you have some knowledge of and add information to the entry. 

And that’s just the virtual volunteering that is “micro” – there’s LOTS more virtual volunteering assignments that allow you to take on leadership roles, manage an entire project, work as a team with other online volunteers, build relationships with other people, and more. I have many links to various initiatives you can get involved with here.

There is no excuse for this flub, Good Housekeeping. NONE.

ICTs, Employability & Social Inclusion in the EU

In my last blog, I talked about how, at long last, my paperInternet-mediated Volunteering in the EU:  Its history, prevalence, and approaches and how it relates to employability and social inclusion, had been published. My research was for the ICT4EMPL Future Work project undertaken by the Information Society Unit of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

The ICT4EMPL Future Work project aims to inform policy of new forms of work and pathways to employability in the European Union mediated by ICTs – Information and Communications Technologies. The ICT4EMPL research project is in the context of of implementation of the Europe 2020 strategy and the Digital Agenda for Europe. For more information, see Skills & Jobs, Digital Agenda for Europe.

The ICT4EMPL Future Work project developed, produced overview reports on the state of play of crowd-sourced labour, crowdfunding, internet-mediated volunteering and internet-mediated work exchange (timebanks and complementary currency). These activities were explored in relation to key themes of opportunities for entrepreneurship and self employment, skills and social inclusion, and transition from education to employment for young people.

In addition to my paper, here are other papers published as part of the ICT4EMPL Future Work project, and almost all of them talk about volunteering in some way:

Wish they had a way people could comment on the papers. Online discussions about these topics would further our learning about them.

Internet-mediated Volunteering in the EU (virtual volunteering)

paperAt long last, Internet-mediated Volunteering in the EU:  Its history, prevalence, and approaches and how it relates to employability and social inclusion, has been published. 

My research was for the ICT4EMPL Future Work project undertaken by the Information Society Unit of the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, and consumed most of my 2013.

As part of this project, I created a wiki of all of the various resources I used for my research, and it includes a list of online volunteering-related recruitment or matching web sties that are either focused on or allow for the recruitment of online volunteers from EU-countries, and a list of more than 60 organisations in EU countries that involve online volunteers in some way. The wiki offers many more resources as well, not all of which made it into the final paper.

I also blogged about what I learned from researching virtual volunteering in Europe, such as how much virtual volunteering is happening all over Europe, how Spain is, by far, the leader in Europe regarding virtual volunteering (particularly in Catalonia), how little the French seem to be doing with regard to virtual volunteering (tsk tsk), and that traditional volunteer centers in Europe are pretty much ignoring virtual volunteering – if it’s mentioned at all, it’s talked about in terms of being new and rare – which the research firmly established is not at all the case.

It would be amazing if this paper lead to significant change in the EU regarding volunteering: if volunteer centers – from the city level to the international level – fully acknowledged virtual volunteering at long last, and if detailed materials regarding how to create virtual volunteering tasks was written and published in all the various languages of Europe. It would be great if employers in Europe started valuing volunteer experience on people’s résumés, something they don’t seem to do currently. What would be particularly awesome would be the establishment of online discussion groups for managers of volunteers in European countries., something that, as far as I can tell, only exists for the UK (UKVPMs) and, to a degree, in Spain (E-Voluntas). People are hungry for virtual volunteering activities – particularly, but not limited to, people under 40 in the EU. I hear European-based NGOs and charities complaining about not being able to involve young people as volunteers – and then balk at the idea of creating online volunteering assignments. THIS HAS TO CHANGE.

Also, as a result of this and other research, I have a list of people based in Europe that I consider experts in virtual volunteering – in the U.K., in Spain (of course – mostly in Catalonia, in fact), in Germany, in Italy (met her after the research was turned in, unfortunately) and Poland, and if you are a researcher, journalist, or organization interested in virtual volunteering, and want to talk to an EU-based consultant, give me a shout and I’ll give you my list of contacts.

Also see this review of the paper by Ismael Peña-López.

Citation:

how volunteers are managed & supported must be flexible

In association with The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook being published in January, co-author Susan Ellis and I started an online discussion group on LinkedIn, about virtual volunteering, in all its forms, including online mentoring, micro volunteering, crowdsourcing etc.

Recently, Susan started a thread about citizen science initiatives, where remote volunteers gather data and submit such – about the weather, about birds, about craters on the moon, and on and on – as part of a nonprofit or government initiative. Two of the best known citizen scientist initiatives are the National Audubon Society’s Great Backyard Bird Count and Christmas Bird Count. Wikipedia maintains a good list of citizen science projects.

But one person on the group took issue with the use of the term “Citizen Scientists” for crowdsourced volunteering. She said that “Citizen Scientists” are “trained volunteers who help gather biological data for the park system etc. by monitoring and inventorying the natural areas of parks” and that, unlike the virtual volunteering/crowdsourcing, what she was talking about was “Real volunteers, real contributions.”

It’s a reaction that is becoming increasingly rare but does still happen: virtual volunteering isn’t real volunteering. I hear it about other forms of unpaid, donated service as well:

unpaid internships at nonprofits aren’t really volunteering

people getting class credit for unpaid work at nonprofits aren’t really volunteers

people doing community service because of a court order aren’t really volunteers

and on and on.

I’ve already pointed out why Susan and I called our book The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook – because we’re tired of virtual volunteering being segregated out from discussions about volunteering, as a separate workshop, a separate book, a separate training, a separate chapter. That blog provides an answer to people who want the definition of volunteering to be oh-so-narrow.

But Heather Baumohl wrote a fantastic response on the LinkedIn group that I think is also a great response to all those who have such a narrow definition of volunteering. I’m sharing it here, with permission:

What’s interesting to me is that there are so many ways of engaging people to take part in something from the micro to the macro. Different volunteer opportunities have been taking place for many years but suddenly someone gives a ‘new’ name to an established volunteer activity and uses developing technology to make it easier for people to engage. This ‘new’ activity then influences the way volunteering is perceived and delivered until another ‘new’ activity is named and given profile. Some of the people taking part would not even know that they are volunteering. They engage because they are interested or passionate about animals; plants; climate change. Are there new ways of volunteering or is it all in a name and practice?

The volunteering landscape is flexible and needs to move and develop with technology and what is happening in the world. The opportunities are exciting and endless. So the way volunteers are managed and supported needs to be flexible too. 

And, yes, I get the irony that, despite our preaching about no more segregation, we’ve created a LinkedIn group to talk about virtual volunteering, specifically. But that’s because, currently, there’s no online community for the discussion of the management and support of volunteers that is open to all countries and that welcomes this kind of discussion. If there was, believe me, we’d be making sure virtual volunteering was included in those online discussions!

More information about The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook.

Virtual Volunteering discussion group on LinkedIn

Susan Ellis and I have created a LinkedIn Group for the discussion of virtual volunteering.

We’re hoping this will be a place where organizations that are involving online volunteers can get very specific with questions and advice about their virtual volunteering experiences: sharing what tools they use to work with volunteers online, asking questions about a particular issue they are having in working with volunteers online, getting advice on how to recruit a diversity of online volunteers, and on and on.

This group isn’t a place for basic questions like, “How do I introduce online volunteering to my organization” and others that are detailed extensively in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, though if you would like to expand on that or another practice that is detailed in the book via this group, such comments would be welcomed!

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook is available for purchase as a paperback and an ebook from Energize, Inc. There is also a virtual volunteering wiki in association with the book.

Feb. 12, 2014 Addendum

What I do NOT want to do is to discourage discussions on places like UKVPMs, OZVPM, and other discussion groups for volunteer management, about using online and networking tools (like SMS/text messaging) to support and involve volunteers – the practice that most of us refer to as virtual volunteering.

I had been opposed to the idea of creating an online group just for these discussions, because I do not want these discussions to be taken out of any online group devoted to volunteer management. If you have read even just the beginning of The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, you know that we chose that name in part because we DON’T want any more books about virtual volunteering, no more add-on chapters about it made to books about volunteer management, no more “virtual volunteering” as an add-on or after thought – but, rather, that using online and networking tools is integrated into all discussions about recruiting, supporting, managing, recognizing and involving volunteers, period.

With all that said, we did see a need for a global discussion about online and networking tools to work with volunteers, where discussions could be focused on any country or region. So we did start this LinkedIn Group for the discussion of virtual volunteering. I’m doing my best for it not to devolve into a “how do I involve online volunteers” discussion – we’re looking for more high-level discussions, like:

  • What online tools do you use to communicate with volunteers? Just email, or do you use an online discussion group platform? And how do you like it?
  • If you use Skype or other video conferencing to communicate with volunteers, individually or as a group, what advice do you have for others that might want to use it?
  • What’s the most popular activity at your organization for someone to do from a home, work or otherwise offsite computer or device?
  • How did you alter your volunteer policies to include Internet-related activities/communications?

So, if you use email, any other Internet tool, or even text messaging from a phone, to interact with your volunteers, or you create tasks that volunteers can do from home or work computers or other devices, I hope you will join the LinkedIn group and join in the discussions!