Tag Archives: NGOs

Deriding the monetary value of volunteer hours: my mission in life?

moneysignsDuring a presentation on volunteers at a local government agency that I attended a few weeks ago, the program manager proudly noted that the agency’s volunteer contributions are the equivalent of 21 full time employees, and gave a value of their time at more than a million dollars, based on the dollar value per hour promoted by the Independent Sector. That was one of her very first points in her presentation, and this was the ONLY reason offered during the entire session as to why this agency involves volunteers; she then went on to what volunteers do.

I wonder how the agency’s volunteers would feel to know that they are involved because they replace paid staff? Because they “save money”?

This agency said the greatest value of volunteers is that they are unpaid and mean the agency doesn’t have to hire people to do those tasks. I have so many, many examples on my blog and web site – linked at the end of this blog – regarding why those statements lead to outrage, and how they actually devalue volunteer engagement. These statements reinforce the old-fashioned ideas that volunteers are free (they are not; there are always costs associated with involving volunteers) and that the number of hours contributed by volunteers is the best measure of volunteer program success (quantity rather than quality and impact).

Put this in contrast to a paper on volunteer resource management practices in hospitals which I read today. The post about it on LinkedIn promotes this quote, “volunteers contribute greatly to personalizing, humanizing and demystifying hospitalization.” The paper, “Hospital administrative characteristics and volunteer resource management practices” is by Melissa Intindola, Sean Rogers, Carol Flinchbaugh and Doug Della Pietra and the description never once mentions the value of volunteers as being a monetary value for their hours, money saved, employees replaced, or any other old-fashioned statements to tout why volunteers are involved. I haven’t read the entire paper (it’s $30 – not in the budget right now), and maybe they do talk about these values, but from the summaries of the paper, it sounds like they understand the far better reasons for volunteer engagement, and that this understanding guides their recommendationss.

I’m not opposed to using a monetary value for volunteer hours altogether, but it should never, EVER, be shown as the primary reason volunteers are involved, or even the secondary reason to involve volunteers. If a monetary value is used, it should always come with MANY disclaimers, and should follow all of the other, better, more important reasons the agency involves volunteers. It should come many pages after the mission statement for the volunteer program and the results of volunteer engagement that have nothing to do with money saved.

Years of whining about this has paid off: the Independent Sector noticed yesterday and tweeted some responses to me. Not sure why it took so many years for them to notice my oh-so-public whining, particularly since I tagged them on Twitter every now and again…

I guess it’s time to again recommend this new book, Measuring the Impact of Volunteers: A Balanced and Strategic Approach, by ChristineBurych, Alison Caird, Joanne Fine Schwebel, Michael Fliess and Heather Hardie. This book is an in-depth planning tool, evaluation tool and reporting tool. As I wrote in my blog about this book, “I really hope this book will also push the Independent Sector, the United Nations, other organizations and other consultants to, at last, abandon their push of a dollar value as the best measurement of volunteer engagement.”

Also see:

Don’t shoot the questioner

logoGovernment agencies and nonprofits HATE my questions on social media. I ask them publicly because, often, I don’t get a response via email – or because I want my exchange with the organization to be public. Questions like:

  • Where is the list on your web site of your board of directors?
  • Where is the bio on your web site of your executive director/program director, etc.?
  • Where is your latest annual report of finances (income and expenditures) on your web site?
  • I saw your quote in the newspaper, and wondered: where is the evaluation that says your program lead to a 30% drop in juvenile crime? Is there a link on your web site to this study?
  • You have a form on your web site for people who want to volunteer to fill out/an email address for people that want to volunteer, but you never say what volunteers actually do. What do volunteers at your organization do?

Responses, if they come at all, rarely thank me for pointing out missing information on the web site, or apologize for not having such. Rather, most responses are one of these:

  • We’re not required by law to provide that. 
  • Our web site is being redesigned. It will be a part of the new web site. (no date is provided on when the web site will be re-launched)
  • That information is confidential. 
  • That information is on our web site (with no link to where it is).
  • Why are you asking?

I admit that I sometimes ask a question because I’m annoyed that the organization isn’t being transparent, or because a newspaper reporter wrote a glowing story I read about the organization or program didn’t ask these questions – just took every quote from the representative as fact. But I also ask the questions because I’ve sometimes considered donating to an organization, or volunteering with such – and I’m then stunned at the lack of transparency.

None of these questions should bother any organization or agency. None. They are all legitimate questions. Often, they are questions you yourself invite, by talking at civic groups or in the press about the quality of your leadership, the impact your organization is having, the services your organization provides and your value to the community.

If you say you don’t have time to provide this basic information on your web site, one has to ask: what is it that you are spending your time on?

Also see:

Use Tech to Show Your Accountability and To Teach Others About the Nonprofit Sector!
Mission-Based groups are under growing scrutiny. What you put on your web site can help counter the onslaught of “news” stories regarding mission-based organizations and how they spent charitable contributions.

tips for fund-raising for NGOs serving the developing world

fundhuntingSome of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) to online forums for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in developing countries, no matter what the subject of the forum is supposed to be (urban disasters, HIV/AIDS, maternal health, water and sanitation) , are regarding funding.

In 2004, frustrated at seeing fundraising questions from NGOs over and over and over again, and no INGOs nor UN agencies trying to answer them, I drafted a short list of basic tips for fund-raising for NGOs serving the developing world. I was an online volunteer with the Aid Workers Network then (the organization is long gone, unfortunately). Several other AWN volunteers revised the draft, and we finalized and published a version online for the AWN community. But I kept updating the document, and it grew from 15 pages to 30.

I have no idea how many people accessed the document. I tried to track it through various means, but was never successful.

I have updated the document for the first time since 2011, and instead of asking people to write me for it, so I could get an idea of how many people accessed it, I now have it ready for download from my web site. It’s now 29 pages.

But the big news is that I’ve updated it for the last time. I’m not updating it anymore.

Most of the information is timeless; the web sites in the document will change over time, the organizations cited will come and go, but the basic advice will always be valid, I hope. Also, there are so many more resources now to help NGOs with fundraising than there were 10 years ago, as any search on Google will show – this document isn’t filling an information gap like it was when it was first drafted and published.

Some things that have been surprising in the decade I’ve maintained this document, some of which are also reasons I will no longer be updating this document:

  • I have regularly gotten funding solicitations via email from NGOs in the developing world because they’ve done exactly what this document says NOT to do: they’ve found my name in association with fundraising and sent me a grant proposal, unsolicited, despite the obvious fact that I am NOT a foundation. The emails aren’t even addressed to me by name; they are often addressed to “sir”, or they have 10 other emails listed in the “to” bar.
  • I make it clear that this document is for NGOs serving the developing world, yet I frequently get requests for it from nonprofits in the USA. Sure, some of the advice is universal for mission-based organizations, but the document talks about funding sources that are available only to organizations working in, say, Africa or the poorest parts of Asia and South America, sources that are NOT available to organizations in North America.
  • Several people and organizations have posted the document to their web sites without my permission, despite me asking on my web site and in the document for this not to be done. When I’ve written to ask them to remove it – they often are posting an old version, not the latest – they say they had no idea I wouldn’t allow the document to be posted. Which means they didn’t bother to read even the first two pages, or, they just don’t care.
  • Several people and organizations have passed this document off as their own. That hurts most of all. All I’ve asked in return for this document is credit for it – I have never asked for payment. For someone to go through it and take my name off of it and then publish it as their own, including people from at least two NGOs – it’s shameful. It’s disheartening. It contributes to a negative image of NGOs working in and for the developing world.
  • I’ve never received follow up from anyone saying how they have used the document. Has it been helpful? Did it result in funding? I’ll never know.

I sound bitter. Sorry. I’m frustrated that a decade-long effort didn’t seem to do any good. If this document does make a difference for your NGO, I hope you will tell me.

Corporate volunteers can be a burden for nonprofits

Back in 2011, I asked if group volunteering was really all its cracked up to be.

The sentiment has gone mainstream: the Boston Globe published this yesterday: Corporate volunteers can be a burden for nonprofits.

Corporate social responsibility folks, managers of employee volunteerism programs: are you listening?

Terrific resources you’re missing from Twitter

I share a LOT of information on Twitter: info on effective nonprofit communications, management or engagement of volunteers, job leads with leading nonprofit and humanitarian organizations, funding leads, updates on UN initiatives in Afghanistan, Ukraine, or anywhere else I care about (and I care about a LOT of places), and more. Often, it’s information I don’t share anywhere else.

I hear a lot of people say they don’t use Twitter because they “don’t want all the text messages.” They don’t realize that you do NOT have to receive tweets via text messaging – that hasn’t been true for many years. I read Twitter via my lap top or my smart phone, primarily – most people do. Also, you don’t have to follow everyone you find interesting – you can add people to different lists and view content when YOU want to (here are my Twitter lists, to give you an idea of how it can work).

Here are my tweets and retweets of the last three days:

Using SMS to improve communication between UNHCR, partner NGOs, & urban refugees:

Job: Fellows Coordinator (p2). 12 months in Budapest! Apply here:

We’re looking for someone to join our team as our Fellows Coordinator. Interested? Apply today:

German translation of the W3C document “CSS Style Attributes”

Nice video by about how to speak up safely against in :

Watch the most offensive international charity video of the year – Humanosphere

Short film asks “What did you pay for when you bought illegal ivory?” Answer: terrorism on African Continent

A university center that says it cultivates “innovative thinking” & “entrepreneurship”, etc., has no social media accounts? Harumph

Job: in Forest Grove, seeks a Director of Finance and Operations

opened an office in to work with civilians in the conflict zone, the USG Jeffrey Feltman said:

Almost 10% of Sierra Leone’s 120 doctors have died of . “Why Sierra Leone Literally Had to Cancel Christmas”

Groups may receive up to 5 stays a hostel for each day members 2+ hours in surrounding community

Just did a little virtual volunteering over on the online forum. How about you?

International Conference on Social Media for Good May 14-16, 2015, Istanbul. Abstracts due Dec 29, 2014

I have said this for YEARS: “Successful Tech Requires An Old-Fashioned Skill: Organizing People”

We’re Hiring! Quality Assurance Analyst -contract position with the possibility of extension and/or conversion.

We’re also hiring a Sr. Project Manager. full time – exempt  To apply:   (plz RT!)

Fantastic option: 6-12 months in Ghana with . Expenses paid, excellent projects

Which languages influence wikipedia – & each other (visualization)

How languages influence Twitter – & each other (visualization)

. mobilizes corporate volunteers to support post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals:

Online mentors helping entrepreneurs in developing countries: and ?

Core humanitarian standard launched last week. Check it out

How I keep up re: virtual volunteering: this ework/evolunteer list (also re: telework, telecommuting, virtual teams)

What I hope future USA volunteering reports by will focus on, to be more helpful:

Yet again Volunteering & Civic Life in America report focuses on $ value of

I consider “Anonymous” a virtual volunteering example, & def. worthy of study:

Virtual volunteering in the EU: history, prevalence, approaches, how it relates to employability, social inclusion

Tweets from UNDP Ukraine’s Social Good #inno4dev summit

I had the pleasure of live-tweeting the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Ukraine office’s recent Social Good #inno4dev / #2030now summit, highlighting the many excellent tech-for-good initiatives happening all over Ukraine.

Tweets were tagged with #uatech4good, which I’m hoping will catch on as a tag for any tech4good initiative in Ukraine that tweets about their work, including those with no UN-affiliation. If you have a computer, app, Internet or other tech-related projects helping people or causes in Ukraine, please use the #uatech4good tag when you talk about it, so we can know about it!

You can view all of the tweets leading up to the event, and during and after the event here

Here are photos from the Ukraine event as well.

I hope that, for next year, UNDP Ukraine can do something much more ambitious and interactive, that will produce tech4good results by the end of the day, such as any of these activities:

  • A hackathon to build simple, easy-to-manage web sites for NGOs in Ukraine that don’t have a web presence, or need their web sites improved, AND that there is a commitment to make the web sites accessible for people using assistive technologies, ala the Accessibility Internet Rallies by Knowbiliy.org in Austin, Texas – thereby not only creating web sites, but creating awareness re: the needs of people with disabilities on the Internet.
  • An edit-a-thon to improve information on the Ukrainian version of Wikipedia regarding various development issues: HIV/AIDs, women’s empowerment, women’s history, vaccinations, migrants, etc.
  • A workshop about online volunteering for local civil society organizations, and following such, brainstorming with these civil society organizations about ways they could start involving online volunteers right away, and then having onsite volunteers help NGO representatives register on the UN’s online volunteering service and start recruiting for at least one online volunteering task.
  • Workshops on free and open source software (FOSS), how NGOs and civil society can use social media, how government agencies can use social media, etc. how videos can deliver messages that can positively influence/change people’s behavior, etc. (with lots examples from Ukraine), etc.
  • Dispersing IT volunteers throughout the city to help the elderly, women, refugees and other learn how to use particular computer or mobile phone tools.
  • A roundtable discussion – inviting everyone in the room to participate as well – regarding what needs to happen to ensure tech4good initiatives in Ukraine flourish, rather than disappear after just a few days, weeks or months.

My favorite parts of the Social Good Summit preparations and day of the event for Ukraine:

  • This tweet from Robert Rosenthal, regarding a blog I wrote several days ago about how the first UN team I was a part of tried to get the UN excited about various Internet tools, including handheld tech, for use in development way back in 2001.
  • Seeing my Ukrainian friends Artem and Dmytro walk into the room for the Kyiv event – I had gotten to invite them at the last minute, and was really hoping they would be able to present regarding their E+ initiative, which stated as an all-volunteer, spontaneous effort to get urgently-needed medical care for injured Maidan protesters back in January 2014. Initiative E+ continues to help those injured during the Maidan 2014 protests with long-term care, but now has branched out to manage programs for the children of Maidan victims, to provide Ukrainian soldiers injured in fighting in the East with pharmaceuticals and financial support the greatly-weakened Ukrainian government is unable to provide, and to help the children of military veterans. You can read about their activities on the E+ Facebook page  or on this E+ initiative page in EnglishIndeed, Dmytro got to present a bit regarding their initiative (thanks to UNDP for making that happen!).
  • Having a delightful exchange on Facebook with a colleague from Kyrgyzstan that I worked with in Afghanistan, regarding Social Good events by UNDP in his country.

Yet another wonderful work experience from my time in Ukraine!

capacity building tools & resources for CSO strengthening

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), my current and semi-frequent employer, does a lot of its work to help developing countries through those countries’ local civil society organizations (CSOs) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). But in many developing countries, these CSOs and NGOs are small, are new, and/or are unfamiliar with practices that can help them be sustainable and very effective.

UNDP has curated a list of capacity building tools and resources for CSO strengthening, with toolkits, guides and classes from a variety of organizations. This list is meant to be used by UNDP country offices and programs as they work with CSOs and NGOs for program delivery.

It’s an excellent list and I’m sharing it here. If you have updates, send them to nadine.ravaud@undp.org; remember that resources should be easy-to-access and free or VERY low-cost.

Resource mobilization and fundraising

Internal governance and management

Code of good practice for civil participation in the decision-making process

Civil society accountability

Capacity analysis and capacity building

Monitoring and evaluation

Gender and youth mainstreaming

Networking and partnerships (with other stakeholders)

Advocacy and campaigning

Engaging with the media and social media

 

II.                  Selected training institutions

 Listed by alphabetical order:

Call for Papers : Social Media Adoption, Utilization & Consequences in Nonprofit Sector

Call for Proposals, Special Issue on: Social Media Adoption, Utilization, and Consequences in the Nonprofit Sector, International Journal of Public Administration in the Digital Age (IJPADA)

Paper Proposal Submission Deadline: December 1, 2014

Guest Editors: Dr. Hugo Asencio and Dr. Rui Sun (California State University, Dominguez Hills, USA)

As a group of internet-based applications, social media (Web 2.0 technologies) allow individuals to create, update, and exchange content. They also help facilitate the development of social networks in an interactive way. Compared to traditional websites (Web 1.0 technologies), given their stakeholder engagement, community building, and mobilization potential, social media can better help nonprofits accomplish their goals and fulfill their missions. Given the dearth of empirical evidence available, systematic investigations are needed to better understand social media adoption, utilization, and consequences in the nonprofit sector.

Objectives of the Special Issue:
This special issue seeks to contribute to the discourse among researchers and practitioners on the antecedents and consequences of social media adoption and utilization in the nonprofit sector. That is, what are the internal and external environmental factors that affect social media adoption and utilization in nonprofits? What are the impacts of social media adoption and implementation both within and outside nonprofit organizations? Quantitative cross-sectional or longitudinal studies using secondary data or original surveys are preferred. Qualitative multi-case or mixed-methods studies are also welcomed.

The editors invite systematic investigations on social media adoption and utilization in nonprofits providing services in areas, such as: education, healthcare, social services, environmental protection, advocacy, public awareness, human and civil rights, and so forth. Cross-country comparative studies are also welcomed.

Recommended Topics:
Topics to be discussed in this special issue include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Internal, external environmental factors and social media adoption
  • Internal, external environmental factors and social media use
  • Social media use and marketing
  • Social media use and communications
  • Social media use and fundraising
  • Social media use and volunteering
  • Social media use and advocacy
  • Social media use and civic engagement
  • Social media use and organizational learning
  • Social media use and organizational capacity
  • Social media use and collaboration
  • Social media use and performance evaluation
  • Social media use and collaborative governance

Submission Procedure:
Interested authors are invited to submit paper proposals (500 words) for this special issue by December 1, 2014. All paper submissions must be original and may not be under review by another publication. INTERESTED AUTHORS SHOULD CONSULT THE JOURNAL’S GUIDELINES FOR MANUSCRIPT SUBMISSIONS at

http://www.igi-global.com/Files/AuthorEditor/guidelinessubmission.pdf.

All submitted papers will be reviewed on a double-blind, peer review basis. Papers must follow APA style for reference citations.

About the International Journal of Public Administration in the Digital Age (IJPADA):
Created in 2014, IJPADA is an international journal that examines the impact of public administration and information technology (IT) in developed and developing countries. Original research papers published in IJPADA focus on the impact of new and innovative technologies on improving public service delivery in public and nonprofit organizations. This journal will also provide case studies examining technology innovations in specific countries. The editor invites author(s) to submit original research papers that examine important issues in public administration and information technology.

This journal is an official publication of the Information Resources Management Association

Editor-in-Chief: Dr. Christopher G. Reddick (The University of Texas at San Antonio, USA)

Published: Quarterly (both in Print and Electronic form)

IJPADA is published by IGI Global (formerly Idea Group Inc.), publisher of the “Information Science Reference” (formerly Idea Group Reference), “Medical Information Science Reference”, “Business Science Reference”, and “Engineering Science Reference” imprints. For additional information regarding the publisher, please visit www.igi-global.com.

Important Dates:
December 1, 2014: Paper Proposal Submission Deadline (500 words)
December 15, 2014: Proposal Acceptance Notification
May 1, 2015: Full Paper Submission
July 1, 2015: Peer Review Results
September 1, 2015: Final Chapter Submission
September 15, 2015: Final Acceptance Notification

Inquiries and paper proposals should be forwarded electronically to Dr. Hugo Asencio (hasencio@csudh.edu) or Dr. Rui Sun (rsun@csudh.edu).

Growing backlash against volunteerism?

I first learned of people being against volunteerism back in 1997, when a three-day bipartisan presidential summit aimed at boosting volunteerism and community service efforts across the USA kicked off in Philadelphia.  I was directing the Virtual Volunteering Project at the time. There were arguments from both the far-right and the far-left, and I did my best to compile them. When I would bring up these arguments at various volunteerism conferences or on online groups, my colleagues usually just scoffed – it’s just extremists, it’s not something we need to worry about. 

Since then, I’ve kept an eye on these arguments against volunteerism, because I feel strongly that the arguments must be addressed. Organizations recruiting volunteers need to have these arguments in mind when they are crafting recruitment messages and when they are talking about the value of volunteers. When organizations ignore these arguments against volunteerism, or deny them, they end up with dysfunctional volunteer engagement programs, lack of support for volunteer engagement and, sometimes, very pad PR.

This came to mind over the weekend when I saw this comment in a friend’s Facebook feed:

I’d rather find the means of capitalization and pay people to do the work at hand than to bother with the volunteer work ethic or ability. I was never more personally insulted than as the president of the board of my church.

If you are talking about volunteer involvement as a way to save money, and volunteer contributions in terms of monetary value, then you are part of the problem – you are creating the fuel for these political arguments against volunteerism. And if you are not asking volunteers why they are leaving your organization, and addressing those reasons, you are creating ex-volunteers who are sharing their views with friends and colleagues and further creating a bad image not just for your organization, but for volunteering as a whole.

My other blogs and web pages on this controversy:

Note that the links within some blogs may not work, as I moved all of my blogs from Posterous to WordPress a few months ago, and it broke all of the internal links. Also, some web pages on other organization’s sites have moved since I linked to such, and I either don’t know or haven’t been able to find a new location for the material.

Who Takes the Lead on Exploration of Tech at a Mission-Based Org?

IT managers and IT consultants play an essential role in helping mission-based organizations – nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, community groups, etc. – to use technology to meet the goals of the organization.

That said, however, an IT manager is not always the best person to lead at a mission-based organization regarding what Internet, computer and smart phone tools an organization or department should be using.

When I first began encouraging organizations to explore the possibilities of virtual volunteering back in the mid 1990s, many of the outspoken critics of virtual volunteering were IT managers at nonprofit and government agencies. Many IT managers were not supporters – they were OBSTACLES. The same was true when I began promoting accessibility as a fundamental element of web site design a little while later. In both cases, IT managers threw up a variety of arguments as to why neither of these strategies were worthwhile for mission-based organizations, almost all relating to cost or security and they expressed great fear at the “vast” amounts of work that pursuing either of these activities would cause them and the organization. Some IT managers even went so far as to tell managers of volunteers they were not allowed to involve volunteers via the Internet.

Thank goodness so many managers at mission-based organizations explored technology issues on their own, and became experts in their own right regarding how virtual volunteering, web accessibility, and other tech-related practices could be used in their organizations and could benefit their clients, employees and volunteers. I worked with many nonprofit managers, particularly managers of volunteer, helping them to develop counter arguments to IT managers reluctance to let them explore the use of various ICT tools in their jobs. The drive to use the Internet and computers to work with volunteers, as well as to make nonprofit web sites to be accessible for people with disabilities, has been lead by NON IT staff!

That isn’t to say that all ICT consultants and managers try to block the exploration and use of ICTs in nonprofit activities. Many have been quite supportive of mission-based staff’s exploration and use of ICTs – and, indeed, of virtual volunteering and accessibility. But the reality is that ICT consultants and managers need to work directly with nonprofit staff that are managing client programs, managing HR, managing volunteers, and so forth in making tech-related decisions TOGETHER. They need to listen to the organization’s volunteers as well. IT managers need to listen and to support these employees and volunteers in exploring tech that could help them in their work with the organization.

Many publications have tackled the subject of how to address non-IT staff resistance at mission-based organizations to using Internet and computer technologies. Let’s explore the other side of this issue: how have you, as a non-IT staff person at a mission-based organization, overcome IT staff or consultant resistance to things like:

  • installing and supporting your use of a database program or other software that you feel that you need in your job
  • involving volunteers via the Internet, including having interactive features on your web site for volunteers
  • making your web site accessible for people with disabilities or others using assistive technology
  • exploring the use of Linux or Open Source technologies at your organization

A version of this article first appeared in Tech4Impact, my email newsletter, in January 2003.