Tag Archives: philanthropy

Anti-volunteerism campaigns

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Presidents’ Summit on America’s Future in Philadelphia, a three-day event that was aimed at boosting volunteerism and community service efforts across the USA. President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, former Presidents George Bush, Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and retired Gen. Colin Powell all participated. The original web sites of these campaigns are long gone, but I have screen captured them from archive.org and linked them from my web page tracking anti-volunteerism campaigns.

The summit resulted in a lot of press coverage, the launch of at least one nonprofit, and a huge boost for the Corporation for National Service, particularly AmeriCorps. But the summit also resulted in some anti-volunteerism campaigns, both on the political left and the political right.

I’ve been tracking campaigns against volunteer engagement since that time, and I’ve linked everything I’ve found from that aforementioned web page as well. These anti-volunteerism campaigns are not just in the USA: I have information about anti-volunteerism in Europe and elsewhere as well.

I track anti-volunteerism campaigns, and share what I find, for two reasons: (1) Those that promote volunteerism need to be aware of criticisms to their belief that volunteer community service is a great thing, and know how to counter such criticisms, and (2) Some of the complaints these campaigns have about volunteer engagement are absolutely legitimate, and also need to be addressed.

Actually, there is a third reason I share what I find: (3) I had someone that heads a major international organization that promotes volunteerism deny that these campaigns exist at all, particularly in Europe.

My only fear in sharing this information is that anyone would think I’m opposed to volunteer engagement! I hope that doesn’t happen…

One more thing: one of the most outspoken organizations against volunteering, which is cited on this page, is the Ayn Rand Institute. And, yet:

Yes, they are against volunteering UNLESS it’s for their organization.

Anyway… here is a long list of great reasons to involve volunteers.

Update: July 13, 2017: I strongly believe that many of these anti-volunteerism sentiments are being driven by disgruntled volunteers who feel like they are being involved at nonprofit organizations only to save money, and that if an organization had money to pay staff, they would gladly replace volunteers with such. Remember, Volunteers DO sue sometimes for back pay. In addition, unpaid interns are pushing back against not being paid, including at nonprofits and international agencies. In fact, there are even blogs that give advice to unpaid interns – volunteers – on how to sue.

2017 National Summit on Volunteer Engagement Leadership

The Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration (MAVA) is going to host the first national conference in the USA in more than a decade for people in charge of supporting and involving volunteers. The 2017 National Summit on Volunteer Engagement Leadership will be
July 26 – 28, 2017 in St. Paul, Minnesota. If you want to present at the conference (presenters are NOT paid), your proposal is due November 30, 2016. Please review the Request for Proposal Instructions before submitting a proposal.

Registration to attend the conference will open February 1, 2017.

It’s great that someone is attempting to have a national conference for managers of volunteers – it hasn’t happened in the USA since 2005. Back in 2006, the Association for Volunteer Administration (AVA), the national association of managers of volunteers, went under, due to financial mismanagement. With it went the annual national conference, the largest event in the world focused on the people and systems needed to support and involve volunteers, and event that helped elevate conversations about volunteerism beyond people-that-work-for-free-are-so-nice. The loss of AVA and its annual conference hurt not just managers of volunteers, but all volunteerism – there was no one who was championing the people in charge of creating tasks for volunteers and supporting volunteers in those tasks, and there was no one advocating for the resources those people need to do those jobs. I believe it’s why it’s been so hard to refute claims that the best way to measure volunteer value is by giving a monetary value to service hours, and why, in this era where everything is about community engagement, managers of volunteers at nonprofits have been largely left out of the conversation.

I would love to attend but, unfortunately, I don’t have the funds. If you would like to sponsor part or all of my flight or accommodation costs, please contact me ASAP at jc@coyotecommunications.com (as the deadline for presentation proposals is Nov. 30, I need ot hear from you before then!).

And on a side note: if someone doesn’t update the Wikipedia page for the Association for Leaders in Volunteer Engagement (ALIVE) with citations OTHER than the ALIVE web site, the page is going to get deleted. I’ve donated a LOT of time to updating volunteering-associated pages on Wikipedia – it’s time for others to step in.

Research Explaining How Websites Encourage Volunteering & Philanthropy

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersMost practitioners in volunteer management and community engagement don’t have time to review academic literature to see if there might be information that’s helpful in their work – and even if they do have time, academic language can be inaccessible for non-academics. I try to read as much as I can and then summarize and pass on the information that can help practitioners in their work, or even just give them ammunition for a project or funding proposal.

Below are links to two academic papers that are worth at least a skim by anyone trying to use web sites to encourage philanthropy, including volunteering. The reference lists at the end of each papers are gold mines of research for further reading:

Persuasion in Prosocial Domains: Explaining the Persuasive Affordances of Volunteering
by Peter Slattery, Patrick Finnegan and Lesley Land, all three of the Australian School of Business, UNSW Australia, and Richard Vidgen of Hull University Business School, University of Hull, UK. Presented at the Twenty Second European Conference on Information Systems, Tel Aviv, 2014.

Abstract: As technology becomes increasingly pervasive and invasive, it increasingly facilitates and instigates behaviour. Prosocial behaviours, such as volunteering, activism and philanthropy, are activities that are considered to be particularly beneficial to others. Prosocial behaviours are important within IS as: (i) they are encouraged by IS stakeholders including volunteering organisations and charities, and; (ii) they contribute to tackling social issues. However, while information technology is poised to become increasingly important for facilitating prosocial behaviour, little is known about how digital artefacts can encourage it. To address this research gap, this study seeks to explain how website features persuade in prosocial online contexts. The study uses the Repertory Grid Technique (RGT) to examine individuals’ experiences of persuasion on live volunteering websites. The analysis reveals that ease of use, trust, and creating positive emotion are important factors in persuading users to volunteer.

Examining How Perceptions of Websites Encourage Prosocial Behaviour
by Peter Slattery, Patrick Finnegan and Richard Vidgen of Australian School of Business, UNSW Australia. Presented at the Thirty Seventh International Conference on Information Systems, Dublin 2016.

Abstract: Organisations are increasingly reliant on information and communications technology (ICT) to encourage prosocial behaviour (i.e., volunteering, philanthropy and activism). However, little is known about how to use ICT to encourage prosocial behaviour. Given this research gap, the objective of this study is to outline and test a research model that assesses the role of specific perceptions of websites in encouraging prosocial behaviour. To do this, we review the literature to derive a theoretical model of relevant perceptions. We then test the extent to which this model can predict participants’ volunteering and philanthropic behaviour subsequent to their usage of a website that encourages prosocial behaviour. The findings are expected to contribute by (i) giving insights into how perceptions of websites encourage prosocial behaviour, (ii) explaining the roles of negative and positive affect in ICT domains, and (iii) developing a “persuasiveness of website scale” to help IS researchers to measure this construct.

In addition, Mr. Slattery’s 2016 PhD thesis is Explaining How Websites Are Used to Encourage Volunteering and Philanthropy. The thesis restricted from public access until March 2018, but some of its research is repeated in the aforementioned papers.

Also see this list of research and evaluations of virtual volunteering, as a practice in general or focused on specific projects, on the Virtual Volunteering wiki.

How to help Nepal

I’m already seeing these posts online:

How can I go to Nepal and help regarding the earthquake?!

Unless you have specific areas of expertise regarding post-disaster situations, speak Nepalese, and can go under the auspices of a respected non-governmental organization or your own government, DO NOT GO. And please don’t start collecting things to send to Nepal either.

When a disaster strikes, thousands of people start contacting various organizations and posting to online groups in an effort to try to volunteer onsite at the disaster site. If the disaster happens in the USA, some people jump in their cars and drive to the area.

But what most of these people don’t realize is that spontaneous volunteers without specific training and no affiliation can cause far more problems than they alleviate in a disaster situation, particularly regarding disaster locations far from their home. Consider this:

  • In many post-disaster situations, there is NO food, shelter, services or gas to spare for volunteers. Many volunteers going into the Philippines, Pakistan, Haiti, Japan, even the Gulf Coast states in the USA after Katrina or states affected by Sandy, had to be absolutely self-sustaining for many, many days, even many  weeks. No shelter or safety measures could be provided to these volunteers by the government. Those volunteers who weren’t self-sustaining created big problems and diverted attention from local people in need.
  • Just because you have some equipment does not mean you are ready to volunteer: inexperienced people have been killed using chainsaws after hurricanes and other disasters, by falling limbs and live electrical wires, during their DIY clean up efforts. Responding to these people when they get themselves into a jam takes away from the needs of local people.
  • In disaster situations, you are going to be encountering disaster victims. They are going to be stressed, maybe desperate, and maybe angry. As a trained volunteer or paid staff member working with a credible organization, you are going to know how to comfort these people and direct them to where they can get assistance, and how to convince them that you have to save this person over here instead of their relative over there. If you are untrained and unaffiliated, you may become a target of their anger, because you cannot provide them with appropriate assistance, or because you provide them with incorrect information.
  • What will you do when you are accused of stealing from someone? Of harming someone? Of making a situation worse? What do you know about local customs and cultural taboos that, if you violate them, could taint all outside volunteer efforts? Aid workers have been arrested, even killed, because of cultural missteps. Who will navigate local bureaucracies to save YOU in such situations?

I could go on and on – and I do, on this web page about how to help people affected by a huge disasterDisasters are incredibly complicated situations that require people with a very high degree of qualifications and long-term commitment, not just good will, a sense of urgency and short-term availability.

Also, more and more agencies are hiring local people, even immediately after a disaster, to clean rubble, remove dead bodies, build temporary housing, rebuild homes and essential buildings, and prepare and distribute food. Hiring local people to do these activities, rather than bringing people in from the outside, helps stabilize local people’s lives much more quickly!

If you want to help the people of Nepal, donate to CARE International’s efforts in Nepal and/or UNICEF’s efforts in Nepal and/or Save the Children’s efforts in Nepal (all of these organizations serve all people, not just children).

Here’s more about donating Things Instead of Cash or Time (In-Kind Contributions).

If you want to go abroad to help after a disaster, then here is advice on how to start pursuing the training and experience you need to be in a position to do that – it will take you about 24 months (two years) to get the minimum of what you will need to apply to volunteer for such scenarios.

Also see:

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?

My Resources for Volunteers (rather than those that work with such)

The vast majority of information on my web site is for nonprofit, NGO and government-agency staff with responsibilities concerning communications or volunteer / community engagement.

But I also have some resources of my web site that are targeted at people that want to volunteer. These include:

Information for those that need to fulfill a community service obligation from a court or school/class.

Resources Especially for Teens to Find Community Service and Volunteering

How to Find Volunteering Opportunities, a resource for adults who want to volunteer.

Advice for volunteering as a group / volunteering in a group

Volunteering with Seniors

Family Volunteer – Volunteering by Families with Children

You are NOT too young to volunteer! Ways you can volunteer, no matter how young you are

Advice for Finding Volunteer Activities During the Holidays

Online Volunteering (Virtual Volunteering) – a resource especially for those that want to volunteer online.

Using Your Business Skills for Good – Volunteering Your Business Management Skills, to help people starting or running small businesses / micro enterprises, to help people building businesses in high-poverty areas, and to help people entering or re-entering the work force.

Volunteering In Pursuit of a Medical, Veterinary or Social Work degree / career

Donating Things Instead of Cash or Time (In-Kind Contributions)

Creating or Holding a Successful Community Event or Fund Raising Event.

Group Volunteering for Atheist and Secular Volunteers

Volunteering To Help After Major Disasters – a realistic guide.

How to Make a Difference Internationally/Globally/in Another Country Without Going Abroad

Ideas for Leadership Volunteering Activities
These are more than just do-it-yourself volunteering – these are ideas to create or lead a sustainable, lasting benefit to a community, recruiting others to help and to have a leadership role as a volunteer. These can also be activities for the Girl Scouts Gold Award, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (U.K.), a mitzvah project, or even scholarship consideration.

Reality Check: Volunteering Abroad (especially for citizens of the USA)
Times have changed drastically in the last 30 years regarding Americans and other “westerners” volunteering in other countries. The emphasis in local relief and development efforts is to empower local people, and to hire local people, whenever possible, to address their own issues, build their own capacities, and give them employment. This strategy is much more beneficial to local communities than to bring in an outside volunteer. That said — the days of international volunteers are NOT numbered: there will always be a need for international volunteers, either to fill gaps in knowledge and service in a local situation, or because a more neutral observer/contributor is required. This new page provides tips on gaining the skills and experience that are critically needed to volunteer overseas.

Ideas for Funding Your Volunteering Abroad Trip.

How to Get a Job with the United Nations or Other International Humanitarian or Development Organization

transire benefaciendo: “to travel along while doing good.”
Advice for those wanting to make their travel more than sight-seeing and shopping.

Incorporating virtual volunteering into a corporate employee volunteer program

A new resource on my web site:

Incorporating virtual volunteering into a corporate employee volunteer program 
(a resource for businesses / for-profit companies)

Virtual volunteering – volunteers providing service via a computer, smart phone, tablet or other networked advice – presents a great opportunity for companies to expand their employee philanthropic offerings. Through virtual volunteering, some employees will choose to help organizations online that they are already helping onsite. Other employees who are unable to volunteer onsite at a nonprofit or school will choose to volunteer online because of the convenience. This resource reviews what your company needs to do, step-by-step, to launch or expand virtual volunteering as a part of your employee volunteering program.

Inspired by my recent webinar with Kaye Morgan-Curtis, of Newell Rubbermaid for VolunteerMatch: Virtual Volunteering: An Untapped Resource for Employee Engagement.

Why did we call it the LAST guidebook?


In hearing about The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, you may have noticed two things:

    • My co-author, Susan Ellis, and I don’t talk about the guidebook as a revision of The Virtual Volunteering Guidebook that we wrote back in the 1990s. That’s because this new book was written from the ground up – we didn’t merely update that previous guidebook. While I think most of what we wrote in that first book remains valid, in terms of still being helpful advice to work with online volunteers, this new book provides substantially more information and reflects just how integrated the Internet is in our lives now versus back in the 1990s.
  • That standout word in the title: Last.

What do we mean by this being  The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook?

What we don’t mean is that there will or should never be a further need to write or talk about the latest developments in engaging volunteers online.

What we do mean is that, from this moment on, we hope that talk about virtual volunteering won’t be segregated to a separate book or separate chapter at the end of a book about volunteer management. Our dream is that this is a turning point regarding talk and training about volunteer engagement, and

    • any book about volunteer management, whether it’s a book about basic principals in general, group volunteering, episodic volunteering, skills-based volunteering, teen volunteering, whatever, has advice about using the Internet to support and involve volunteers integrated throughout the material. For instance, episodic volunteering, online, is called micro volunteering, yet workshops and other resources regarding episodic volunteering rarely talk about it – we hope that exclusion stops NOW.
  • any workshop about some aspect of volunteer management, whether it’s about the fundamentals of volunteer management, recruitment, risk management, adults working with children, whatever, fully integrates advice about using the Internet as a part of those activities.

In short, NO MORE SEGREGATION OF INTERNET-MEDIATED VOLUNTEERING. Virtual volunteering should not be an “add on” – not only in a book or training about volunteer engagement, but also, not in any volunteer engagement scheme at any organization. In fact, our dream is that we no longer hear about onsite volunteers as one group and online volunteers as another, separate group – how about we talk about volunteers, period?

Involving volunteers online is a practice that’s more than 35 years old. There are at least several thousand organizations using the Internet to support and involve volunteers. Actually, Susan and I believe virtual volunteering has, in some way, shape or form, been adopted by a majority of nonprofits and NGOs, whether they know it or not – we base this on the research that’s been done by others, our own research, and our observations in our extensive work with nonprofits. It’s even reflected in this discussion group regarding virtual volunteering on LinkedIn. And it’s based on this reality that we’re calling for full integration of virtual volunteering into any book or training about any aspect of volunteering.

Order information for The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook.

Also see our virtual volunteering wiki. Whereas the guidebook is written in a timeless manner as much as possible, focusing on suggested practices that the authors believe do not change, for the most part, this wiki will continually evolve as tracking and networking tech tools change, as new research is conducted, and as substantial news about virtual volunteering is announced.

If you read the book, I would so appreciate it if you could write and post a review of it on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble web sites (you can write the same review on both sites).

Me with The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook

It’s real! Not virtual! Me with The Last Virtual volunteering Guidebook.

Jayne and book

Amazing to hold YEARS of research and writing in my hands at last!

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook is now available for purchase as a paperback and an ebook from Energize, Inc

If you read the book, I would so appreciate it if you could write and post a review of it on the Amazon and Barnes and Noble web sites (you can write the same review on both sites).

Everything old is new again, & again

People watching TV and writing about it online with their friends at the same time?!. Breathless buzz buzz buzz buzz buzz!!!

Am I talking about the Super Bowl last weekend, and so many people live tweeting it? Or the last episode of 30 Rock last week? Or the Olympics last year?

No – I’m talking about something that’s been happening for at least 30 years.

I’m talking about Usenet, a worldwide Internet discussion system that started in the early 1980s. Usenet was not only the initial Internet community – in the 1980s and 1990s, it was THE place for many of the most important public developments in the commercial/public Internet: it’s where Tim Berners-Lee announced the launch of the World Wide Web, where Linus Torvalds announced the Linux project, and where the creation of the Mosaic web browser was announced (and which revolutionized the Web by turning it into a graphical medium, rather than just text-based).

It was also the place where there were discussion groups – called newsgroups – for everything imaginable: volunteer firefighting, accounting, classic cars, computer repair, tent camping, hiking with your dog, nonprofit management, college football teams – and, indeed, television shows.

Yes, as early as the 1980s, many thousands of people all over the USA were gathering online with friends to talk in realtime about what they were watching on TV. While I didn’t write online during the X-Files in the 1990s, I fully admit to running to my computer as soon as an episode was over, to read what everyone thought and to share my own reactions. Usenet TV and entertainment-related communities fascinated me so much at the time that I ended up writing about them at my day job: about how members of the online communities for the X-Files, Xena, and other entertainment-focused newsgroups engaged in online volunteering & various charitable activities. That was in 1999.

There’s nothing really new about people live tweeting what they are seeing on TV, except that more people are doing it than were on newsgroups and that it’s being done on Twitter now.

And I bring this up because I keep finding articles and research that claims online volunteering or microvolunteering is new. It’s not. Helping people via the Internet, in ways large and small, is a practice that’s more than 30 years old, and just-show-up volunteering without a long-term commitment, which until recently was called episodic volunteering (and I called online versions of it byte-sized volunteering back in the 1990s) has also been around for decades.

We’re not in uncharted territory regarding volunteering or any human interaction online – so let’s embrace our past, learn from it, and give the true innovators, the real pioneers, their due! Rebranding practices and approaches is fine, but let’s not deny our past in the process – there are some great learnings from back in the day that could really help us not so make many missteps online now!

Also see: