Tag Archives: respect

volunteer engagement to promote social cohesion, prevent extremism?

social cohesionThere will be a conference in Brussels, Belgium on 13 October 2016 regarding the possible role of volunteer engagement in promoting inclusion and preventing extremism.

Examples from across Europe and beyond, such as from South Africa, Colombia and Algeria, will be reviewed to explore ways that volunteerism has contributed to building trust and social cohesion. The conference will also discuss elements and factors that are essential for success in such endeavors. The examples will be included in a publication that “will offer analysis of the challenges faced in Europe concerning social inclusion and the risks of extremism from different belief groups and explain how the volunteer projects contribute to addressing these issues.”

The conference is being promoted by the European Volunteer Centre (CEV), supported by the European Commission. The event will be organised in the framework of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union and with the support of London House and Team London (European Volunteering Capital 2016).

There are lots of ways for an organization that involves volunteers to be thinking about inclusiveness in its volunteer engagement, even if social cohesion or community building isn’t explicitly stated in its mission. For instance:

Also see these related resources:

Using social media to promote respect, tolerance, reconciliation?

The Center for Disease Control in the USA uses a special Twitter account, @CDCSTD, to help people” to be safer and healthier by the prevention of STDs and their complications.”

The initiative @EverydaySexism uses Twitter to create awareness about the every day harassment and sexism that women experience. This organization does this both via its own tweets and using this hashtag, #everydaysexism, which they encourage others to use with their own tweets; they monitor use of this hastag and, often, retweet messages using it.

These are two examples of organizations using social media – Twitter, specifically – as a part of their program delivery. They aren’t using Twitter to point to a press release or provide updates on programs; Twitter IS the program delivery or, at least, part of it.

I’m looking for examples of organizations using Twitter, Facebook, even just simple, old-fashioned text messaging, to promote:

  • tolerance
  • respect
  • reconciliation

And to counter:

  • bigotry
  • prejudice
  • inequality
  • misperceptions and misconceptions about a particular group of people or different people

I’m not looking for just organizations that are promoting tolerance, respect or reconciliation among different groups; I’m looking for examples on Twitter or Facebook of organizations actually using social media as a way to build tolerance, respect and/or reconciliation – they are sending out messages that somehow encourage two groups that have previously been or are currently in conflict to respect each other, for instance.

I’m going to be gobsmacked if some organization somewhere in the world isn’t trying this…

It’s About Respect

This is a followup to my blog A Stupid Name for a Service for Nonprofits, regarding the unbelievably-poorly-named online volunteering service, Pimp My Cause.

The issue isn’t just about a service using language that is anti-women and, indeed, anti-children. It isn’t just about this service using a phrase that means to market women and children for sex. The issue isn’t just about lack of respect for women and children.

The issue is about respect for the third sector.

The work of nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), charities and other mission-based organizations – the third sector – isn’t a pastime. It isn’t a hobby. Indeed, sometimes a nonprofit cause does become fashionable – suddenly, the media and celebrities may want to talk about getting rid of landmines, or HIV/AIDS, or immunizations, or breast cancer, or returning war veterans, and lots of flavor-of-the-day social entrepreneurs want to jump on the band wagon, with everyone wearing a particularly-colored ribbon, with lots of bumper stickers for the cause showing up on cars and SUVs, lots of shirts or shoes sporting a particular logo… but that spotlight doesn’t last. Long after the high-profile campaign by the department store or the software company or the talk show host or the singer or the actor has ended, these organizations will still be working, day-in, day-out, on a variety of worthwhile, even vital, causes.

Often, the work of nonprofits not only doesn’t catch on as fashionable or hip – it may even make people uncomfortable, because it addresses a not-so-hip issue, like child sexual exploitation and human trafficking – but nonprofits, NGOs and other mission-based organizations keep working year-after-year, without big-time donations or media campaigns.

The third sector isn’t perfect, but it serves society and the environment in ways that the for-profit or public sector cannot. Some causes are best addressed by the for-profit sector, some are best addressed by governments, and some are best addressed by mission-based organizations – and many are best addressed by all of these sectors working in partnership.

People that work for nonprofits aren’t simply nice people who can’t get jobs in the private sector. They are often highly skilled and experienced experts in their field – child psychology, emergency logistics, crisis communications, theater and dance as tools for community education and empowerment, arts management, social media to build awareness about HIV/AIDS, maternal health, organic agriculture, and on and on. They deserve to be listened to and consulted on actions that are going to involve them or effect them – and that includes being consulted by donors about new programs and projects donors want to fund.

The third sector has its own jargon, its own lingo. And different fields within the third sector each have a jargon or lingo all their own. And when you are talking to the third sector, you had better know that lingo and that culture: For instance, when you are standing in front of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, you don’t talk about drunk driving accidents; you talk about drunk driving wrecks, crashes… deaths. To do otherwise is highly offensive. If you use the term SME, you need to know what it means to the organizations and third sector experts you are talking to: Small and medium enterprises? Subject matter expert? Social Market economy? A Linux firewall?

In summary: if you are going to work with or for mission-based organizations, whether as a volunteer or as someone marketing services to them, you need to do your homework about the sector’s work, it’s language and it’s culture. The third sector deserves respect from the for-profit sector, including corporations, from the media, from the government – from everyone. To not spend time researching the sector and consulting with its members shows profound disrespect for the people working in such, and the people being served by such.  

No one who respects nonprofits, NGOs or other mission-based organizations would ever name their service Pimp My Cause.

Also see: How to Do Market Research–The Basics. I hear there’s some really good books and classes on this subject as well.

Finally, a shout out to the nonprofit FAIR FUND, a leading girls empowerment and anti-human trafficking organization that works to keep girls safe from exploitation. When I let FAIR FUND know about “Pimp My Cause”, they were ALL OVER IT. Follow @FAIRFund on Twitter and consider supporting them with a donation!


Going too far

A national nonprofit organization asked me to participate in a one-hour conference call this week to help them brainstorm something they want to do. I said sure, because I can make time available to do this, the topic is interesting to me, and I would like to contribute.

That same nonprofit then asked me to participate in a series of calls between now and the summer, contributing more than 20-30 hours of my time to a planning process. I said no. They wanted 20-30 hours free consulting from me, and from about a dozen other people as well, and seemed stunned that I (and at least one other person involved) found this request exploitative.

If I were running a store, would you walk in and say, “Hi, can you give me several hundred dollars of stuff for free?”? If I ran a restaurant, would you say, “Could I eat hear for six months every night for free? After all, we’re friends!”?

When does a request for donated time go from being appropriate, even welcomed, to being exploitive? When the organization forgets what they are asking for — for volunteering. Pro bono consulting is volunteering.

Time is a precious commodity. In today’s economy, asking for a person’s time can be the same as asking for money. If you are going to ask me to part with that much of my time, you had better have a highly-motivating reason for me to do so, because you are asking me to give you something that I normally charge for – and I have bills to pay, a household to support, and many things to pay for, just like you do.

This organization forgot what goes into recruiting volunteers. Which is shocking, since it’s an organization that is supposed to be focused on volunteering. Recruiting volunteers is never, “Here’s a bunch of work we need done. Please come do it. Because we’re a nonprofit.”

I volunteer a lot, with various organizations. How did these organizations recruit me to give so much of my precious time to them? Their recruitment messages focused on:

    • what their organization does, in terms of results for their target audience, and it inspired me or motivated me to get involved.
    • why volunteers are essential to what that organization does, but never in terms like, “We could never have enough money to pay staff to do this, so we involve volunteers” or “volunteers contribute $xxxx in services,” which implies money saved in having to pay people; instead, the messages focus on why volunteers are more appropriate to do the tasks than paid staff, for reasons that have NOTHING to do with money.
    • what the benefits will be for me in volunteering; Will I get to work with a target audience or regarding an issue I care deeply about? Will it be fun? Will I get opportunities that might help me in my professional work? Will I get some kind of incredible discount on something I would love to have?

I don’t wait for some free time to give these organizations; I MAKE time to help them. And these organizations also let me know that they appreciate my work:

  • They send me personalized emails when I finish an assignment, commenting on the work to show me that they actually read it.
  • They send me stuff: a pen, a t-shirt, a trophy.
  • Sometimes, someone writes me just to say “hi.”

In short, they treat me like a precious investor!

I cannot possibly say yes to every organization that wants my donated time. In fact, I say “no” more often than I say “yes,” even to organizations that have a great volunteer recruitment message, because, as I’ve said, I have bills to pay. In fact, even if I win the lottery and can afford to give away all my time for free, I will still have to say “no” often, because there are only 24 hours a day, and I’ll still need time for eating, sleeping, spending time with my family, etc.

Time is precious. Sometimes, if you really want it, you are going to have to pay for it – even if you are a nonprofit.