Tag Archives: skills

Essential digital networking skills of the modern nonprofit worker

angryjayneNo matter your role at a nonprofit or other mission-based organization – marketing, management of volunteers, directing a program, accounting, human resources (paid staff) management – you must have a solid understanding of certain digital skills, skills that go beyond how to use database software, to be able to do that job well.

Every job at a mission-based organization – nonprofit, NGO, charity, school, government agency, etc. – requires being able to efficiently process large amounts of information from a variety of resources, being able to respond to people quickly with accurate information, being able to work with a variety of different people via online tools, being up-to-date on developments that can affect that job and knowing about emerging innovative practices. Going to conferences and reading magazines and paper newsletters are great to build your knowledge, onsite classes are great to build your skills – but just going to such events and reading only print information isn’t enough anymore to continuously build your skills and knowledge. And conferences and onsite classes are often out-of-reach, financially, for many nonprofit workers.

The good news is that digital skills are easy to acquire, and are much more about being an effective communicator with humans than having a computer science degree or being a programmer.

At minimum, the modern nonprofit worker, regardless of his or her role – human resources management, program assistance, marketing, whatever –  should:

  • Respond to email quickly
  • Manage email well, to the point that he or she can quickly find a particular email from a particular person from a particular time period
  • Be able to communicate effectively via email, including in situations addressing conflict or talking with someone for whom English is not his or her first language
  • Be a veteran of participating in online presentations and know what makes an effective online presentation
  • Have taken and finished at least one online course that took longer than two hours to finish.
  • Know how to work remotely, not just writing and responding via email, but participating in phone conferences and checking in regularly
  • Be able to effectively facilitate a phone or online meeting
  • Know how to use Twitter or Facebook or whatever comes next to connect with essential information for his or her job (experts in his or her field, legislation that could affect his or her work, etc.) – that doesn’t mean he or she needs to be a social media outreach expert, just that they know how to use social networking to NETWORK as a part of his or her job. And that means more than just posting information; it means knowing how to engage with others.
  • Know how to look for social media keyword tags that might relate to his or her work in some way
  • Know how to upload, or download, photos to Flickr, or a similar online platform
  • Know how to reduce the size of a photo (so that it can be included in an email newsletter, attached to email, etc.)
  • Not be afraid to try new technologies more than once

In addition, senior staff at any mission-based organization should know how to work with online volunteers and understand the basics of virtual volunteering; even if all your volunteers are “traditional”, you need to explore virtual volunteering.

Yes, it would be great if you understood Instagram and Snapchat and whatever else intensive, shiny social media tool comes down the lane, especially those that are used exclusively or primarily by phones and tablets – but unless you are a marketing director or manager of volunteers, those are just nice to know, but not absolutely necessary.

Put it into your official work plan to get up-to-speed on essential digital networking skills – practice will get you where you need to be!

Also see:

How will you leverage World Youth Skills Day?

I love leveraging (exploiting!) days designated by the United Nations for my own program use. Why?

  • Many of the days have a lead agency that builds a marketing campaign around the day’s theme. Any press or others paying attention to that campaign might, as a result, stumble upon whatever it is I’m trying to promote if I’ve aligned my messaging with the day.
  • The lead agency marketing the day often creates a Twitter tag to go with the day, such as #humanitarianheroes for World Humanitarian Day on 19 August. I can use the tag on my own tweets about the activity I want to align with the day and any press or others paying attention to that hashtag might, as a result, stumble upon whatever it is I’m trying to promote.

So, for instance, those that promote volunteer engagement / volunteerism might want to pay attention to this: the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, that addresses issues relating to a range of social, humanitarian affairs and human rights issues that affect people all over the world, proposed 15 July as World Youth Skills Day. “Recognizing that fostering the acquisition of skills by youth would enhance their ability to make informed life and work choices and empower them to gain access to changing labour markets, the General Assembly would, by the terms of the draft text, invite all Member States and international, regional and United Nations system organizations to commemorate World Youth Skills Day in an appropriate manner.” Here is the full text of document A/C.3/69/L.13/Rev.1. The UN General Assembly has now approved the designation, though the UN web site doesn’t reflect this at the time of this blog’s publication.

Millions of youth worldwide are unemployed, uneducated and un-engaged: 74.5 million in 2013, the majority of whom live in the developing countries. Teens and people in their 20s aren’t just bored – they are frustrated at how they are locked out of local decision-making as well as economic and life opportunities. These disengaged, disenfranchised youth are a growing concern of governments and various international organizations. For instance, you might recall that, in 2013, I was part of 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, a European Union (EU) body, to produce this paper: Internet-mediated Volunteering in the EU: Its history, prevalence, and approaches and how it relates to employability and social inclusion. As part of this project, I created a wiki of all of the various resources I used for my research, including a list of “>resources related to volunteering as a contributor to employability.

How could your nonprofit, non-governmental organization (NGO) or government program that involves volunteers or promotes volunteerism leverage this day?

  • Start asking teens and 20 somethings that have volunteered at your organization, or various organizations, if volunteering has taught them skills or given them experience they were able to use to get a job or to advance in their careers. Ask them if they have ever been asked about their volunteering experience in a job interview. Put together an article to publish on your web site about the comments from these young people. And hold on to this data: maybe you could use it in a grant application to get more resources to help you involve even MORE youth volunteers. Compiling this information would be a wonderful task for a volunteer or group of volunteers – maybe even youth volunteers?!?
  • Be on the lookout for a Twitter tag that might develop in conjunction with this day. I’ll certainly share such as soon as I know about it here on my blog. You can use this hashtag for tweets leading up to World Youth Skills Day that relate to youth volunteering at your organization that are learning skills they need for the work place and adult life.
  • Publish a blog for World Youth Skills Day talking about how and why your organization recruits and involves teen and 20 something volunteers specifically, and how this involvement not only benefits your programs, but communities as well – today and in the future.
  • Think about an event you might be able to host at your organization related to World Youth Skills Day.

Pay attention to the UNESCO-UNEVOC International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training and to the United Nations Volunteers programme, part of UNDP, on Twitter and Facebook – those are the two most likely candidates to be the lead agencies for World Youth Skills Day. Even if it turns out to be another UN agency, I suspect UNEVOC and UNV will somehow be involved in activities related to the day. And I’ll share here on my blog what I learn.

Looking for EU charities & NGOs to offer feedback

I’m looking for employees, consultants and volunteers at charities and NGOs based in the European Union to comment on any or all of the following three (3) subjects, based on their own observations or experience. Various people at one organization can comment, since different people at any one organization may have different perspectives. The identity of anyone who responds, and that of any organization a respondent represents, will be kept anonymous in any published material that might include that person’s comments unless that person gives express written consent otherwise.

If you are an employee, consultant or volunteer at a charity or NGO based in the EU, I welcome you to comment on any or all of the following three subjects, in a direct email to me at jc@coyotecommunications.com or, if you want your identity and comments to be fully public, in the comments section of this blog:

(1) The lack of widely-available online volunteering work in the EU, compared to, say, the USA, may include:

  • lack of support at charities, NGOs and other organizations for the engagement of volunteers (online or off); support includes staffing, knowledge and funding
  • lack of understanding regarding the value of volunteer engagement, in general (not just online) for a charity or NGO
  • lack of awareness or understanding regarding online volunteering
  • lack of availability of online tools at charities, NGOs and other organizations for the engagement of online volunteers (many organizations have prohibitions instituted by senior management or the IT department with regard to using social media, VOiP technologies like Skype, or cloud-based platforms)

Do you agree? Disagree? Have comments?

(2) For organizations based in the EU that are involving volunteers online in any way (this can include volunteers from outside the EU):

  • Why did your organization start involving volunteers online?
  • What did you have to do or change at your organization to start involving volunteers online?
  • How have you evaluated the impact of the work of online volunteers at your organization (and if you have not evaluated the impact, why not?)
  • Have any of the volunteers who have contributed to your organization somehow online said that their online volunteering experience lead to paid work, to their greater employability or to career advancement?

(3) Obstacles to leveraging online volunteering work into greater employability/career advancement in the EU may include:

  • lack of available online volunteering work
  • lack of awareness of this type of volunteering among those seeking/needing employment
  • perceptions among potential employers regarding the value of volunteering, online or onsite, for application to paid work (“it’s just volunteering” or “you were just volunteering, rather than really working”)

Do you agree? Do you think these factors might affect this as well:

  • lack of computer or Internet access?
  • lack of basic skills needed to engage as a volunteer online?
  • lack of literacy?

If you are based in the EU and work for an organization based in the EU, as a paid employee, consultant or volunteer, and this organization involves volunteers online in any way, and you have any comments or questions on the aforementioned three subjects, I would welcome your response. The identity of anyone who responds, and that of any organization a respondent represents, will be kept anonymous in any published material that might include that person’s comments unless that person gives express written consent otherwise. If you are an employee, consultant or volunteer at a charity or NGO based in the EU, I welcome you to comment on any or all of the following three subjects, in a direct email to me at jc@coyotecommunications.com or, if you want your identity and comments to be fully public, in the comments section of this blog.

Why am I asking? Because I am working on a research project for the EU for the next several weeks. The project is called the ICT4EMPL Future Work project, and I am contacting various organizations based in the EU, or that have offices in the EU, and that I know, or strongly suspect, involve online volunteers. I define online volunteers as people who do some or all of their volunteering (unpaid service) for an organization via the Internet, via a computer, smart phone or tablet they are using from home, work, school, or elsewhere offsite from the organization. The online volunteers that your organization involves do not all have to be in the EU.

My part of this research is to explore the state of play of internet-mediated volunteering: virtual volunteering, microvolunteering, crowd-sourced labour, crowdfunding, internet-mediated volunteering, internet-mediated work exchange (timebanks and complementary currency), etc., with regard to developing entrepreneurship and self employment, skills and social inclusion, and transition from education to employment for young people in the European Union.

I have a wiki that details this research project.

To stay updated about this project:

Volunteer engagement understood intuitively

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersAt the series of workshops I was a part of this week, another presenter talked about how instrumental volunteers — young Russians who had studied in the USA at some point — were regarding the success of a recent university fair in Moscow, where representatives of USA universities and potential students were brought together. The volunteers helped the representatives get to and from the fair, helped them at the fair, and took them on customized, personalized guided tours of Moscow. The representatives said in their evaluations of the fair that the volunteers were one of the best parts of their experience, because of the incredible energy and support those volunteers provided.

To someone who was listening who didn’t know much about volunteer engagement, it sounded like these volunteers magically showed up for this event, knew exactly what to say and what was needed, and when the representatives left, then disappeared into the ether. Of course that wasn’t the case at all: talking to the organizer, I found out that the volunteers were recruited from among students with whom he had already been associating and who had already been studying, working and socializing together for at least a few months. He already knew they were great speakers, that they knew how to be helpful to foreigners, that they understood Americans in particular, and that their English was up-to-snuff. So, yes, the volunteers were screened. And, yes, the volunteers received a volunteer orientation that clarified expectations, though that isn’t what the process was called. The volunteers got a t-shirt with the name of the event on the front and the world “Volunteer” on the back, and many representatives insisted on taking photos with “their” volunteer — volunteer recognition. And the volunteers had FUN – they are all asking when they get to do this again

I’m sure the person coordinating this event has never read a volunteer management book or attended a workshop about volunteer engagement. He’s not a part of any online discussion groups for managers of volunteers. He doesn’t call himself a manager of volunteers. Yet, somehow, he intuitively knew all of the elements that are required to engage volunteers and support them so that they can, in turn, support others. I’m sure the volunteers didn’t know they had undergone volunteer screening activities nor attended a volunteer orientation — they had simply had a LOT of fun and got to do something they really wanted to do.

And one more thought: I frequently hear that Eastern European young people just don’t “get” volunteering, that they don’t see why they should provide work for free. Yet this guy had to turn people away who wanted to participate in volunteering to support this event! His organization is a volunteer magnet!

This guy is asking volunteers to do a LOT of work and exude quality in that work.

So…. what does he know that you don’t?

Also see my favorite volunteer engagement resources.

Greetings from Budapest, Hungary!

Rapid Development Plan to get you using networking tech with your communities

Too many nonprofits, NGOs, government community programs, etc. are still not using the Internet beyond email and looking up a phone number on a web site. Many managers of volunteers in particular still avoid the use of networking tech. I wish this wasn’t true, but I even hear the foot-dragging from seasoned volunteer management consultants: I really need to start using this stuff, I guess…

If you or your organization still hasn’t fully embraced the Internet to support and involve the community, including your volunteers, here is what volunteers — and perhaps other potential supporters, such as donors, and maybe even city officials, the press, etc. — may be thinking about your organization:

  • This organization must not be very well-run or be very well-organized.
  • This organization may be trying to hide something.
  • This organization doesn’t have anything to offer teens, 20-somethings, young professionals, etc.
  • The important decisions that happen at this organization happen behind closed doors with just the senior staff and the board. The community, including volunteers and clients, aren’t involved in decision-making.
  • This organization is stuck in the past. I want to be involved in an organization that’s very much aware of the present and is ready for the future.

I’ve been beating the use-the-Internet-in-your-work drum since 1994, and find myself frustrated that, 17 years later, there are still so many nonprofit staff people, including coordinator of volunteers, who won’t really use the Internet — and even have other staff members and volunteers reading and responding to their email!

It’s by no means the entire nonprofit sector that is holding out: I think most nonprofits DO get it. There are thousands and thousands of nonprofit organizations and others doing fantastic work, even pioneering work, in using a range of online tools, including so-called online social networking, to engage a variety of people. These organizations are seen by volunteers as responsive, as really listening and acknowledging that they have heard what volunteers are saying. And volunteers love to talk about their experience with such organizations to their friends, family and colleagues — online and face-to-face.

How can you get to get on the other side of the digital divide, if you aren’t already? How can you get your entire organization there, especially those hardcore holdouts? 

I’ve developed a Rapid Development Plan” to get any org – & the coordinator of volunteers – using the most essential online tools ASAP. It’s the featured training for Jan. on e-volunteerism. It is a day-by-day plan, doling out tiny learning activities every day that will rapidly build up anyone’s skills regarding getting the most out of networking tech. It’s my last effort to reach the tech holdouts!

Subscribe to e-volunteerism to access the training ($45), or you can pay for 48-hour access ($10).

Also see these free resources: