Tag Archives: training

Can fiction help us work better in humanitarian aid & development? Yes.

What can fiction teach people for working in humanitarian aid and development? Quite a lot! Fiction can build depth, richness and empathy to the concepts development professionals grapple with daily. Adaobi “Ada” Nkeokelonye explores this topic regularly via her blog, fictioningdevelopment.org. She finds surprising connections between fictional narratives and her day-to-day experience as a development professional. This interview with her from DevelopmentEx offers great background.

She’s worth following on Twitter: @adankeokelonye

Also see:

Aid workers in fiction – new ABC show in January in 2011

TV depictions of volunteerism

Al Gore Campaign Pioneered Virtual Volunteering

Back in 2000, when Al Gore ran for President of the USA, his campaign championed virtual volunteering, including microvolunteering, by recruiting online volunteers to help online with his election efforts. I was getting ready to leave the Virtual Volunteering Project at the time, to work for UNDP/UNV in Germany, and was not able to document these pioneering efforts at the time. I remembered this effort recently, per the current (and seemingly never-ending) Presidential campaign in the USA, and went digging on archive.org to find the original materials from that campaign regarding this work with online volunteers. They are worth looking at – they are still an excellent example of how to clarify expectations for a virtual volunteering role, something I emphasize again and again in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook. They also show that virtual volunteering, including microvlunteering, is NOT a new idea.

He even had an “app” for people with personal digital assistants (PDAs), the precursor to the smart phone.

Somewhere on the archived Gore-for-President site is also a mention of either online volunteering or virtual volunteering, but I can’t find it anymore…

And by the way: Al Gore never claimed he invented the Internet. But he was most certainly one of the visionaries responsible for helping to bring it into being, by fostering its development in a legislative sense.

Also see:

Volunteers are more important than social media in Presidential elections

A volunteerism blog, not a political one

We need volunteer police officers – & an overhaul as well

The tragic, utterly avoidable death of Eric Harris, shot and killed by Robert Bates, a volunteer police reservist in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has lead not only to grief and protests, but also to some people, including police professionals, saying the involvement of volunteer police officers needs to end.

I am not one of those people.

I’ve been reading all that I can about this tragedy, and there were so many red flags before this shooting, about not only the shooter, but the agency’s involvement of volunteers overall:

  • it’s doubtful the volunteer had received proper training and certification to perform the law-enforcement duties he was allowed to perform
  • it’s doubtful the volunteer had receive proper training regarding the carrying and use of firearms on the job
  • it seems the reservist was, essentially, paying to volunteer alongside career police officers – he donated tens of thousands of dollars in cars, SUVs and equipment to the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office over the past 10 years
  • there’s no evidence that this volunteer was properly supervised or screened regarding the roles he was undertaking on the police force
  • this volunteer was involved in a violent crimes and narcotics task force, not as an observer, but as an arresting officer, and was equipped with a firearm – it cannot be shown that his involvement in these activities, and that his carrying a firearm, was necessary at all

We would never tolerate a career police officer lacking that kind of screening, training and support – we should not tolerate it of a volunteer.

And then there is the reason that some law enforcement agencies involve volunteers; note this excerpt from an article from CNN:

Why do law enforcement agencies have volunteers?
Money, money, money.

Strapped police departments are increasingly looking to do more with fewer resources, and volunteer programs can help plug holes in their operating budgets, says the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which runs the Volunteers in Police Service program

Of course, that statement makes me INSANE, because that is NOT the primary reason why an agency should be involving volunteers! This kind of mentality is what pushing the dollar value of volunteer hours by the Independent Sector, the Corporation National Service, and others is causing: the myth that volunteers are free, and that the best reason to involve volunteers is because they save money.

Why involve volunteer police officers? Here are FAR better reasons than “money, money, money”:

  • The motto of so many police forces is “to protect and serve.” Volunteers can be representatives of that community the police serve. Volunteer involvement can be an excellent way to connect more deeply with community members, by having them see local police work first hand and, to a degree, participating in such. Volunteer involvement allows members of the community to come into a police agency, as volunteers (and, therefore, with no financial stake in the agency), to see for themselves the work that agency does. Involving volunteers — representatives of the community — can help educate the community about what the police do, even changing negative perceptions.
  • Community engagement is community ownership. Volunteer involvement demonstrates that the community is invested in the police and its goals, that they feel a part of those goals. They are more likely to be supportive of the police if they feel ownership of such.
  • Involving volunteers can help your organization reach particular demographic groups — people of a particular age, in a particular neighborhood, of a particular economic level, etc., especially groups who might not be involved with your organization otherwise. How does diversity among your volunteer ranks reflect the diversity of your community?

Police, what demographics are represented among your volunteers, and how does this show community involvement at your agency? What feedback have volunteers provided that has affected your organization, such as improving your services? What do volunteers say about your organization’s performance? How have volunteers helped you build bridges with communities in ways that your career folks could not? If you cannot answer these questions, you are NOT involving volunteers for the right reasons!

Should police be involved in pursuing suspects, investigation of violent crimes, SWAT teams, narcotics task force, and other high-risk activities? Sure – BUT ONLY IF THEY HAVE REGULAR, UP-TO-DATE TRAINING AND PROPER SUPERVISION. This clearly was NOT the case in Tulsa.

Lower-risk-and-still-meaningful ways to involve police volunteers – many of them NOT requiring the officer to carry a firearm:

  • policing community events such as fairs and charitable events
  • staffing DUI checkpoints
  • missing persons investigations
  • neighborhood patrol
  • sex-offender management
  • traffic control
  • helping to staff court proceedings
  • serving low-risk warrants/supporting warrant compliance
  • filling low-risk roles in jails (such as administrative)
  • helping after disasters
  • helping crime victims/victim services
  • leading community events such as bicycle events that promote safety and bike registration
  • chaplaincy
  • code enforcement
  • crime prevention programs
  • translation
  • equipment maintenance

But even in these lower-risk ways, even if volunteer police will not be carrying a firearm, volunteer police still need regular, up-to-date training and proper supervision! THAT REQUIREMENT NEVER CHANGES. They need to be trained even if their role is only to observe and report.

Volunteer police reservists can be an excellent way to connect more deeply with community members, and MORE police departments need to be doing it, not less, particularly in areas where there is friction between the police and those served. But clearly, many police departments need a radical overhaul of their volunteer engagement, particularly regarding volunteers’ training, record-keeping about their training, roles they are given and supervision they are provided. Getting rid of volunteer police has the potential to create even wider cultural gaps between police and the communities they are supposed to serve.

Also see:

A PDX group’s volunteers ROCK MY WORLD! (that’s good)

As a researcher regarding effective volunteer engagement and a trainer of managers of volunteers, I have high expectations when I engage with volunteers or the managers of such as a customer, client or volunteer. I’m a tough audience. I know that successful volunteer training and support, and appropriate customer service, come not from large budgets but, rather, from the organization making such a priority. I’ve encountered so many well-trained, conscientious volunteers from small nonprofits with tiny budgets, and so many ill-trained, distracted, unmotivated, uncaring volunteers from large, well-known nonprofits with large budgets.

I live near a group home for adults with mental disabilities, and I’ve grown quite fond of the residents – one in particular, who loves animals. He used to help his neighbor with her many pets, but she died last year, and all of pets had to be rehomed – taking away not only his beloved friends, but also activities that he absolutely lived for. About the same time, a stray cat living under a foreclosed house across the street had two kittens, and my friend started feeding them. We’ve cobbled together shelter for the cats on the front porch of his group home, and neighbors give him bottles to return to the grocery to get money for cat food. He has a renewed lease on life, and the cats are well-cared for. My friend loves his new role as cat caretaker – but I’m dreading new kittens in the spring. So I decided to see what our options were for getting the cats spayed and neutered. How could I catch these cats?  And if I caught the cats, was there a place that would fix them for a low cost? And how would we provide after-surgery care, when he couldn’t have them in his house, and me, with a dog, a cat, and a cat-hating husband, couldn’t have them in mine?

My vet gave me a flyer for the Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon, based in Portland. I called the number, left a message, and within two hours, a volunteer called me back. She patiently answered all of my MANY questions, said that FCCO does a special surgery that allows cats to be released the next day after surgery, and said that my friend’s cats qualified as feral cats. She put me in touch with a volunteer a bit closer than Portland, who lent me humane traps for the cats, and she explained the week-long process to go through in order to catch the cats. Unfortunately, I was able to capture only one, but I drove him to Portland (45 minutes away), dropped him off at the FCCO offices just before 8 a.m., spent the day with various friends in PDX, then went back just before 4. A volunteer provided an orientation to everyone like me, new to FCCO, about how to release the cat and look for post-surgical issues, and then I came back with the cat to where I live outside of PDX.

Every FCCO volunteer and employee I encountered was wonderful. They had complete information, they all knew the process inside and out, and they answered my questions before I could ask them. They were always ready and willing to help me. I never felt like I was a burden, that I was bothering anyone, as I’ve felt SO many times at other organizations. FCCO made me feel so supported and valued. They didn’t focus on what they couldn’t do – they focused on all that they CAN do for people that care about stray cats. If they couldn’t provide something I asked for, they always gave me an alternative – not just a “No, we don’t do that.” I didn’t have to pay anything, but was happy to make the recommended tiny donation for the cat’s surgery, rabies shot and ear-mite treatment.

BRAVO, FCCO! You are doing a LOT of things right when it comes to recruiting, training and supporting your volunteers. And, based on my experience, I think animal welfare groups are some of the most challenging when it comes to effective volunteer management: the people you attract as volunteers are oh-so-passionate about animals, and that kind of passion and mission ownership be both a wonderful blessing and a horrific curse. Your volunteer management is obviously outstanding, as is your focus on customer/client services. WELL DONE!

As soon as I catch that other cat (the mom has disappeared, I’m sorry to say), I’ll be back!

And if you want to see what it’s like when I am NOT happy with customer service from an animal welfare organization, you will have to go over to my personal blog.

I also have often blogged here on my official, professional blog site about unsatisfactory volunteering experiences, on my part and on the part of others, but I don’t name names. I provide these as cautionary tales – what NOT to do in engaging volunteers:

Me in Europe in Fall 2014

Happy New Year! (and Happy birthday, Elvis!)

I’ll be in Germany in the Fall of 2014 for a visit of a few weeks. I’ll make a trip to Barcelona, Spain as well for a long weekend in that time. I’m not sure if this will be in September or October.

I would love to combine my trip with presenting or consulting! I’m willing to go wherever German wings or any discount airline flies from Cologne (Köln) or Frankfurt Am Rhein, or wherever I can take a train in 5 hours or less, provided your organization covers airfare/train fare and accommodations. That means I’m willing to travel just about anywhere in Europe: England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Turkey, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria – and more!

I will do an onsite consultation or presentation pro bono, provided your organization covers all travel and accommodation expenses! 

Right now, my dates are flexible; if an organization really wants me to come in October then that’s when I would come to Germany.  My flexibility will change, however, around April 2014, when I have to make a decision about my dates.

More about me.

More about my consulting services.

More about my training areas.

Interested? Email me at jc @ coyotecommunications.com with what you have in mind.

Free training video: Using Internet & Smartphone Apps to Work With Volunteers

This workshop, Real Tools for Real People: Using Internet & Smartphone Apps to Work With Volunteers, is a 90 minute training video made at the October Corporation for National and Community Service 2013 Pacific Cluster Learning Community Conference, with twang (I’d been in Kentucky two weeks previously). It’s focused on managers of AmeriCorps, VISTA, SeniorCorps and other national service members, however, it’s applicable to any initiative involving volunteers.

Sorry that the video doesn’t pick up the laughs from the terrific audience of about 50 or more people.


Me in D.C. & Philly area in April 2014

logoAt long last, I will be in the Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area! I haven’t been there since 2005!

I will be there in early April 2014, to do a presentation on April 8.  I would like to schedule trainings and meetings before and after that day in the Washington, D.C. metro area and/or in the Philly area. It’s important to get bookings as soon as possible, before I book my flights!

My presentations are lively and audience-oriented, and are focused giving participants resources that they can use immediately and a base on which to further build and improve long after the workshop is over. Workshop topics include:

  • various practices and trends in volunteerism, volunteer management and community engagement, including
    • trends in volunteer engagement and volunteer management (and how to exploit these trends)
    • inspiring and supporting all staff regarding the involvement of volunteers
    • increasing the value of the coordinator / manager of volunteers role within an organization
    • online volunteering/virtual volunteering, including screening and orienting volunteers online and risk management
    • recruiting volunteers, from specific demographics and in general
    • creating online communities and networks for volunteers
    • using real-time communications (video conferencing, online phone calls, chats and instant messaging), audio and video with volunteers
  • traditional and online communications, including:
    • building press relations / pitching stories successfully
    • writing for the press
    • networking and outreach to build credibility and support for a program or organization
    • basic public relations functions
    • outreach to particular audiences
    • strategic communications (systematic planning and utilization of a variety of information flows to deliver a message and build credibility or a brand)
    • writing worthwhile, compelling, appropriate reports for partner organizations and donors
    • crisis communications, how to address misinformation/misunderstandings, addressing online criticism, etc.
    • taking photos in the developing world, for non-photographers
    • proposal writing
    • outreach via the Internet
    • online culture and communities
    • evaluating online activities
    • creating blogs and podcasts for nonprofit organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community groups, government agencies, etc.

To talk about possible dates and my training fees, please contact me via email.

I’m also available to meet, face-to-face, for informational meetings, collaboration ideas, etc. Please contact me via email to set up a meeting in April 2014!

Thank you, Portland metro area

While updating my web site last week, I realized that I have done FAR more training here in the Portland, Oregon metro area since moving here in Fall 2009 than I did in Austin, Texas while living there from 1996 through 2000 – in fact, it was rare I presented in Austin, or the rest of Texas, when it was my home. It was a shock to realize this – I consider Austin my spiritual home, and get misty eyed at the sweet memories of living there. But, indeed, the greater metropolitan Portland area has been much kinder to me, professionally speaking.

So I want to give credit where credit is due: thank you, PDX! And a long overdue thank you to the people and organizations who have made this happen:

Here’s more information about the training I provide (both onsite and online training!).

I’m been quite hard on Portland since moving here – but the reality is that it’s a community that has believed in me. And I am oh-so-grateful for that support!

Hire me in 2013 – let me help make your organization even better!

Blunt headline, I know, but it gets the point across: I’m available as a trainer for your organization or conference, or for short-term consulting, for long-term consulting, and, for the perfect opportunity, full-time employment in 2013!

As a consultant, I specialize in training, advising, capacity-building services and strategy development for not-for-profit organizations (NPOs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society, grass roots organizations, and public sector agencies, including government offices and educational institutions (altogether, these organizations comprise the mission-based sector).

Capacity-building is always central to any training or consulting work I do. Capacity-building means giving people the skills, information and other resources to most effectively and efficiently address the organization’s mission, and to help the organization be attractive to new and continuing support from donors, volunteers, community leaders and the general public. My training and consulting goal is to build the capacities of employees, consultants and volunteers to successfully engage in communications and community involvement efforts long after I have moved on.

My consulting services are detailed here. I can deliver both onsite and online services. Also, I love to travel (especially internationally!).

In 2013, I would love to create or co-create an entire course as a part-time or full-time instructor at a college university within any program training nonprofit managers, social workers, MBA students, aid and humanitarian workers, etc. I am most interested, and, I think, most qualified, to teach courses relating to:

  • public relations (basic public relations functions, outreach to particular audiences, crisis communications, how to address misinformation / misunderstandings, how to deal with public criticism, etc.)
  • strategic communications (systematic planning and utilization of a variety of information flows, internal and external to an organization or program, to deliver a message and build credibility or a brand)
  • cross-platform media and electronic media (using traditional print, synchronous and asynchronous online / digital communications, and emerging digital technologies effectively, and integrating the use of all information flows)
  • public speaking
  • community engagement (involving community members as volunteers, from program supporters to advisers, and creating ways for the community to see the work of an organization firsthand)

Would I consider giving up the consulting life and working just one job, either as a full-time consultant for a year or a full-time, regular employee? Yes! In that regard, I am looking for opportunities to:

  • manage/direct a program at a nonprofit, university or government agency.


  • direct the marketing, public relations or other communications activities for a major project or program at a nonprofit, university or government agency – a corporation that matches my professional values.

I have a profile at LinkedIn, as well as details on my own web site about my professional activities. I’m also happy to share my CV with you; email me with your request. If you have any specific questions about my profile, feel free to contact me as well. References available upon request as well!

Looking forward to hearing from you! Questions welcomed!

Striking a chord in 2012

My most popular blogs in 2012, based on visitor numbers, were all focused the points of view of volunteers:

  • I’m a Frustrated Volunteer, my confession at just how many of my blogs from the points of view of people that were trying to volunteer and weren’t able to were actually about my own attempts to volunteer since moving back to the USA in 2009. Got a lot of comments as well.
  • A missed opportunity with volunteers, which included this quote from a colleague (not me this time!!) about her volunteering experience at an un-named organization: “No one ever asked me for my name. They didn’t have a sign in sheet. They didn’t capture any of my information. And I have no idea what all this work that I did means to them.”
  • I’m a volunteer & you should just be GRATEFUL I’m here!, which quoted entitlement volunteers, those folks who think organizations should take ANY volunteer and whatever that volunteer offers, and simply be grateful for what they get, should not have standards, quality control or performance measurements when it comes to volunteers, and that to demand quality from volunteers is insulting.

I expected some defensive comments on these blogs, about how over-worked managers of volunteers are, about how they can’t be expected to respond somehow to every person that wants to volunteer or to ask volunteers about their experience, etc. That’s what usually happens when I try to talk about these subjects on online discussion groups for managers of volunteers. That didn’t happen (progress!), but the visitor numbers show that these blogs really did strike a chord!

Being a volunteer – or trying to volunteer – and talking to others volunteering or trying to volunteer, has taught me more about the essentials of volunteer engagement than any book, article or workshop!

I’m quite surprised that the blogs regarding the results of the volunteer management software survey that Rob Jackson (robjacksonconsulting.com) and I did this year didn’t get much more attention than they did – I fully expected the blogs about this survey to be the most popular of the year, but they weren’t! The purpose of the survey was to gather some basic data that might help organizations that involve volunteers to make better-informed decisions when choosing software, and to help software designers to understand the needs of those organizations. We also wanted to get a sense of what organizations were thinking about volunteer management software. I think we more than met those expectations! In addition to the main blog announcing the results in July 2012, there was also a blog about What’s so fabulous about software tools for volunteer management?, a blog about just how much managers of volunteers love spreadsheets, and a blog about What do volunteers do? The answer may surprise you, as reported by survey respondents, that turned out to be much more wide ranging than many volunteer management consultants and books would have you believe. In short, our survey provided a lot of in-depth information about not just software, but volunteer engagement in general.

In case you missed a blog this year: I’m retweeting two or three of my blogs a few times a week between now and the end of the year (follow jcravens42 for more!), and I’ve created this index of all my my blogs (indexed by date).

2012 isn’t over – I’ll be writing a few more entries in the waning days of the year. Stay tuned!