Tag Archives: volunteerism

UN mobilizes volunteers to research contribution of volunteerism in fragile communities and post-conflict environments

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, in partnership with ActionAid, the Association of Voluntary Centres (in Russian), the Beijing Volunteer Federation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO), is deploying 15 national and international volunteer researchers to collect evidence on the contribution of volunteerism in fragile communities and post-conflict environments.

The volunteer researchers are currently deploying to 15 countries to gather evidence for the 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR) on the theme of “Resilient Communities: The Role of Volunteerism in a Turbulent World”. The volunteer researchers will spend up to six months living with different communities in Bolivia, Burundi, China, Greece, Guatemala, Egypt, Madagascar, Malawi, Myanmar, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Russia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and Tanzania to generate evidence and data to inform the report.

More details of this deployment and research project.

Follow @UNVolunteers on Twitter to stay up-to-date on this project and know when the report will be released.

Previous reports from UNV include the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2015: Transforming Governance and the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2011: Universal Values for Global Well-being.

Also see:

2017 National Volunteer Weeks & Months

Energize, Inc. (Susan Ellis’ company) has compiled a list of designated volunteer weeks or months in 2017, mostly in English-speaking countries, when nonprofits, government agencies and others are supposed to honor volunteerism. These are celebrated annually:

Canada’s National Volunteer Week, April 23-29, 2017

USA’s National Volunteer Week, April 23-29, 2017

Australia’s National Volunteer Week, May 8-14, 2017

United Kingdom’s Volunteers’ Week, June 1-7, 2011

New Zealand’s National Volunteer Awareness Week, June 18-24, 2017

Singapore’s National Volunteer Month, December, 2017

During these weeks (and always!), remember to honor your online volunteers and to use the Internet to honor ALL volunteers, regardless of where service is performed. This resource can help, you do that, as can The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook.

There are also MANY days designated to encourage volunteer action. Energize has a terrific compilation of these as well on its web site. These are great days for creating one-time, short-term group volunteering activities, including one(-ish) day “tech” activities for volunteers, like hackathons and edit-a-thons.

Is there a Semana Nacional de Voluntarios in Mexico or Spain? Or Semaine Nationale des Bénévoles in France? If you know of other weeks meant to celebrate volunteers, let me know (please include a link to the official web site).

AmeriCorps, VISTA, other CNCS programs could soon be gone

On February 17, 2017, The New York Times reported that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) may be among the federal programs being considered for elimination in the Fiscal Year 2018 budget.

As a federal agency, CNCS is the nation’s largest grant-maker in support of service and volunteering. The agency manages AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, the Social Innovation Fund, and the Volunteer Generation Fund. AmeriCorps alone engages more than 75,000 men and women in intensive service each year at more than 21,000 locations including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country.

If you are a US citizen, I strongly encourage you to:

  1. Call your Congressional Representative and two US Senators and share your opinion about national service funding. Calling or sending a postal letter is most effective; emails are too easily ignored.
  2. Sign up to participate in the National Peace Corps Association’s National Days of Action, March 3-15, to convey to your elected leaders why these programs matter.
  3. Support the efforts of those speaking up for the Peace Corps nationwide on social media March 3 by joining the NPCA’s “thunderclap”, a coordinated social media blast.
  4. Contact your local newspapers with a letter to the editor in support of CNCS programs.

News stories & blogs re: AmeriCorps cuts:

Agencies in Oklahoma worry about fate of AmeriCorps

Denver schools brace for Trump’s proposed AmeriCorps cut

The Republican Case for Saving Americorps

Also see:

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.

Why I still don’t like “International Volunteer Manager’s Day”

logoNovember 5 is celebrated by some as International Volunteer Manager’s Day. And I’m not fond of it. I’ve said so in conversations, and in a post on OzVPM back in October 2009 . But I wanted to revisit why I’m not fond of it.

I call it “hug-your-volunteer-manager” day. I compare it to Mother’s Day.  And I don’t mean that as a compliment. 

Mother’s Day didn’t transform mothers’ lives. It didn’t elevate the status of mothers. It didn’t improve maternal health. It didn’t make women want to become mothers. It wasn’t transformative regarding how society thought about mothers. That’s what the founder of Mother’s Day wanted, and instead, she saw the day become a commercial celebration, a day of sweetness, but not substance. In fact, the person who led the campaign to adopt Mother’s Day in the USA later regretted it because of how empty and commercial the celebration was, in contrary to her intentions, and even filed a lawsuit to stop a Mother’s Day Festival.

Maybe I would be more attracted to the day if it was a day less about cute memes and inspiring quotes and was, instead, devoted to encouraging people that are in charge of the engagement of volunteers to:

  • go to their supervisors and ask for salary and budget increases
  • put themselves on the agenda to address their organization’s board of directors regarding the importance of quality volunteer support and ask for a larger budget for this support
  • write their local newspapers and blog in response to whatever the latest volunteerism campaign is (because there is ALWAYS one going on somewhere), debunking myths like “volunteers are free” and talking about why volunteer management is essential to such a campaign’s success (and writing the campaign leaders as well)
  • have a meeting with the person responsible for the annual report to present a proposal regarding how the contributions of volunteers will be noted in the next annual report, and absolutely refuse for that information to be presented in terms of money
  • launch a new, updated, detailed section of the organization’s web site that gives volunteers as high a profile as donors, and ensure that the link to “support us” doesn’t just link to a page on how to make a cash donation
  • use social media to promote the impact of volunteers at the organization, or to assert volunteers aren’t cost-free, or to push back against those that want us to value volunteers primarily in terms of money saved by not paying staff
  • develop an action plan for the next year with concrete actions to elevate the role of volunteers and volunteer management within the organization (the board, the staff, partner organizations, etc.)
  • present a strategy to expand the engagement of volunteers at the organization
  • present a strategy for training staff to work better with volunteers, create more assignments, etc.
  • vow to never, ever write another Facebook post or blog or online discussion comment whining about how overworked and underpaid they are – or at least not to write one for six months.

No pins. No mugs. No flowers. No posters. No t-shirts. No buttons. No badges. No memes. Not for this day. Instead, concrete, even provocative, action, by managers of volunteers – real activism – to elevate respect for their roles and their work, to increase the recognition of the vital importance of volunteerism specialists, so much so that people choose it as a career. To be transformative regarding how society thought about volunteer engagement and those in charge of such.

Wikipedia needs improvement re: volunteerism-related topics

wikipediaI’ve been updating Wikipedia again. I do that from time-to-time. This time, specifically, I’ve been updating information regarding days, weeks and months that have been designated for volunteers or about volunteerism by a major organization, a country or the United Nations, as well as updating information about organizations and associations for those that manage volunteers. You can see all my updates on Wikipedia, ever, here.

It’s unfortunate that there is no program or organization – not one – that sees what I’m doing on my own, when I have time, as an independent, lonely volunteer, as part of its own mission. The result of this lack of an official champion to mobilize contributors is that Wikipedia is severely lacking in accurate information related to volunteerism, and the volunteerism field is losing a lot of its history. For instance, many major events related to volunteerism aren’t mentioned on Wikipedia or are barely mentioned, like the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, a major event in 1997 in Philadelphia headed by then President Bill Clinton and former President George H. Bush.

But I’m getting tired. Cleaning up Wikipedia and making it an accurate, content-rich resource regarding volunteerism should be a group effort – it shouldn’t just be me. Because I don’t have time and I don’t have all the knowledge! And it shouldn’t be ad hoc, because what’s happening is that people are going on to Wikipedia and changing content on pages related on volunteerism based on how they feel, not based on facts and cited sources, and they know that no one is going to find their edits, because no one is really watching.

There should be an official edit-a-thon to make Wikipedia an accurate, content-rich resource regarding volunteerism. And I just do not have the resources, on my own, to organize an edit-a-thon. I would love to be a part of such an effort – and with funding, I would be happy to organize it, to ensure a range of people and organizations are involved. An edit-a-thon would get a lot of pages created, updated, and linked together, as appropriate, in a two days. It would be a concentration of forces to get the bulk of the work done quickly. It would help people after the hack-a-thon keep contributing accurate, appropriate information. It would create benefits long after the edit-a-thon ended.

Oh, well… in the meantime, hbelow is what I’ve outlined as needing to be done on Wikipedia regarding volunteerism, in case anyone out there wants to help.

Pages that need to be created on Wikipedia:

Pages related to volunteering that need updating, preferable from people intensely familiar with the organizations that are in charge of them (I created some of these pages, FYI, hence why they lack full info – much of what I wrote I had to track down on old web sites on archive.org because the associated web sites aren’t up-to-date for 2016):

Aug. 3, 2016 update: There is now an International Year of Volunteers – there is a Wikipedia page for IVY+10, and I’ve put on its “talk” page that it should be deleted, and remain a subsection of this main IYV page. I also note this on the IYV talk page. The IYV page needs much more information about national conferences that were held, publications that were made, and big events and activities that were organized in conjunction with IYV all over the world. It’s going to be a challenge, because all IYV web sites are long gone; if you remember the URL for an IYV-related initiative, you can type it into archive.org and review the old information. But do NOT cut and paste information from those sources onto the IYV page! You have to rewrite things and cite every source for every sentence or paragraph! Otherwise, the page will get deleted. end of update

The entry for EU Aid Volunteers is a subsection on the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations page. It should have its own page!

Pages that I consider a hot mess and in dire need of content improvement:

Three pages that I’m not allowed to update anymore because other Wikipedia volunteers feel that my expertise gives me too much of a bias (oh, yeah, you read that right), but really need a cleanup:

There are Wikipedia pages regarding human resources management, but nothing on that page regarding how the management of volunteers is different, and there’s no page on the management of volunteers. There’s a page on virtual management but, again, no page on the management of volunteers. What I’m trying to say is that there needs to be a page about the management of volunteers!

One page that is decent, but needs to be reviewed to make sure it’s up-to-date: list of volunteer awards. Maybe there needs to be one page of days, weeks and years regarding volunteerism, like there is for this page for volunteer awards.

And then all of these pages need to be linked together appropriately, and then be linked to and from other pages I haven’t mentioned here.

And all of that is just a START. My outline above isn’t comprehensive, and it is quite USA-centric. Volunteerism is a global phenomenon, yet you might not suspect such reading the aforementioned pages. And what are the Wikipedia pages like on these subjects in Spanish, German, French, Polish, Russian, and on and on?

Will anyone out there take up the call to host an edit-a-thon? Or will others with expertise in volunteerism join me in trying to improve these pages, without waiting for an edit-a-thon?

(Update July 21, 2016): If you decide to start helping with this effort, some advice:

  • Make sure the page you want to create doesn’t already exist under a different name.
  • Read carefully this official Wikipedia page: Wikipedia is not here to tell the world about your noble cause.
  • Make sure you keep information neutral. Write for an encyclopedia, not a brochure.
  • Use LOTS of citations for what you write, and don’t just use the official web site as your source material.
  • Look at similar pages as a template for the page you want to create or improve. For instance, I used existing pages regarding designated volunteering pages as a template to create new ones. A page on volunteer management should follow the style of the existing pages for human resources management and virtual management.
  • Once you create a page, make sure every Wikipedia page that mentions that organization or phrase links to it. For instance, whoever creates the United We Serve page needs to do a search on United We Serve on Wikipedia and make those phrases on other pages link back to the new page. Also, create links to the page under “See Also” on other pages, as appropriate. If you create a new page and don’t immediately create lots of links to it, it will be deleted.

If you decide to have an edit-a-thon to address these many problems on Wikipedia regarding its lack of accurate, complete information related to volunteering and national service, please carefully read these official Wikipedia guidelines on how to hold such.

Wikipedia has a guideline on conflict of interest that states, “You are discouraged from writing articles about yourself or organizations (including their campaigns, clients, products and services) in which you hold a vested interest.” If you represent the organization being talked about on a Wikipedia page, you are supposed to make any editing suggestions on the article’s talk page, using the template {{Request edit}}; supposedly, this will help draw attention to your request and some Wikipedian somewhere will make the edit. The reality is that this rarely happens, and your edit request may languish forever (mine do on the pages Wikipedia has decided I can’t edit anymore). By all means, use the Talk pages as recommended by Wikipedia, but once you do that, it’s best to mobilize your own volunteers that are familiar with Wikipedia and your organization to actually get these edits done.  Make sure those volunteers have user talk pages that provides full details on who they are, and their entirely volunteer, unpaid status with your organization.

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:

Firsts… or almost

logoI didn’t invent virtual volunteering. I started involving online volunteers in 1995, and did a workshop that same year about it for what was then the Nonprofit Center of San Francisco (now Compasspoint), but I didn’t know it was called virtual volunteering, a term coined by Steve Glikbarg at what was then Impact Online (now VolunteerMatch), until more than a year later. I know, and frequently remind people, that online volunteers have been providing services to various causes since the Internet was invented, long before I got online in the 90s. But I was the first to try to identify elements of successful engagement of online volunteers, via the Virtual Volunteering Project, I think I was the first to do a workshop on the subject, even if I didn’t call it that, and I’m very proud of that.

I didn’t write the first paper on using handheld computer tech as a part of humanitarian, environmental or advocacy efforts – I wrote the second. At least I think it was second. It was published in October 2001 as a series of web pages when I worked at the UN, at a time when handheld tech was called personal digital assistants, or PDAs. People are shocked that the predecessor to the smartphone and cellphone was used to help address a variety of community, environmental and social issues before the turn of the century, that apps4good isn’t all that novel of an idea.

And I probably didn’t write the first papers on fan-based communities that come together because of a love of a particular movie, TV show, comic, actor, book or genre and, amid their socializing, also engage in volunteering. Those kinds of communities played a huge role in my learning how to communicate online with various age groups and people of very different backgrounds, which in turn greatly influenced how I worked with online volunteers. In fact, I can still see some influences of that experience in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook. But I stopped researching them in 1999. So I was quite thrilled to recently to find this paper, “The media festival volunteer: Connecting online and on-ground fan labor,” in my research to update a page on the Virtual Volunteering wiki that tracks research that’s been done regarding virtual volunteering. It’s a 2014 paper by Robert Moses Peaslee, Jessica El-Khoury, and Ashley Liles, and uses data gathered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, in September 2012. It is published on Transformative Works and Cultures, an online journal launched in 2009 that looks at various aspects of fan fiction (fan-created fiction inspired by their favorite movies, TV shows and books), comic book fandom, movie fandom, video game fandom, comic and fan conventions, and more.

It’s nice being a pioneer… though I don’t think my early contributions are much to brag about. But I do enjoy seeing things I thought were interesting back in the 90s finally getting the attention they deserve.

Also see

Early History of Nonprofits & the Internet.

Apps4Good movement is more than 15 years old

vvbooklittleThe Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, a book decades in the making, by Susan J. Ellis and myself. Tools come and go, but certain community engagement principles never change, and our book can be used with the very latest digital engagement initiatives and “hot” new technologies meant to help people volunteer, advocate for causes they care about, connect with communities and make a difference.

Volunteers are more important than social media in Presidential elections

Please see the end of this blog for an update nine months later.

graphic by Jayne Cravens representing volunteersLast night, the public radio show Marketplace here in the USA did an excellent story about the vital role volunteers play in a successful Presidential campaign. Social media is great, but the reality is that it’s old-fashioned volunteer engagement – people calling neighbors to get out the vote, driving neighbors to the polls, etc. – that wins elections. The story is available for free online, and if you are outside the USA and can’t access it, just download Hotspot Shield – you’ll be able to using that.

My favorite points from the article:

“It takes $670,000 dollars in ad buys in a general election to get the same number of estimated votes as you would by opening a field office which is about $21,000 dollars to maintain throughout an election season.” — Joshua Darr, assistant professor of political communication at Louisiana State University, quoted in the article.

“Donald Trump’s performance in Iowa has widely been blamed on his lack of volunteer organizing. ”

“Networks of lawn-trodding volunteers aren’t something you can just whip up overnight, and the people who build these networks are not a dime a dozen.”

I’m THRILLED with this story. It touches on so many things I promote in my work: that highly-skilled managers of volunteers, fully supported and funded, are required for effective volunteer engagement, that volunteers are not free, and that, sometimes, volunteers are the BEST people to do a task.

For the record, I knew President Obama was going to win re-election, despite what the polls were saying, because his campaign was getting new volunteers, and keeping volunteers, all over the country, right up to election day, while Romney’s campaign was closing offices many weeks before. And when I volunteer for political campaigns, I always rewrite the script I’m given, so that the first thing I always say is, “Hi, I’m Jayne Cravens, and I’m a volunteer with the such-and-such campaign,” because I know the person on the other end is much more likely to listen to me knowing I’m a volunteer, not a paid staffer.

And note: volunteer engagement might be cheaper than national news spots, but it still costs money. I know a lot of managers of volunteers that would love $21,000 for their volunteer engagement… and with that said, be sure to sign this petition at Change.org that calls on Congress to provide funding for the effective management of the volunteers it is requiring public lands, including National Forests, to involve.

vvbooklittleSuch a shame people managing presidential campaigns, senate campaigns, congressional campaigns, grassroots campaigns – whatever the campaign – aren’t buying The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook in bulk! Tools come and go, but certain community engagement principles never change, and our book can be used with the very latest digital engagement initiatives and “hot” new technologies meant to help people volunteer, advocate for causes they care about, connect with communities and make a difference.

— end original blog —

November 28, 2016 update:

I was wrong. This election was not won by volunteers nor by volunteer management. As my November 28 blog details, social media DID win this election. It proved an ideal vehicle for promoting misinformation. As I noted in my last blog, BuzzFeed reported that fake news stories about the USA Presidential election this year generated more engagement on Facebook than the top election stories from 19 major news outlets COMBINED – that included major news outlets such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, and NBC News, and on and on. And the majority of these fake news stories did NOT come from any campaign operatives; rather, they came from a man in Los Angeles who originally built fake news sites to as a way to expose the extreme right, a plan that most certainly did NOT work. And these fake stories, most of which promoted Trump as a candidate, were shared by millions of people via social media – people who believed them, and most of whom never signed up to be an official Trump campaign volunteer. See my November 28 blog for more details. A blog in December offers even more details on how volunteers were engaged, officially and unofficially, in this campaign, and how a well-managed, vast army of volunteers did NOT win this election.

Keynote speaking in South Carolina & Washington state!

logoCome here me speak this month or next!

Me in South Carolina Jan. 27 – 29, 2016
I’ll be the keynote speaker and presenting workshops at the South Carolina Association for Volunteer Administration (SCAVA) annual conference, January 27-29, 2016 in North Myrtle Beach! You do not have to be a member of SCAVA to attend. Join me!

Me in Vancouver, Washington (state – USA) Feb. 11, 2016
I’ll be the keynote speaker at the Nonprofit Network Southwest Washington / Directors of Volunteer Programs Association (DVPA) conference on Thurs., February 11 in Vancouver, Washington (state), USA.

You can book me for your conference or workshop! After February 2016, my consulting schedule is wide open. I am available for presentations, short-term consultations, long-term projects, part-time positions, and, for the right role, a full-time permanent position. Here’s what I can do for your organization/initiative.

There are free online workshops by me which you can view anytime, if you want to know more about my presentation style. Most are more than 45 minutes long:

I’m available for interviews on Skype or your preferred video conferencing tool, and, of course, by phone – I’m on West Coast time (the same as Los Angeles). I’m available for in-person, onsite interviews in and around Portland, Oregon (the area where I live), and am willing to travel most anywhere for an interview or as part of a short-term consultation.