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This week, Ben Rigby of The Extraordinaries, gave a terrific presentation about micro-volunteering and building community. Our guest blogger, MeiMei Fox did a terrific write-up of the evening.
One question that was posed to us in the MeetUp was the issue of keeping volunteers engaged in micro-volunteering. The Extraordinaries have been finding that they get a lot of users initially interested, but participation tends to peter out quickly. Some of the ways they are looking to do so is by creating more ways that users can interact with one another on the platform.
What do you think? What keeps you engaged in virtual volunteering? Post your suggestions and ideas here!
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MeganKeaneWhat do you think? What keeps you engaged in virtual volunteering? Post your suggestions and ideas here!
There's been so much written about how to keep online volunteers engaged but, unfortunately, despite pleas from myself and many others, Ben Rigby and the folks behind The Extraordinaries just won't read all these excellent materials!
For most nonprofit organizations, creating micro-volunteering activities isn't worth the tremendous time and effort (just as for most organizations, creating one-day, just-show-up group volunteering efforts also isn't worth the effort -- just talk to schools who are constantly pressured by corporations for such activities to know what I mean). The ROI is quite small, and as nonprofit resources are so limited, it's just not worth trying to create and support opportunities for one-day/one-hour volunteers. To increase the ROI on such short-term folks, organizations focus on turning one-day, just-show-up volunteers, such as beach clean up volunteers, into longer-term volunteers and even financial donors -- that's usually the real reason behind a one-day/short-term gig.
Retaining one-off volunteers, whether they are engaged online through so-called "micro-volunteering" or offline at a one-day event, involves:
Reading the plethora of books and resources regarding traditional volunteer management will provide a person with tremendous insight into volunteer management, whether onsite or online, whether the volunteers are short-term one-day just-show-up folks or people ready to make a longer-term commitment. My favorite resource for such is Energize, Inc.
Sorry to be snarky, but the volunteer management community -- the people who create and support volunteers -- has reached out to those behind The Extraordinaries many times -- but we just don't seem to be getting through.
-=-=-=-=-=- Jayne Cravens Author, The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook
I enjoyed Ben's talk and thus this conversation. Also, thanks to MeiMei for her stellar note taking blog.
You asked for ideas on keeping volunteers engaged in micro-volunteering. I like when experienced volunteers help (in a public way) the new volunteers. The newbies get trained properly, and the sense of a caring community helps engage the newbies. The experienced get to showoff (peacock) their hard-earned tips and best practices. Win-win.
Thanks for your post and the links to your detailed writing. I agree that in many cases, the effort to set up micro-volunteering may not have good ROI. But in some (edge?) cases, volunteering online with bits of time works GREAT and there is no need to have a accompanying in person component.
* Ben's example of museums using folks to tag/describe digital copies of their collection
* I used folks to answer kids questions, and leverage the expertise of wise ones
Other ways to keep volunteers engaged?
Yours, Marc in San Jose
benrigby Jayne, I challenge you to post a "required reading list" for anyone doing work with volunteers. So the next time we interact, I'll have the chance to know what specifically you're referring to when you say that I haven't been reading the right things... and I'll have a roadmap for better understanding your perspective. Other than the reading list comment above, I'm finding it difficult to know what you mean by "pleas" and "reaching out" - but am all ears to your suggestions, comments, and further critique.
I've said so much of this before to you and in posts about The Extraordinaries. But here it is, yet again, both in response to your challenge and to help anyone who is interested in working with nonprofits, particularly volunteer managers:
I have learned so much in promoting virtual volunteering, including micro-volunteering (which we called "byte-sized" online volunteering once upon a time), to volunteer managers since the mid-1990s -- like how the more I referred back to the tried-and-true basics of successful volunteer management, the more successful volunteer managers were in working with online volunteers, including "micro-volunteers". Those lessons came from missteps myself, like thinking that online activities would provide all the education needed for organizations to successfully engage with online volunteers. Or thinking I didn't need to go to those "old-fashioned", traditional associations like DOVIAs. Or thinking that the people who were fearful of technology would be easily won over. I've also seen oh-so-many "we're-from-the-corporate-sector-and-we-know-best!" initiatives focused on nonprofits come and go -- lots of new names for old practices.
I'm certainly not a Luddite. I'll continue to counter old-fashioned claims that volunteering is just about free labor, etc. Nonprofits deserve better. If my criticisms have had an impact on The Extraordinaries, I'm shocked to hear it, as I certainly haven't seen it at all. I'm still open to being won over.