Online Community Members as Volunteers:applying best practices from volunteer engagement & support to community management Jayne Cravens, MSc http://www.coyotecommunications.com
Why Listen to Me? (Jayne) • I read & research re: volunteer/community engagement, talent management, communications, and anything that might be related to such. • I regularly write & train on volunteer engagement, including using the Internet to support and involve volunteers. • I'm considered a pioneer! • I support and involve volunteers. • I volunteer.
Modus Operandi • There are no stupid questions. And I love questions! • Everyone in this room has knowledge worth sharing. Let's hear about it. • I'm not offering concrete blueprints; YMMV. • Let's not play “gotcha”. • Let's unpack “jargon”. • I don't have all the answers. No one does! • Please be present; please participate.
Volunteers are... • People that undertake tasks for your organization, as directed by your org, but are not paid. Includes: • board members • committee members • pro bono consultants • employees on loan • people who are assigned community service • people who contribute to your online community Your definition may be different, & you may not use the word “volunteer” – but this is the definition I'll use.
Why involve volunteers? (reasons are similar for hosting an online community) • Involving volunteers can help educate the community about what the organization does. • Volunteer involvement demonstrates that the community (regional, business, people working in a particular field) is invested in the organization and its goals. • 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. • Volunteers can provide additional evaluation of your organization's operations and services • Involving volunteers can be a reflection of your organization's mission. • Volunteers may become, or refer, financial donors or clients. • Volunteers may have connections at companies or organizations you want to work/partner with. • Volunteers may be the best people for the task.
The Big Change Re: Volunteers BASIC Find tasks that volunteers can/should do at your organization. ADVANCED Reserve certain assignments for volunteers, even if there might be funding for paid staff. Or create certain assignments for volunteers in order to fulfill the organization's mission.
Multiple ways to volunteer with an online community • Participating in the forum (asking &/or answering a question). • Long term assignments (commitments of 3 months or more). • High-responsibility assignments (facilitating or moderating an online discussion group, leading an online event, coordinating other volunteers, etc.). • Assignments requiring skills (fluency in Spanish, a specific area of expertise or knowledge, etc.) • Assignments requiring a regular commitment (one hour a week, 10 hours a month, etc.) • One-time assignments (help at one event, design the forum platform, create a graphic, etc.).
Put volunteering roles re: your forum in writing • Identify commitments/responsibilities of the following, and let the community know where to find these roles in writing: • Facilitators and moderators • Online event managers/presenters • Subject matter experts • Managers or supporters of other volunteers • People that undertake short-term tasks to benefit the community (translating texts, designing a new form, identifying top contributors for leadership roles, etc.)
Volunteering roles should have • A start and end date • Preferred time frame (should work be done during regular business hours? Should a certain number of hours be contributed each week or month? Are there deadlines?) • A sign off by the volunteering saying, “Yes, I will take this role on” • Requirements of the volunteer • Support offered by the organization • Protocol for reporting problems Why am I saying this?
Why put roles in writing? • Reduces misunderstandings. • Reduces # of volunteers that quit at a “bad time”. • Gives you a clear way to measure volunteer contributions / performance. • Makes it easier to let a volunteer go. • Makes it easier to recruit volunteers. • It actually creates LESS work, not more.
Online community for leadership volunteers? • You may want to create an online forum just for moderators, facilitators and SMEs, to discuss forum administrative duties, problems, etc. You can use discussions for reporting re: forum performance. • HOWEVER, make sure decision-making stays transparent on the overall forum; you may have to tell people to take discussions to the overall forum.
In-take process • Communicate how a person can express interest in a leadership role. • Track every expression of interest. • Have a protocol for what happens when someone expresses interest (what will the person's next step be? What will your next step be?) • How will you make a decision on who gets what role, & how will you communicate that?
Qualities of a great in-take process • Takes minutes or hours, not days or weeks. • Screens out volunteers that don't have time to volunteer – even in microvolunteering roles. • Screens in volunteers that DO have time and interests. • Sets a tone for all volunteering processes. • Reduces the amount of time you have to spend with no-show volunteers.
Screening Completing an application Interview to gauge interest, check skills, knowledge and availability, etc. Testing may be needed (rare) References check/credentials check May need to look at LinkedIn profile Criminal background check (rare) Probationary period
Different degrees of screening Do you do criminal background checks for volunteers that will clean up a beach? Do you ask for résumés of people helping with a bicycle rodeo? Screening depends on the level of risk: Will the volunteer handle money? Will the volunteer be alone with another volunteer? Will the volunteer interact with children in a group setting? Alone?
Goals of screening To screen out people that would be criminally dangerous To screen out people that don't have the necessary skills or temperament To screen out people that do not understand the REAL commitment volunteers must make To screen in the most appropriate people To set the tone for the entire volunteering experience
Training - Not always necessary - Must be customized to the volunteer assignment
Tracking & Supervision – how? - How will you know a volunteer has started an assignment? - How will you know a volunteer is doing an assignment correctly, or not doing it correctly? - How will you know if a volunteer needs help or has questions? - How will you know if a volunteer has dropped out/won't finish an assignment? - How will you know if a volunteer is happy, dissatisfied, confused, angry, etc?
Track & report volunteer engagement • You could ask community members in leadership roles, or who make a regular contribution every month, to report to you via an online form. • You could make such reporting part of their volunteering obligation. • Don't just ask for hours.
Reports should include • How many hours do you think you contributed in your role with our online community this month/quarter? • What kinds of activities did you do? • What was your biggest challenge and/or biggest accomplishment this month/quarter in your role with our online community?
Tracking Goal: You need to track: - What assignments volunteers are working on now - What assignments volunteers have completed - What recognition volunteers have received
Key to Tracking & Supervision – Success: - Make reporting a part of a volunteering assignment. - Do not give a volunteer a new assignment, do not renew an online community members role, until reporting is up-to-date
Tracking & Supervision Resource: You can recruit a volunteer or volunteers JUST to help with reporting and tracking: - To conduct surveys - To manage an online group - To crunch data - To input information from sign in sheets
Let volunteers improve your program • Creating a handbook for new volunteers • Creating a policy • Creating the new volunteer orientation • Testing the new volunteer orientation • Role playing What could be some results from doing this beyond the completed work?
Recognize / Honor Volunteers / Community Members • Message from Executive Director of Org (written or video) • Online badges (crown, star, “ribbon”) • Postcards via traditional postal mail • Ask them to take on a leadership role/serve on a committee/offer advice on a plan/strategy • LinkedIn rec • Stuff (gift card, schwag)
Don't panic! • You can google ANYTHING: • Volunteer applications • Volunteer policies • Volunteer task descriptions • Ideas for volunteer recruitment, recognition • Trouble-shooting • Legal questions Also: http://www.coyotecommunications.com/volunteer
Volunteer Management Resources: - http://www.energizeinc.com - http://www.coyotecommunications.com - http://www.oregonvolunteers.org - http://www.nationalserviceresources.org - Google and Bing This and more at: http://www.coyotecommunications.com/americorps
Now what? - What will you do this week? - What will you do this month? - What will you accomplish NO MATTER WHAT?
Follow Me on Social Media(Steal my ideas!) Jayne's blog: www.coyotecommunications.com On Twitter: jcravens42 Find me & like me on FaceBook All materials & more: http://www.coyotecommunications.com BUY THE LAST VIRTUAL VOLUNTEERING GUIDEBOOK FROM www.energizeinc.com