Sunday, June 27, 2010

Engaging Volunteers in Role of Higher Responsibility Throughout a Community

In the opening morning of the Advanced Volunteer Management Institute (#AVMI) at the National Conference on Volunteer Service (#NCVS) there was a support circle session. In groups of four, one person got to bring up a challenge they are currently facing. The others then offer whatever insights they can that might of assistance. In subsequent sessions each of the others get their turn in seeking advice related to their own challenge.

In our first session the challenge revolved around a region’s need to cultivate the nonprofits ability to deal with volunteers who are interested in applying the professional or special skills. Their research showed that there is large pool of people that are not only ready, willing and able to volunteer, but also to take on roles of greater responsibility. Their research also showed that most organizations were only prepared to work with volunteers helping in roles of minimal responsibility.

Given that this a common challenge I’m offering a couple of the suggestions that surfaced from our support circle conversation.
  • Seek out volunteers who have the skills required to act as one-on-one coaches with nonprofits interested in learning more about how this shift can help them achieve their goals and how to go about implementing it. Those volunteer with experience in organizational change, senior management or organizational structure etc. and a desire to volunteer in this professional capacity will have a very fulfilling volunteer experience and more organizations will be ready to take on more volunteers interested in taking on roles with a higher level of responsibility.
  • Rather than the job of managing volunteers being given to the E.D., or some other non-volunteer management focused position in the very small nonprofits, subcontract out the volunteer management to a person who works with a few nonprofits and has considerable expertise in volunteer management. Deploying volunteers in roles that involve a higher level of responsibility requires a higher level of expertise in the volunteer manager.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Is your organization ready for the mobile internet boom?

If your organization is similar to most, over the past ten years, it launched a website and started using email. Recently it might have launched a blog, a Facebook presence, started using Twitter or somehow begun using various forms of social media. So what’s next? The indications are pretty clear that a mobile strategy is the way of the future. Mobile devices are taking over and will soon replace the desktop computer as a leader in devices connected to the internet.

Apple claims it sold 300,000 iPads in the United Sates on its first day of sale and announced that it sold its one millionth iPad on Friday, April 30, just 28 days after the device’s release.

The total number of mobile internet users is expected to reach 134 million by 2013.According to the research firm, eMerketer, the USA can expect the number of mobile internet users to reach close to 45% of the population by 2013.

And looking at the global picture, IDC's Worldwide Digital Marketplace Model and Forecast, tells us that the from a base number of 450 million mobile internet users worldwide in 2009, that number is expected to double by the end of 2013.

So what does this mean to your organization? For one thing, it means that your efforts in social marketing will grow to have more exposure. The typically short bursts of information in social media are well suited for the quick updates one can so easily get on a mobile device while riding the train or standing in a grocery store line.

According to Merkle (a customer relationship marketing agency), “consumers with an Internet-enabled phone are one-third more likely to be active on top social networks. This natural affinity of mobile and social networking, both in demographics and ease of use, speaks to the importance of both within an integrated digital strategy”.

It also means you could benefit from focusing on current news bites and information that is particularly useful to your readers in the present, today rather than three weeks from now. From Mark Donovan of comScore's "Over the course of the past year, we have seen use of mobile Internet evolve from an occasional activity to being a daily part of their lives. This underscores the growing importance of the mobile medium as consumers become more reliant on their mobile devices to access time-sensitive and utilitarian information." This does not need to be an overly difficult shift in what you are already doing. Simply keep in mind that your message might be read in an environment where the reader will only have a few moments to internalize your message. News writers have always included the most important information first so that if people only read a portion of the article they would still get the key message. Think of that way but at hyper-speed.

The growth in adoption of mobile access to the internet will affect more than how you communicate general news.
Think of how a mobile internet device can help you fill shifts when the originally scheduled volunteer has had to cancel. Here is a possible scenario. You are out for lunch or anywhere out of your office and a volunteer cancels a shift for tomorrow morning. Through your mobile access to the internet you to learn of the cancellation and from wherever you are you access your volunteer management software and broadcast an email and text message to those volunteers that are qualified to fill the shift. From wherever your volunteers happen to be at that moment, they receive your message and the first one able to fill the shift responds directly into your scheduling software. Other volunteers who would be willing to fill the shift see that it has already been filled. All of this can happen without any of the participants sitting at their desks.

Years ago organizations had to rely on the post office and telephone to communicate. The post office was slow but it delivered eventually and the phone, although great when you reached the right person without having to leave a message, led to a lot of back and forth calls. An internet presence and desk to desk email dramatically decreased the timelines required for organizational communications. Now we are well into an era where we can make another leap in improving the lines of communications which will have a direct impact on reaching organizational goals.

The mobile internet is upon us. How will you make it work in your organization?