A review by Thomas McKee
Finally, someone has put together a comprehensive guide to virtual volunteering—and actually much more.
Just as the smart phone has brought technology into the hands of volunteers, agencies hold in their hands a powerful tool for accomplishing their mission—IF, and this is a huge “IF”—they know how to mobilize the power of the virtual volunteer. The LAST Virtual Volunteer Guidebook (referred to as Guidebook in this review) is our manual to escort us through the changing milieu of 21st century volunteer engagement.
Since most books on technology are outdated by the time the ink dries on the printed version, I teased Susan Ellis about using the word “LAST” in the title of a book about virtual volunteering. She assured me, however, that the word “LAST” was carefully chosen for a very specific purpose. After reading the book, I now understand the wisely chosen word “LAST.” The authors do acknowledge that the technology tools we use today will change, but the principles outlined will always apply to future virtual volunteering because Guidebook is not just another book on technology. It is a book on the integration of technology into all aspects of volunteer engagement so that organizations avoid the silo compartmentalization of virtual vs. traditional volunteers.
Reading Guidebook is like sitting at a table with two entrepreneurial and innovative leaders and listening to them discuss their combined experience and expertise—Jayne Cravens of Coyote Communications, is a pioneer and respected resource on virtual volunteering and Susan Ellis, president of Energize Inc., is a world recognized leader in volunteerism.
After dispelling the myths about virtual volunteering, Ellis and Cravens lead us through a step-by-step process of designing assignments, recruiting, screening, training, and coaching on-line and onsite virtual volunteers. In addition they answer the following virtual volunteering questions:
- What about confidentiality? This seems to be a hot issue right now with online interactions.
- What on earth is micro-volunteering and crowdsourcing, and how can I tap into the power of these virtual realities?
- What about online coaching and risk management practices?
- And what about the social media? How can I use the social media in my organization?
Each chapter provides valuable management tools and very specific examples that we can use. For example, online mentoring is a valuable volunteer service, but it faces some challenges that scare some directors. After tackling this hot topic, the authors print a useful chart to help define the expectations and accountability for the online mentoring site managers (usually teachers). This is just one of many practical helps that make the book worth the price for these resources alone. I personally benefited by reading about how volunteer administrators are using tweets with each other to commiserate, encourage and update. After reading about the U.K. based “Thoughtful Thursdays Tweet” (#ttvolmgrs), I started checking it out.
I highly recommend the Guidebook to all association leaders, directors of volunteers in agencies, NGO directors and faith based organizational leaders. Guidebook is a must read and resource guide that should be on the desk of any serious leader of volunteers.