Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Amy Sample Ward, NTEN

Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Amy Sample Ward of NTENVolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement. In this series of blog posts, get to know these #35experts and their areas of expertise.

Today’s expert: Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network.

First of all, what is your chapter about?
It’s all about social media and volunteer engagement – that includes everything from volunteer recruitment and management to retaining volunteers and supporting them across many different channels or platforms. They aren’t just volunteering in your office!

Something that I really tried to highlight in my chapter is the importance of and definition of community. As organizations, we have a diverse group of people that we engage with, even if we don’t realize it. We have donors, supporters, volunteers, contributors, participants, and so on. And within those groups, like volunteers for example, there are subgroups: People who volunteer once or every month, those that like to help with events, and those that prefer coming to the office.

Recognizing that these people have unique goals for their own participation with your organization, and that we have unique goals for those different groups is critical in identifying the right tools for engaging them and the best technology to help them be successful.

Why is this topic important?
I think that technology, especially social technologies, can play an important role in helping volunteers find opportunities to meet others and contribute to important work, as well as to create opportunities for volunteers to become real champions for an organization.

Most nonprofits would love to have additional staff to help with operations, programs, fundraising, and communications, but just don’t have the funding to hire more people. Meaningful volunteer roles can address those needs across an organization, and social technologies help those volunteers make a difference when and where they are able to give their time and talents.

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
Every job I’ve had has required incorporating appropriate social tools into the way we engage and serve our communities. That doesn’t mean that every organization knew that was a requirement, of course, but part of my career has been creating those new models and testing new approaches for community engagement online. This is true now as the CEO of NTEN, and was true in my first nonprofit role supporting volunteer recruitment and training, and program delivery for a small organization focused on support services and shelter for victims of domestic violence. 

What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
There is so much to say! It was certainly struggle to keep it to only one chapter, and not another full book. Beyond the concepts and strategies outlined, there are examples from organizations of all sizes and missions to profile. 

What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Volunteers are already interested in engaging and being part of the mission of your organization – that’s why they are volunteers! Social media holds a lot of potential for engaging with people who are ready to share your organization’s messages, spread calls to action, and help engage others in the community on your behalf. It’s work that can have great dividends for your organization!

Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World

To read Amy’s full chapter, Volunteer Engagement on the Social Web, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.




Help Us Represent You at SXSW and NTC

Vote for volunteering at this year's conferencesWouldn’t it be awesome if volunteering and volunteer engagement were on the lips – and in the Powerpoint slides – of folks at two of the biggest social change conferences in the country?

Help us make this vision a reality! We’ve submitted session proposals to South by Southwest (SXSW) and the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC). Both are premier events bringing together technology leaders and innovators in the social good space.

Here’s where you come in: You can help us by simply voting for the sessions below. It’s fast and easy (for SXSW you’ll need to create a quick free login,) so it will take you less than five minutes to make a real impact on the volunteer engagement field. Vote for these sessions now!


Social Good Smackdown: Online vs. Offline Impact

What’s better: 10,000 Facebook Likes or a group of dedicated volunteers? Join VolunteerMatch and Network for Good for a American Idol-style smackdown!

Under the Social Good Hood: Staying Power to Last

It’s easy to start a “social good” platform, right? Sure – anyone can do it! But how many “markets for good” like VolunteerMatch have lasted? Why not? Hear from a panel with Network for Good, VolunteerMatch, GlobalGiving, and TechSoup Global.

Back to the Future: Why Old CSR Trends are Hot Now

Here’s a dirty little secret: The latest craze of involving employees in your company’s social good efforts is something smart companies have done for years – and technology continues to make it easier and more effective. VolunteerMatch and Discovery Communications (producers of Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, etc.) will share the journey toward effective employee engagement.


How Many Rungs? Social Change and the Expanding Engagement Ladder

Slacktivism versus real engagement is a false dichotomy – it’s all “good”. But if new technologies are adding more rungs to a ladder of engagement in the form of sharing, viral promotions, microvolunteering and micro-giving, is there a clear way to make sense of it all?

nptech FAIL: How to crash and burn and turn it into a win

We’ve all been there, dealing with the frustration, embarrassment and worry that come with a failed program. As #nptech leaders, however, it’s important to see these failures for what they really are: opportunities. Join VolunteerMatch, Points of Light and Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Online Communities as a Recruitment Tool: The New Phase of Volunteer Engagement

Last year VolunteerMatch adopted Get Satisfaction to provide online help for users… and to build community. 2,068 users later, hear from community managers what lessons other organizations can learn about using online support platforms to find and connect with new volunteer audiences and spread awareness in new ways. Vote for these sessions now!

Social Media and the 3 Rs: Content Strategy Basics for Engaging Volunteers

It’s hard to find guidance on using social media to succeed within the “3 Rs” of involving volunteers. In this session, we’ll tackle social media and volunteer engagement as a content challenge, exploring the building blocks of using social content to find, recruit and re-engage the time and talent of volunteers.

Secrets of the Content Marketing Sorcerers

Done well, content marketing has the magical power to pull new supporters toward you, change conversations, deliver services to your audiences, and generate lasting brand awareness for your organization. In this session you’ll discover the powerful alchemy of social media and content marketing.

Help us represent you at the biggest conferences of the year by voting for these sessions!

VolunteerMatch Welcomes Premal Shah to Our Board of Directors

This article also appears on Volunteering is CSR.

VolunteerMatch is a lot of things, all at once. We’re a social enterprise, a web service, a volunteer engagement network, and a nonprofit. With so many facets to our organization, having a great board of directors is a hugely important way for us to stay focused on our mission.

This month we’re pleased to announce the addition of an exceptional leader in nonprofit technology to our board: Premal Shah.

Premal ShahAs President of Kiva, the award-winning nonprofit lending platform, Premal brings deep experience in nonprofit management, leadership and governance to our team, as well as outstanding perspective on using emerging technology to make a difference.

Premal started working on the idea while working at PayPal in late 2004, and eventually quit his job at PayPal to help bring the Kiva concept to life. For his work in micro-finance Premal was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and selected to FORTUNE magazine’s “Top 40 under 40” list.

Premal’s arrival actually completes a trifecta of terrific recent additions to the VolunteerMatch board, including Holly Ross and Meg Garlinghouse:

Holly RossHolly Ross is well known in the nonprofit sector as the Executive Director at NTEN, the leading membership organization for nonprofit professionals and technology. Holly has been recognized four times by the Nonprofit Times Power and Influence Top 50 list, including most recently in 2012, and she is a leading voice for awareness and adoption of technology to make the world a better place.

Holly is equally ubiquitous at NTEN’s annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, where thousands of nonprofit professionals gather each year to learn about technology trends, as in print, where Holly has written influential books and articles that have helped shape our understanding of technology for social good.

Meg GarlinghouseMeg Garlinghouse is Head of Social Impact at Linkedin, and a twenty-year veteran at the intersection of causes and corporations. Prior to joining LinkedIn, Meg spent more than nine years in a senior role overseeing Yahoo! for Good, the internet company’s community involvement and social good initiative.

Today Meg is a passionate advocate for nonprofits and volunteering at the world’s leading social network for professionals, and a frequent public speaker on trends in CSR, employee volunteer engagement, and professional development. In addition to her new role at VolunteerMatch, Meg is also a board member for Network For Good.

Welcome, Premal – and thank you, all three, for your support of our work!

Everything I Need to Know about Social Media I’ll Learn at the NCVS Preconference

Get a serious social media knowledge dropDo you know what is making us most excited about the Social Media for Social Good Preconference workshop before the National Conference on Volunteering and Service this year?

It’s not that it will include a half-day of pure social media strategy.

It’s not that there will be a mix of presentations, panels and small group break-outs, facilitating true collaboration and peer learning.

It’s not that it will tie in well with other social media sessions and topics being presented at the main conference.

It’s not that the content and focus will be so concrete that attendees will walk away with the tools to design and implement the best social media strategy for their organizations.

No, these are all great reasons to be excited for the Social Media for Social Good Preconference, which is happening on Sunday, June 17 from 1-5pm. But what has us most excited is that this workshop is bringing together top social media experts from all over the field.

The session is challenging people like Holly Ross and Amy Sample Ward of NTEN, or Robert Rosenthal (who happens to be VP of Communications & Marketing here at VolunteerMatch) to apply their knowledge and experience directly to issues unique to volunteer engagement and management.

Whether you consider yourself to be a social media novice or an intermediate level practitioner, you will most certainly learn something new at this workshop.

Click here for more information about the Social Media for Social Good Preconference and to register.

7 Thoughtful Take-Aways from My #12NTC

An event like the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference is a big deal for an organization like VolunteerMatch. Despite the large audiences we serve, we’re still a pretty small office, and the number of us on the team who are lucky enough to get out and actually meet the nonprofits we help is smaller still.

With #12NTC held in our own backyard this year, we were fortunate to bring six of us out to the Union Square Hilton, and thank goodness. The math of three days of nonprofits, technology and 1,800 attendees meant a pretty pooped set of VolunteerMatchers by the end of the conference. And of course, our regular chores didn’t exactly disappear while we were out. (I’m still following up on emails that stacked up during #12NTC. So if I owe you a note or a call, bear with me!)

But once again, this is a conference that’s worth it. In terms of sharing, learning, making new friends and reconnecting with the spirit of our work, #12NTC hit the spot.

Here are a few things I learned at 12NTC:

1. Viz is the biz.

Helped along by the inspired placement of Dan Roam’s awesome Blah Blah Blah book in the conference tote bag, no topic at #12NTC was hotter than visualization. Call it the Pinterest effect, but everyone was talking about tools and trends for storytelling and reporting via images. Curation, sharing, pinning, and even digital rights were all the rage, and it’s clear that the smart money is on a future where constituents aren’t expected to do much long form reading.

Viz popularity is also a big reason why NTC Ignite sessions are so popular.

2. We all have a role to play.

#12NTC isn’t produced by slick brands with big budgets. While our friends at the organizer NTEN do a great job bringing everyone together, being inclusive and providing a framework for a great couple of days, they can’t do it all. As NTC grows each year, it’s even more important that side-line events, sponsors, planners, volunteers and note takers all get actively involved.

For our part, we threw a party on the eve of the conference’s first night. With 250 folks coming in, clearly there was a need for an organized event on the front-end of #12NTC. We were glad to step up, along with our co-sponsors.

3. We’re getting better with our tech – because we have no choice.

Nonprofit tech used to be a backwater… not anymore. Today, every effective nonprofit is also proficient with technology. It’s the only way we can reach our audiences, engage and inspire supporters, and deliver services.

In my field, communications, the number of tools we have to juggle is crazy. According to a Communicopia report, [PDF] the typical smaller nonprofit digital team manages an average of 12 web properties (a website, a blog, accounts at Flickr, Facebook, Linkedin, wikis, etc.)

4. Email isn’t going anywhere.

Social media may be exploding, but the chorus of expert voices warning nonprofits not to abandon email as the main engagement channel for volunteers and donors is just getting louder. Organizations need to learn how to use it effectively at nearly every step towards success.

5. The volunteer-fundraising divide is still a broad chasm.

Giving time, giving money. In both cases supporters are giving resources to a nonprofit. Once again at NTC, I saw no deeply integrated systems or ideas for recruiting and managing supporters in both areas, and I met lots of development staff and volunteer coordinators who are worlds apart in their approaches and budgets.

Some of the online social fundraising platforms like Fundly, Razoo and Causes are helping the field to close that gap — to think of social fundraising as a kind of volunteering — but this is still a work in progress.

6. The shadow conference only grows.

Each year, it seems like more and more of NTC takes place outside of the sessions. This year, the hotel lobby seemed to be rocking with nonprofit technology industry insiders meeting and greeting, but generally ignoring the good stuff going on inside.

To an outsider, it may appear as if these folks already know what’s going on in the Nonprofit Technology world. Sadly, this group is missing the great stuff that’s going on inside, while the tech revolution continues to evolve and change under their very noses. It’s easy to miss change when it happens.

7. The debate about innovation is raging.

Our CEO, Greg Baldwin, joined Meg Garlinghouse, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, and Brian Reich in conversation with Beth Kanter about innovaton at nonprofits. While Reich argued that few NPOs are doing truly innovative things — otherwise, wouldn’t more problems be getting solved? — a big chunk of the tweeting audience in the room called double standard on the critique. Others said it was a good reminder whether we should be pursuing innovation at all at the expense of incremental gain in efficiency and scale.

A week later, TechSoup’s Co-CEO Daniel Ben Horin published this interesting article about the debate.

These are just my thoughts… I’ve pulled together a fun list of other folks’ recasts on the conference to give you a clearer picture: