Volunteer Power News Number 51
Author: Thomas W. McKee
"Volunteer Power News" Monthly Newsletter
© 2007 Advantage Point Systems Publishing
Volunteer Power is committed to providing you cutting edge ideas, resources and tools to help you do your job better. One such resource is Web 2.0
Whoa! Are we really going to devote a whole e-zine to Web 2.0?
Good question. And the answer is yes. Because the Web 2.0 craze has begun. What does this mean to volunteer managers? Some feel that if we learn how to leverage the internet, it will revolutionize how we work with volunteers.
The bottom line is Impact. Web 2.0 is the beginning of a new era in technology designed for the non-technical that promises nonprofits to operate more efficiently, generate more funding, and affect more lives.
Now that is a promise.
How can I use Web 2.0 to "make a difference"? Let's face it, "Making a difference is what we are all about." Most volunteer managers and executive directors of non-profits want to be able to impact as many people as possible. But a typical executive director of a non-profit has few (if any) staff, oversees hundreds to thousands of volunteers, manages the wealth of information that is available to the members, runs an organization that is growing (hopefully), and oh, by the way--raises money.
What is Web 2.0?
The technical definition. Web 2.0, a phrase coined by O'Reilly Media in 2003 and popularized by the first Web 2.0 conference in 2004, refers to a perceived second generation of web-based communities and hosted services - such as social-networking sites, wikis and folksonomies - which facilitate collaboration and sharing between users. Huh?
The non-technical definition. Since I am a non-techie, let me try to explain what this means to me. In the first generation of the World Wide Web, or as some call "Web 1.0," users are the audience. In the new web - Web 2.0 - the user is a participant. Under Web 1.0 our web pages are basically static and rarely updated, and in order to update, I need a tech savvy person to do the changes. My use of the World Wide Web is also one-way communication--I log on and search out information, listen to a podcast, and read stuff on websites. And Web 1.0 can even be interactive. Go on any new car website and you can design your own car-pick the color, upgrades, etc. That is interactive and frankly I think that is pretty amazing. I love using this tool that 15 years ago I didn't even know existed. But all of that Web 1.0 stuff is old school. The new Web is not just interactive. It is a complex, adaptive system-- meaning that I participate in real thinking, sharing ideas, comparing ideas and being part of an online community. I don't just fill out forms (old school interactive), but I participate in creative thinking and finding solutions (often called best practices) from those who are working in the field. How do I do that?
Last month I was introduced to Web 2.0 while speaking at a volunteer conference in Chicago. One of the speakers was Marilyn Pratt, community manager--SAP developer network, who calls herself an evangelist for online networks. She asked the audience of several hundred how many had ever heard of Web 2.0. About half the people raised their hands. I was not one of them. I have to admit that I was not the first person on my block to get a microwave oven, a cell phone, a PDA, an iPod, a GPS, a HDTV, or a HDDVD player to go with my HDTV. I am usually a late adopter, and I go boldly forward when everyone has made the change. So it did not surprise me that in 2007 I was listening carefully about a tool that had been around for several years. I was intrigued when Marilyn demonstrated the potential of this tool, and as I listened to her, she challenged me and our organizations to develop the promises of the Web 2.0 online communities.
As I listened I had two concerns -
Major concern one: Isn't this premature when I haven't even mastered Web 1.0?
Major concern two: If I open up my web site to wikis and blogs where anyone can contribute their thoughts, don't I run the danger of someone saying something that could reflect badly on my organization - or even get us sued?
These are valid concerns, I was told. But Marilyn answered my first objection when she claimed that Web 2.0 isn't just for the geeks or "first on the block" entrepreneurs. And it is not just our younger generation that is using "MySpace," "YouTube" and "Flickr." Many boomers who are retiring are tech savvy and love to get involved in making a difference through technology.
To address my second objection, let me suggest several applications and resources where you can find out more about how to use Web 2.0 in your organization:
The most popular is the blog. I just read a few weeks ago that Brian Williams, anchor of NBC Nightly News, said that if three years ago you would have told him that he would have in effect a local newspaper column due every day, he wouldn't have believed you. He has to depend on writing it daily as an accouterment and an accompaniment to the broadcast. Brian said, "It's a forum. If the audience is moving beyond the traditional evening experience of watching a television seated in their dens, they'll move with them and they have."
Blog, short for "Web logs," is an online journal created by an individual or organization to cover topics ranging from politics to shopping. When bloggers read and discuss each other's posts, they form a massive network that is able to exert pressure on national media and on policy makers. Blog posting, typically updated daily, can include images, photos, links, video, and audio in addition to text. One tool that some non-profits are using is "permalinks," a permanent link that allows other bloggers and web site owners to link directly to a specific post on their blog and encourage inter-blog dialog. You can read more about permalinks and how to start your own blog in TechSoup's article by Marian Webb, "Ready to Start Blogging-How to set up and run your non-profit's digital soapbox."
My second concern is the problem of inviting comments and opinions from anyone about our organization. David Collins, Director of Organizational Learning for The American Cancer Society (ACS), had the same concern. When they launched an experimental blog, FISpace, in August 2002 to discuss new technologies, new science, new communication tools, social change, fundraising and volunteerism, he said there was real anxiety that someone might say something in the blog that would reflect badly on the American Cancer Society. But Collins claims it hasn't happened. On the contrary, the site has been successful and has grown significantly since it launched. He says, "FISpace has lead to a lot of discussion of blogs and other new communication tools and more experimentation. It's open to the world, but it has mainly a limited audience of people interested in the American Cancer Society and its future. That's success in my book" (Marian Webb, "Ready to Start Blogging," TechSoup)
Blogging keeps you up to date on what your members are thinking, what is going on in their communities. It gives you opportunities to pass on resources like books or links to articles or other blogs. You can upload documents onto the blog for volunteers to download and peruse at their own leisure, and it cuts down on your own administrative costs.
RSS -- Real Simple Syndication
Any technology that has the name "Real Simple" has my attention.
Tim O'Reilly writes, "Imagine having the latest information from your web site delivered to your supporters and constituents without having to send an e-mail or a newsletter. With RSS feeds, this is easy to do-and it won't cost you a thing."
But what grabbed my attention even more was the way I can customize my searches for information. I spend so much time searching the Web for the latest information that I need and the data is overwhelming. Ever get 2 million responses to your Google search? But now I can customize my RSS search for content on specific keywords and receive content that's tailored to my needs, and I will receive feeds by simply downloading a software that delivers the content to my desktop. How cool is that?
RSS is a family of Web feed formats used to publish frequently updated digital content, such as blogs, news feeds, or podcasts. When board members of a non-profit seek urgent, real-time news and updates, these feeds aggregate a personally defined list of relevant content. Google Reader3 is a common example of how to structure the important forums, blog comments, and topics that you need to research. (Learn more about Google Reader or to find out more about setting up an RSS reader or creating a feed for your own site, read TechSoup's RSS for Nonprofits.)
Check out this video: RSS in Plain English
While the most famous example is, of course, Wikipedia, a wiki is simply a group of web pages that allows community members to add and edit content, often without needing special permissions or HTML skills. Wikis are most useful for creating collections of frequently asked questions, aiding process design, annotating business issues, reducing email floods, increasing efficiency where chronological discussions are unnecessary, and generally promoting creative thinking.
Imagine a business process improvement activity - increasing the readability and reusability of application interfaces, for example - that is designed within an organization, but also derives input and experience from external collaborators.
Check out this video: Wikis in Plain English
Folksonomy is a practice of collaborative categorization using freely chosen keywords; in other words, a group of people cooperating spontaneously to organize information into categories. Here, a volunteer, manager or executive director can communicate with peers, polling opinions and reaching out to alternate sources for ideas and experiences. Folksonomic tagging services, such as Digg and del.icio.us (if you haven't got a clue what this means and care, visit the sites to learn more) help users rank and order content, showing members how their peers have rated certain knowledgebases, how-to's, and best practices. (More about folksonomy).
Volunteer organizations often work so slowly. Web 2.0 speeds things up because you don't have waste time sending documents back and forth either physically or through email. Web 2.0 gives more people in the organization more ownership of the volunteer work. It will remove many barriers of administration and bring more people together on collaborating work.
These are just a few examples of how technology will actually help the organization streamline costs and get more of the work done with more people.
More Information: I have just covered the surface of Web 2.0. An excellent article that helps to understand how non-profits are using this technology is Alexandra Krasne's "What Is Web 2.0 Anyway?"
Charge up and excite your volunteer managers
The following workshop can be adapted for your organization in a one-hour motivational keynote or a workshop.
The New Breed of Volunteer
Recruiting and managing the 21st Century volunteers who want to do it their way
SECTION I: THE VOLUNTEER CULTURE
The 21st century volunteer culture is very different because of seven seismic shifts that have changed volunteer management. These shifts have impacted the volunteer organization; therefore how we recruit and manage the new breed of volunteer is a whole new game.
SECTION II: THE VOLUNTEER RECRUITER
The Seven Deadly Sins of Recruiting Volunteers:
SECTION III: THE VOLUNTEER MANAGER
Motivating This New Breed of Volunteers
Empowering volunteers that want to do it their way
Evaluating your volunteer culture
Tom McKee is a leading volunteer management speaker, trainer and consultant. You can reach Tom at (916) 987-0359 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Other articles and free resources are available at www.volunteerpower.com.
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