So, what online discussion groups does your
staff read regularly?
Hello? That's not e-crickets I hear, is it?
Each and every employee should be a part of at least one online
discussion group, and subscribe to at least one email newsletter,
relating to their job. Encourage it. REQUIRE it!!
Why? This activity offers a simple, easy way to get employees connected
to important news and resources they need in their jobs, It's
professional development right from a desktop! (or a smart phone)
For instance, a receptionist in charge of inputting information into a
database could be encouraged to join a discussion group relating to the
database software she or he is using. The employee can ask questions of
other users and build his or her own capacity to better use the software
and manage the data.
Another example: a manager of volunteers could use an online discussion
group of other managers, or even HR managers from the private sector, to
learn about screening potential candidates, or recruiting candidates
from under-represented populations (teens, seniors, people with
disabilities, etc.). The manager could also offer tips based on his or
her own experience, highlighting best practices by your agency.
Online discussion groups and email newsletters offer both the new and
veteran nonprofit employee and volunteer important resources that can
help in the work place, and reminds staff that there is a big world out
there with tools, information, people and ideas that can help support
their work. It can reinforce what they learn in trade magazines,
conferences, workshops and other traditional offline sources.
Another benefit is that online discussion groups help employees learn to
communicate online, and this is a valuable skill in any profession, in
any sector, as more and more business is conducted via the Internet.
And yet another benefit: employees can keep an eye out for discussions
of your organization online. This can help your staff see how your work
and the issues your agency is concerned with are perceived in the
If you trust your employees to attend workshops or conferences, take
classes to support their work, participate in panel discussions, have
lunch with business associates, etc. on company time, you should trust
them to participate in online discussion groups.
The time spent on an online discussion group that supports an employee
in his or her work is more than made up for in the time it saves
employees in struggling by themselves with a particular issue that they
and other staff do not have expertise in. Your organization also
benefits in that staff are connected to knowledge and resources they can
use in the work place almost immediately. Do NOT fear it! Encourage it!
Provide guidelines for it!
Make joining an online discussion group part of each employee's
professional development plan. Talk to each about areas he or she needs
better support to meet expected goals, or professional areas he or she
would like to grow in. Put a limit on the amount of time employees
should spend lurking or posting to online discussion group each week
(one hour is a good place to start). Require that employees submit the
name and focus of any online discussion group they want to join to their
supervisor, and to include, in their regular reports to supervisors,
what they have learned from or contributed to online discussion groups.
And make sure you talk to employees about what is and isn't appropriate
to discuss on an online discussion group, particularly if they are using
an email address, computer and Internet access associated with your
You may require employees to put a signature on all of their online
posts, to affirm that they are associated with your company and promote
your organization's web address. You may also want to require employees
to include some kind of disclaimer in their signature, such as "The
views expressed here are not necessarily those of such-and-such
For advice on how to participate in online groups, see this resource, The
dynamics of online culture & community
Where to find appropriate online groups? Contact any professional
association to which you belong, to find out if they have an online
forum for members; some will be email-based, and others will be
web-based. For other types of groups, try going to Google
and typing in what you are looking for, such as:
-- human resources "online discussion"
-- shelter management online discussion group
-- nonprofit marketing "online discussion"
Also try keywords to search for groups hosted by:
-- Official catalog of
LISTSERV® discussion groups
has a growing number of
online groups devoted to particular topics, and has the advantage that
you can look up the profiles of people participating in a discussion, to
see their credentials.
also has groups devoted
to specific topics, including professional topics, but not everyone is
comfortable mixing their professional activities with their social
You can also see which online discussion groups to
which I belong
See more resources re: Community
Relations, With and Without Technology
If you found this page helpful, let others know:
- -- Online
Leadership / Influencing Online
There's plenty of information about leading a team online, but this
new web page on my site focuses on online leadership, on engaging in
activities that influence others online, that create a profile for a
person as someone that provides credible, important, even vital
information about a particular subject. To me, leaders are looked to
for advice, direction, knowledge and opinions on specific subjects.
- -- One(-ish)
Day "Tech" Activities for Volunteers
Volunteers are getting together for intense, one-day events, or
events of just a few days, to build web pages, to write code, to
edit Wikipedia pages, and more. These are gatherings of onsite
volunteers, where everyone is in one location, together, to do an
online-related project in one day, or a few days. It's a form of
episodic volunteering, because volunteers don't have to make an
ongoing commitment - they can come to the event, contribute their
services, and then leave and never volunteer again. Because
computers are involved, these events are sometimes called
hackathons, even if coding isn't involved. This page provides advice
on how to put together a one-day event, or just-a-few-days-of
activity, for a group of tech volunteers onsite, working together,
for a nonprofit, non-governmental organization (NGO),
community-focused government program, school or other mission-based
organization - or association of such.
- -- Myths
About Online Volunteering (Virtual Volunteering)
Online volunteering means unpaid service that is given by volunteers
via the Internet. It's also known as virtual volunteering, online
mentoring, ementoring, evolunteering, cyber volunteering, cyber
service, telementoring, online engagement, and on and on. Here is a
list of common myths about online volunteering, and my attempt to
- -- Studies
and Research Regarding Online Volunteering / Virtual
While there is a plethora of articles and information about online
volunteering, there has been very little research published
regarding the subject. This is a compilation of publicly-available
research regarding online volunteering, and a list of suggested
possible angles for researching online volunteering. New
contributions to this page are welcomed, including regarding online
- -- Incorporating
virtual volunteering into a corporate employee volunteer program
(a resource for businesses / for-profit companies)
Virtual volunteering - volunteers providing service via a computer,
smart phone, tablet or other networked advice - presents a great
opportunity for companies to expand their employee philanthropic
offerings. Through virtual volunteering, some employees will choose
to help organizations online that they are already helping onsite.
Other employees who are unable to volunteer onsite at a nonprofit or
school will choose to volunteer online because of the convenience.
- -- Creating
One-Time, Short-Term Group Volunteering Activities
Details on not just what groups of volunteers can do in a two-hour,
half-day or all-day event, but also just how much an organization or
program will need to do to prepare a site for group volunteering.
It's an expensive, time-consuming endeavor - are you ready? Is it
- -- Recognizing
Online Volunteers & Using the Internet to Honor ALL
Recognition helps volunteers stay committed to your organization,
and gets the attention of potential volunteers -- and donors -- as
well. Organizations need to fully recognize the efforts of remote,
online volunteers, as well as those onsite, and not differentiate
the value of these two forms of service. Organizations should also
incorporate use of the Internet to recognize the efforts of ALL
volunteers, both online and onsite. With cyberspace, it's never been
easier to show volunteers -- and the world -- that volunteers are a
key part of your organization's successes. This new resource
provides a long list of suggestions for both honoring online
volunteers and using the Internet to recognize ALL volunteers that
contribute to your organization.
My academic / research work at my
profile on academia.edu
. Most of the academic articles that have
cited my work regarding virtual volunteering are listed at my
Google Scholar account