Volunteer Hours and Drupal equals A Source of Incentive and Empowerment for Parks

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Facilitated by James McBryan, Two Mile

Session Description

Parks in the Bay Area depend on volunteers to beautify and maintain them. One of the challenges faced by volunteer organizations is tracking all the volunteer hours and giving recognition where it is deserved.

Enter OurVolts – a Volunteer Online Tracking System that enables individual volunteers to find projects and report their time and activities at each project site. OurVolts enables Volunteers to spend time working on many sites, and to also instantly see the progress of their work and other volunteers at these sites. It enables volunteer coordinators to manage all project hours and communicate with volunteers. All volunteering activity in OurVolts can be aggregated into groups, enabling granular as well as aggregate views of data. OurVolts can be added as a plug-in to existing sites and social networks.

OurVolts (http://ourvolts.com) is presently in development. We are working with several groups in Oakland, CA, San Jose, CA and the East Coast and actively getting feedback from volunteers and coordinators.

In this session, we will discuss the deployment of this product in local groups and the Drupal technology running behind the scenes to accomplish this. If you are interested in setting up your own group, volunteering, or Drupal, this is the session for you!

Session Notes

Notes by Anca (please forgive the typos and incomplete sentences...)

Visual Arts Nonprofit organization - they have events and fundraisers. They have a volunteer base of artists in the program, as well as others inerested in helping the community. Low morale at the beginning

Joshua: Worked with different volunteer groups - vounteer-driven organizations, translating organizing models from community-based organizations to bigger, more national groups that coordinate volunteers.

Monica - worked for organizations run entirely by volunteers, of various ages.

James: Use case: to retain volnteers for the Engineers w/out Borders, they gave responsibiity to the volunteers for establishing and retaining a relationship with the peole in Honduras.

Lindsay: 1000 artists, looking for people to give back to ArtSpan. They encourage people to take part by letting the volunteers know about the individuals in the organizations.

They use Filemaker and a coordinator to count hours. They write thank-you notes for volnteers, and have a volunteer aprociation party. Repeat vs one-time volunteers. They use Volunteer Match to find people.

Relationship between success and volunteering is really tied to the driving force - the person doing the coordinating.

We want people to be able to compare themselves w/ their peers - people want validation within their existing social networks.

Do volunteers like the level of rgcognition? Or are we more humble and prefer not to be visible?

Everyone likes recognition - but not bureaucracy.

Joshua: Volunteers don't think of themselves as volunteers - they are activists. It's embedded in the mindset of te activist that they are not getting paid. They aren't particularly "humble". Competition and recognition is useful - but in the context of pre-existing social relationships.

His organization doesn't quantify performance in terms of hours - but in terms of output you've accomplished.

Can we help highlight the work that is being done in specific places?

It needs to feel organic - they want to share their work, not be told what to do.

Are people on Facebook? Would it hep to post there? Yes, largely for the younger activitists, who are already there.

We can use the time reporting as donations in-kind - rather than just recognizing $$ donations.

We recognize people, but only once a year.

Recognition on a micro-level. People are competing for social capital - but it has to be valued in your network. What are the indicators of social capital in the communities that you are working in?

What about using text messaging to notify people of events going on? This is much more useful to the "Twitter" generation.

Charismatic leaders should create a sucession plan - so that when they have to leave, the group doesn't fall apart. How do you recognize the volunteer coordinator? They are doing a lot more work than most of the volunteers.

Can technology replace a volunteer coordinator? How does an organization survive without a person? Can there be a democratic process for running groups?

It depends on the group. Theres always someone that emerges to help move things along, if the need and reward is strong engouh.

Tools overview:

Volunteer Match - that's how Lindsay found her project, but it's not the main source of the volunteers.

Email blasts for communicating w/ volunteers

Website has a volunteer form that they can fill in.

Direct one-to-one human contact is the most important thing. Staff organizers are needed to keep a grass roots network going.

Listservs - these feel more organic, more authentic.

We need collaboration tools as well as volunteer management tools - not just one or the other.

What about being able to measure the project and provide visible updates. Show that people are part of a community in the context of a larger project. Demonstrate that the larger thing has an impact.

These 3 things are important to keep people engaged.

Put people in community with each other, then engage them in an impactful action. Let the volunteers share stories with each other, compare notes.

"The thing that you share may be different - text, photos, video". Sometimes it's useful to communicate non-public information to volunteers, too.

You have to communicate something that indicates efficacy.

What if there was a specific social value to volunteer time? What if, say, a homeless person got more social status based on their higher level of civic service than business people?

The main question is ... "Is it actually valuable" to give the time". Things that are more visible can gain more value, but it's not in our current political context.

We also have to quantify political impact - beneficial impact. Some volunteer organizations may do things that we don't like - so is the "value" of an hour the same there?