Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Amy Sample Ward, NTEN

Jun 3, 2015 4:30 PM ET

Originally Posted on VolunteerMatch's Engaging Volunteers Blog

VolunteerMatch’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!

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.