Volunteer Engagement 2.0 Author Spotlight: Jayne Cravens

May 26, 2015 2:35 PM ET

First of all, what is your chapter about?
It’s about what I think is “what’s next” regarding virtual volunteering: An expansion of high-responsibility and high-impact roles, such as online mentoring.

Why is this topic important?
While a lot of people want volunteer micro-tasks, a lot also want more meaningful, deeper relationships and greater commitment. Virtual volunteering allows for a lot of people to engage in these higher-responsibility, high-impact roles. However, there currently aren’t enough assignments for these people. Everyone is on the microvolunteering bandwagon, which is great, but nonprofits are ignoring an incredible resource if they aren’t also creating these higher-impact virtual volunteering opportunities.

Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
I have been working with nonprofits since I was a teenager. I work primarily in communications, and I’ve been on the Internet since 1994. I had one of the first web sites to help nonprofits and NGOs use the Internet. That got the attention of Impact Online, which later became VolunteerMatch – so I’ve been associated with the organization for 20 years!

I directed the Virtual Volunteering Project at the University of Texas, and then directed the United Nations’ Online Volunteering service in Germany. I also recently did a research project for the European Union on virtual volunteering in Europe. While I’ve been more focused on communications projects for humanitarian projects abroad recently, I still research and consult about volunteering whenever I get the chance.

What did you learn and/or struggle with when writing your chapter?
My main struggle was with the initial proposal, which was for me to write a chapter about virtual volunteering. I refused, as Susan Ellis and I note in The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, virtual volunteering should not be a separate topic amid discussions about volunteer engagement and management.

Instead, virtual volunteering needs to be fully integrated into all such discussions and trainings. If a book talks about recruiting volunteers, for instance, that chapter needs to include how the Internet plays a role in this. If a workshop explores ways to recognize volunteers, that workshop needs to include how to leverage online tools for this. So, instead, I focused on what I think is being largely ignored among books and trainings regarding volunteering: Online volunteers providing direct service to clients, such as mentoring or counseling.

Finally, what is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Quit thinking of yourself as a person that finds people to do work. Start thinking of yourself as the person that creates connections with the community.

To read Jayne’s full chapter, Virtual Volunteering: Are We Finally Ready to Talk about Direct Service?order your copy ofVolunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.

Jayne also wrote about her chapter on her own blog, which you can read here.