TeamKinetic

Build better volunteer communities with FREE volunteer management software

Tag: technology

Understanding the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of the internet for volunteer managers

TeamKinetic believes that the internet has the potential for transformation in our world comparable to the Gutenberg’s printing press , but if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that the internet reflects both the very best and very worst of human nature. What do volunteer managers need to know about the internet to keep their volunteers safe?

I’ll provide some useful resources to give some context and understanding of the darker side of the internet and how we have used this to try and inform our policies and procedures as an organisation and what we think you should consider as an organisation as you become more reliant on digital platforms.

The internet provides almost limitless opportunity for grassroots social action, citizen journalism, voluntary engagement and so many other potentially positive outcomes, but we are naive if we do not recognise and consider the risks.

Jon Ronson, journalist and author recently wrote “So you’ve been publicly shamed” on how the networked effect of the internet can lead to individuals being ostracised.  His entertaining and occasionally dark work examined some of the difficult issues around user-generated content and how people’s mistakes are amplified and stored for eternity in the memory of cyber-space. Ronson’s storytelling introduces the reader to the inherent risk for normal people to get caught up in exceptional events and how little control they have over these events once a post goes viral.

Sarah Jeong, now of the New York Times Editorial Board, Vice and The Verge has written extensively on the internet’s inherent problems and her book, “The Internet of Garbage” gives informed insights on the risks and unintended consequences of poor policy and practice and how that can impact organisations and their users.   Jeong discusses at length some of the nuanced problems the modern internet has created for itself and how copyright law is being misused as a method of content suppression and removal, due in part to lack of other recourse to individuals who find themselves at the centre of a viral internet storm.

I mention these two texts as they are accessible and informed, and for those who are looking to understand the internet, they will help non-technology people appreciate the inherent risks of a highly networked world, the very real risks that can affect everyday users and voluntry organisations alike.

TeamKinetic is aware that our volunteer management platform has the potential to recruit volunteers in almost any situation. It is effective and easy to use and can be administered remotely with high efficiency to deploy individuals or teams of volunteers at short notice.  These characteristics are great if you run a charity, an event or a university internship program, but they are equally great if you are recruiting individuals to partake in less positive endeavours.   The creators of any platform which allows users to create content and communicate with each other must be aware of the risks as well as the benefits.

Recent legislation such as GDPR, goes some way to help individuals protect their privacy and increase their control over websites and platforms they engage with. It also gives businesses and organisations the chance to audit exactly what information they collect, why they collect it, and what they are going to do with it. This was a revealing process for us and was very worthwhile. All legislation, however well intentioned, runs the risk of “unintended consequence“. As responsible curators of TeamKinetic we have to embrace some basic values by which to manage our site.

What are our ideals and values?

As an organisation, we have put honesty at the centre of our company values. This is a type of statement that is easy to say, but much harder to live by. We aspire to offer honesty in our pricing, in our customer service and our product.

Our role in supporting the organisations that use TeamKinetic to manage their volunteers goes beyond the provision of software. We want to build a community of volunteers and volunteer managers that can share practice and policy, develop professional connections and work to strengthen the sector as a whole through the development of consistent standards in the wider information technology infrastructure of volunteering.

We want to be able to share expert knowledge and insight based on our user data and experience to help the sector become better at recruiting, deploying and recognising their volunteer’s hard work. We commit to making our data available to researchers, and the resulting insights and findings will be freely available to all who have a valid interest in the voluntary sector.

Finally, we want to create an amazing experience for all our users, that means the best technology, built in a way that is easy to use and importantly every user is protected by good policies and excellent support. Our volunteer-centric approach to development will remain the centre of our business operation.

We hope you will join us on our continued mission to be part of the ‘good’ internet and we look forward to your thoughts on how we can do this.

Why TeamKinetic has gone mobile

As TeamKinetic makes it iOS application available to its customers and existing volunteers, we discuss the evidence that has driven this change and our hopes of making volunteering even more accessible.

The march of technology is relentless, and the pressure on organisations in sport and the 3rd sector to offer multi-channel and multi-platform solutions to better engage with their stakeholders continues to grow as they compete for attention against a sea of other content. These trends mean that making TeamKinetic available on mobile was essential.

mobile usage by country – Comscore

The data shows that the time spent on mobile has surpassed that spent on other web-enabled devices, and this trend is consistent in developed and developing economies. It is not a case of “if mobile is important?”, but to acknowledge its predominance in the decision-making process for future development.

Dominance of multi-platform applications

The evidence is clear; consumers now expect a multi-platform product that allows them to switch between the different versions of the platform, undertaking some tasks on their desktop and others on their phone or tablet. With other data suggesting these browsing choices are time of day dependent.

on-line device usage by time of day

When looking at how to engage with your audience, in our case volunteers. We have to accept these trends and offer a product that can cater to the desires and expectations of the user.

Using the mobile platform, both in its native application format and via the mobile browser, not only have we been able to increase the potential reach and time available to browse, we can also access additional functionality.

The use of GPS and geo-location services, open-auth protocols to make signing in and staying signed in easier and using the camera or address book are all examples of technologies that work particularly well on a phone to improve customer experience. Our founding belief at TeamKinetic is to always keep the volunteer and their experience central to our design philosophy, so the decision to create the app was easy to make.

This is our first step of many as a truly multi-platform company, no doubt we have plenty to learn if we want to recreate our desktop experience on a much smaller device, but working with our customers, that’s our ambition. The rewards for success for our customers, the Sports Clubs, charities and communities are potential too great to ignore.

We must constantly challenge ourselves to look at our organisations and consider how well we provide services and how accessible they are. We must push to deliver to stakeholders the experience they have come to expect.

TeamKinetic products will provide that level of service at a fraction of the cost of in-house development.  Please get in touch to see a demo of our system and how it might improve your stakeholder engagement, build your community and change your world.

Not another IT system!!!

angry at computer

Many of the organisations we work with offer the same reservations about initiating a new Volunteer Management System.
“Do we really need another IT system?  Why can’t we just use our CRM system?”
We are living in a time of rapid technological change and organisations are fighting to keep up with that change whilst battling for attention in an increasingly busy marketplace.  Its my aim to try and answer the question above but to also give you some food for thought on how you may future proof your IT infrastructure and grow your organisations ability to effectively communicate with your fans, members, coaches, volunteers, officials and, other stakeholders.
 
We live in the Post PC world where your various users have choice over how they want to keep in contact with you.  This includes phones, tablets, computers, smart TV’s, PC’s and Macs as well as old world technology like magazines and news letters.  Netflix has come to dominate the “Video on demand” space through making sure its service is ubiquitous, that is it is available on all platforms.  Now I’m not suggesting you are Netflix, but the lesson is clear, know where your users are and prioritize those platforms for development. 
 
Another important lesson from Netflix is to make sure the experience is consistent across those platforms.  If people have a bad experience on their phone with your web site or app, their opinion will be diminished across any other digital content you offer.
Not only do we have so many ways to plug in to the digital world, we have an even larger range of software options and channels to communicate through that space;  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Chat Bots, Google.  These channels provide vast infrastructure and reach but as more and more options become available the cost of keeping all these relevant and interesting becomes harder and harder, also your audience gets further and further segmented making each option less attractive for total market reach.  
 
How do you create an infrastructure that will be able to continue to cope with the endless developments that are coming down the line? Can you build in a manner that allows you create you own communities?  If you build your own community do you know how to track its opinions and trends effectively? Can you extract value from that relationship commercially, operationally and socially?
 
Let start with CRM and the problems it solve and creates. 
 
There is a clue in the name, Customer Relationship Management.  In its self it seems to make sense and you could argue it would solve some of the issues I have pointed out above, but let me explain what the issues are:
 
“Customers”.  If I’m selling widgets this approach makes sense, but in a sporting context who are your customers, is it the clubs, the members, the helpers, the fans?
 
This “customer” focused approach does not encompass the complexities your organisation faces. You do have examples where there is clearly a customer relationship and taking elements from good customer service is never a bad idea, but there are many other examples where you are stakeholder, signposting service, community leader, advisor, service provider, trainer and manager.  Your relationship with your “customers” is vastly more complex than most retail or service organisations.  Each user group listed has a very specific set of requirements from you.
 
CRM also makes the assumption that everything will go through you directly as an organisation. What we have learnt over the last 7 years is that communities really thrive when you, a central governing organisation, give your members, customers and interested parties, the tools they need to be independent and to take ownership of their own destiny.
 
I am not suggesting that a CRM policy is not important, and you should consider it carefully but not at the expense of the end user. Your CRM should be flexible to allow you to work with other solutions. It should provide a data and insight backbone through which you can track opportunities and direct contact.  But as the world becomes more complex it is unreasonable to assume it can undertake every aspect of your business communications strategy. 
 
Our particular area of expertise is Volunteer Management, they are not members often, do not always self-identify as Volunteers and they are defiantly not customers. Their roles vary from helpers to chair of your board. Our system provides specific tools for the specific job.  Events management, schedule setting, opportunity brokerage, skills mapping and training to name some headline functions.
 
Providing high powered tools that do a specific job very well, gives your organisation the opportunity to see exponential performance improvement and the ability to achieve new levels of scale. 
Our volunteer platform allows Manchester City Council to provide a service for over 7000 users with only one staff member.
 
So how do you get your CRM system and other specialist systems working more effectively together to get the best outcomes for your users?
 
Reduce account duplication and sign up fatigue.
Leveraging open auth ecosystems like sign in with Facebook, Google and so on, reduces friction for your users and also reduces the duplication of accounts. As a bonus it also gives a smooth route to encouraging users to share their experiences.
 
Don’t force square pegs into round holes.
Membership, CRM, content management, social media management; each have very specific requirements, make sure you have the right tool for the job and that they are as tightly coupled as possible so you can share data and get better insights.
 
Software as a service (SaaS)
SaaS has led to software solutions that are web based and available across multiple platforms at a lower cost.  These solutions normally offer specific tools that you can subscribe to as and when you need them.
 
Don’t get hung up on what you think you want to know
If you provide an easy user experience that encourages user engagement, they will provide you with more insight and data than you will know what to do with.  Try and keep your technology focused but most important useful to the end user.  If it feels like its more about what you want to know rather than what the end user gets out of using it, they will very quickly disengage.  Look at how you collect your data from the way people engage with your various systems and use that data to continually iterate and improve the end user experience.
 
The story goes that part of the reason Google won the search engine wars in the early 00’s is because they automatically placed the text cursor in the search bar so you did not have to click into it with your mouse. (There was a little more to it that is also worth a read) It really is the marginal gains that lead to excellent end user experience. 
 
The TeamKinetic platform is created using many of the ideals I have shared above.  Our software is always undergoing iterative improvements so we can strive towards the best user experience possible.  If you would like to find out more about our Volunteering, Workforce, Coaching and Club management systems please feel free to get in touch or visit us here .
 

 

 

 

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