Using Instant Messaging to Work With Volunteers: Benefits and Suggestions
By Jayne Cravens of the E-Volunteering Unit at United Nations Volunteers
Version: November 2002
Volunteer managers already have phones and email to work with offsite volunteers. What is the advantage of using Instant Messaging (IM) with these volunteers as well?
UNITeS, a global Information and Communications Technology (ICT) volunteering initiative managed by the United Nations Volunteers programme, posted requests for information on various online discussion groups for people to share their experiences regarding IM in working with volunteers. Based on their feedback, as well the experience of UNITeS staff and selected documents, this article has been prepared to help illustrate the advantages for using IM to work with volunteers.
Please note that, when we say "IM" in this article, we mean a text-only exchange among two or more people that is via computer and the Internet, is private, and is live. IM is very similar to "chat." Both are synchronous communications, meaning users communicate with each other at exactly the same time. IM is generally used by just two people at once, however, and is private. A chat usually takes place in a virtual "room" online, often via a web site, and usually involves more than two people.
If you have used IM in some way, formally or informally, in working with volunteers, please share your experiences -- how you use IM with volunteers, what the benefits are, what obstacles there are, what your advice would be for others -- by sending an email to Jayne Cravens
This article is dedicated in loving memory of Zainub Ashraf of Girard, Ohio, an outstanding online volunteer whose encouragement helped UNV's e-volunteering staff learn the joys of IM.
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