Updated November 23, 2013

A free resource for nonprofit organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations,
charities, schools, public sector agencies & other mission-based agencies
by Jayne Cravens
via coyotecommunications.com & coyoteboard.com (same web site)

Using Video Communications With Volunteers

Video is a great way to further support your volunteers, and your computer probably already has all of the tools you need to make a video, or to engage in a live video conversation with others. The majority of computers sold today come with built in microphones and cameras, as well as the software you need to make a video -- and even older computers can view most video platforms. However, for live event / web conferencing software, you will need a newer computer and a consistent, fast Internet connection.

Video isn't something to use only with online volunteers or remote volunteers (those providing onsite service at a different location than yours). It's also a tool you can use with new and current volunteers that will work onsite. And, in addition to an organization producing videos for volunteers, it can also work the other way around: volunteers can produce videos for organizations.

Why Video?

Video is a tool with obvious benefits for working with online volunteers or remote volunteers (those providing onsite service at a different location than yours). But video is also a terrific for reaching any volunteers you don't regularly supervise and interact with face-to-face. It's also a way to connect with new volunteers who might not be able to come to your office during regular business hours, but would be happy to meet via video conferencing during those hours.

Some people have trouble thinking of someone on the other end of a phone line or an email address as "real." Video puts a face, a voice and expressions to a person. Video takes the argument away from those who say, "I just can't work with someone I don't see."

Short Recorded Videos

Short video presentations, produced on a desktop or laptop computer, can be used in various ways with volunteers:

With free online sites like YouTube, you can easily create a space to host such videos, for free, without bothering your organization's web master.

For a video presentation, you should write a script, and the person who will speak needs to rehearse the script in its entirety. You need to record the presentation more than once, and watch it at least once, beginning to end, to ensure that all of the audio is clear, that the visual is appropriate, and that, altogether, it makes sense and is compelling enough to watch. You also need to keep the presentation short. Most people are not going to sit in front of their computers watching a video presentation for longer than 15 minutes.

Live Video

In addition, you can interact with volunteers via live video. This can be a two-way conversation, with people at two different sites talking to each other, or a one-to-many one-way conversation, with one person being broadcast via video to others, who participate by watching and submitting their questions or comments for the presenter by instant messaging, which the presenter can answer in real-time.

The key to such a live event is to have a concrete reason for the event, and expressing this reason clearly and effectively to potential participants. What do you want the volunteers to value about such a real-time encounter? What do you want to happen as a result of a real-time encounter?

It's a good idea test such a broadcast well in advanced, to ensure that the volunteers you want to reach know what they need to do to watch the live presentation, and to ensure the presenter can be heard.

There are a range of free tools that allow you to have a two-way (or more) video conversation. Here are ones I have used:

Volunteers Can Help You!

Put a notice in your newsletter to current volunteers or make an announcement at your next volunteer meeting asking for help in putting together a short video presentation or creating a live video event. You may already have volunteers who know how to do this -- or they may have family members who can help. You can also put requests for assistance on your organization's web site or on the usual volunteer recruitment places, such as VolunteerMatch, Idealist, CraigsList, etc.

How Easy Is It Really?

You can check out my YouTube channel (which a friend has dubbed Jayne 2.0) and see my own homemade nine-minute video that discusses this subject further. It took me an hour to write and refine the script, about an hour to figure out how my new video editing software worked (I just upgraded my computer, but just 30 minutes to record the video three times and chose one of the takes to use. I purposely kept it simple -- just one special effect -- to show you just how easy such a video can be to produce. Truly, if I can do it, anyone can. There are other videos there as well.

I'll post announcements of new videos to my channel on my blog.

A Caution

With all this said, you still have to produce text-based information for your volunteers. The reason is that, to do otherwise will leave a lot of people out. There are also people who don't have the computer technology or the best internet connection required to download videos or view them online. In addition, someone who is hearing impaired wouldn't be able to access information that's produced for a hearing audience. You also need to keep in mind that not all volunteers speak well, and they may not come off very well on video. Some volunteers may be very self-conscious about the way they look. One of the nice things about online volunteering that's done entirely text-based is that it removes a lot of opportunities for prejudice because of a person's ethnicity, their weight, their facial features, etc.

So don't make video interactions or video production a requirement -- it's not appropriate for everyone, and it's not appropriate for every situation.

Final Thoughts

What I'm talking about doesn't require much investment on your part, out side of time: time to learn how to use the technology and, then, time to learn to actually use it.

Related Resources

For Nonprofits Considering Their Own Podcasts: Why It's Worth Exploring, and Content Considerations

Suggestions for using real-time tools with volunteers (VoIP, chat, instant messaging, etc.).

There are even more suggestions about how to recognize online volunteers and how to use online resources to honor ALL volunteers in The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook. Examples of video orientations and trainings for volunteers are available via the virtual volunteering wiki.

Also see:

Getting More Viewers for Your Organization's Online Videos
Videos are a great way to represent your organization's work, to show you make a difference, to promote a message or action that relates to your mission, etc. But just uploading a video isn't enough to attract an audience. This new page on my site offers specific steps that will get more views for your organization's videos on YouTube. Note that many of these tasks would be great for an online volunteer to undertake, with guidance from an appropriate staff member.

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