A few months ago, I volunteered to serve as communications chairperson for a small non-profit organization. Most of the people who help me with communications are unpaid volunteers. As CEO of a startup company, I’m used to wearing many different hats and dedicating a lot of my time to the company. But I can’t ask volunteers to wear hats that do not fit them well or demand that they learn new skills. I have volunteers who are willing to write articles but who don’t have the ability to put the articles on the web. I have graphic designers who do not have writing skills but may have some web skills. There are also individuals who have institutional knowledge about what has been done in the past but who are scaling back on their volunteer time.

Also, I am unable to make many demands with respect to schedule. I have a web developer who has volunteered to maintain the organization’s web site, but she is often available only when her young children are napping. I have college student volunteers who can contribute in various ways (for example, by writing a newspaper article) but studying and student projects are their first priority. I have paid staff members who know what is going on but who don’t have time to keep me and everyone else fully briefed.

One of the first things I did when I took on the role of communications chair was to ask a core group to use Pearl Comments. Sure, I was motivated to have them use my company’s product, but it turned out to be a really good fit. Because creating a comment is easier and quicker than sending email or making a phone call, the paid staff people are more likely to keep others informed. For example, they tell us about upcoming events, changes that should be made to the web site, and new resources they discover.

Since all of my communication team members can see each other’s comments, sometimes unexpected benefits arise. One of the paid staff members who is responsible for putting together the organization’s printed newsletter made a comment on one of the web sites she uses as a source of clip art. The volunteer web developer saw the comment and learned that the organization has a subscription to the clip art site. Very quickly she was given the information needed to access the clip art and is now able to use it on the organization’s web site too.

We benefit from using Pearl Comments in other ways as well. My volunteer writers can place their prose in a comment where it will be picked up by the web developer and by the people who create the organization’s traditional printed newsletter. Everyone can give their opinion when we are considering design alternatives for the Christmas mailing we plan to send out. Whether a person is able to dedicate 30 minutes every morning to their volunteer activities or only find a few hours to spare between their midterms and final projects, we can all work together.