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Using Virtual Communities to Support Volunteer Retention

Research shows that volunteers who have strong relationships with program staff and with other volunteers are more likely to continue volunteering in their role. However, with reduced resources and cultural shifts that make face-to-face activities harder to sustain, it can be difficult to maintain the same level of relatedness previously afforded to Extension volunteer programs. The advent of Web 2.0 tools offers staff an opportunity to support volunteers in new ways using technology. This session will describe a research study that examined the ways in which an online community housed in eXtension supported volunteer relationships. We will explore the benefit to contributing to the community through conversation and participating more passively through reading the conversations of others. Participants will learn about characteristics of volunteers who flourished in this environment as well as critical components necessary for a virtual community to be successful.

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