Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits

As already advanced, my paper Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits has been already published in the first issue of the new Journal of Information Technology in Social Change.


Online volunteering is as old as the World Wide Web… or as the Internet itself. It is, notwithstanding, with the growing use of the WWW circa end of 1994 that it starts to become popular. Nevertheless, we believe that neither the concept nor the tasks that can be carried along by online volunteers are clear at all or, in any case, are the result of a wide consensus.

The research we here present analyzed 17 websites devoted to fostering volunteering to find out (a) if there was a broadly accepted definition of the concept of online volunteering and (b) if there was a list of tasks thus designed as the core or ideal competences of online volunteers. According to our findings, in this paper we will, first of all, describe all the different denominations for online volunteers and, closely related to them, try and see what are the profiles and tasks that, tied to these denominations, are usually performed or asked for in those main 17 volunteering websites.

To end, we will take some distance from the object of research and, in a more theoretical level, we will then suggest what the online volunteer profile could be and the main tasks he or she could really carry on related to this profile, the nature of the Information Society and the possibilities of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

In this aspect, our thesis will be that, just like distance and/or online education changed formal education, ICTs are opening volunteering to some people usually excluded from nonprofits because of personal and professional obligations. On the other hand, it seems that these newcoming people enrolled through and thanks to ICTs do come with a brand new profile, a profile whose main added value is knowledge. It will be stated, then, that the online volunteer is a perfect knowledge management actor and that knowledge transmission seems to be is his or her main role in solidarity.

Citation and postprint download

Peña-López, I. (2007). “Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits”. In The Journal of Information Technology in Social Change, Spring Edition – April 2007, (1), 136-152. Vashon: The Gilbert Center.


Bibliography: Technological grounds of the e-Administration

Here comes the bibliography I’m using to teach my course Technological grounds of the e-Administration belonging to the Master in e-Administration at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.


Center for International Development at Harvard University. (Ed.) (2000). Readiness for the Networked World. A Guide for Developing Countries. Cambridge: Center for International Development at Harvard University. Retrieved February 17, 2006 from
Jiménez Romera, C. (2002). “Software libre y administración pública”. In Boletín CF+S, Junio 2002, (20). Madrid: Instituto Juan de Herrera. Retrieved November 17, 2006 from
Nicol, C. (Ed.) (2003). ICT Policy: A Beginner ’s Handbook. Johannesburg: Association for Progressive Communications. Retrieved December 18, 2003 from

Further information

This is not a evolving selection, though it might have slight changes. The up-to-date version of this list can always be consulted here: Fundamentos Técnicos de la Administración Electrónica. Feel free to write back to me with proposals for inclusion in the list and/or corrections for found errors.


Research about Online Volunteering at the Nonprofit Technology Conference 2007

It looks like ages since I ended my M.Phil.’s research project e-Learning for Development: a model. During last year (2006) I gave a conference about e-Learning and development based on open access and free software, and I also published a shortest Spanish version of the thesis in UPDATE – Dianova International e-magazine, again focusing on the “open” paradigm.

Even if the full digital version has been online for more than one year and a half, I’ve been having the uncomfortable sensation that — at least from my own point of view — my most important contribution in the paper has not had a lot of diffusion, exposure: provided there is really scarce literature on online volunteering, and most of it is from a practitioner’s approach, I thought my work on the taxonomy and typology of online volunteering provided some fresh air to the subject.

Now, it seems that the time for this issue to have an official coverage has come, and it will be, lucky me, in two ways at the same time.

First of all, my paper Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits has been accepted to be published in the first issue of the new Journal of Information Technology in Social Change, that is going to be presented at the 2007 Nonprofit Technology Conference by Michael Gilbert (along with the people at The Gilbert Center and NTEN, who have worked together to make it happen).

Second, a session devoted to the Journal will take place on Friday April 6th, 2007, at the conference, where some research gathered in this first issue will be presented to the attendants. As I cannot travel to Washington, DC, Michael Gilbert himself will be doing my speech for me using the material and notes I provided him with.

What is an online volunteer, what are the tasks that one would expect him to do, how are volunteering web portals treating the concept of online volunteering or how could this kind of contribution evolve in the future are questions that I try to answer in my paper and will be also shortly dealt with in the live presentation.

I really would like to sincerely thank Michael Gilbert, Katrin Verclas and Christine Dragonwyck for their help, patience and, over all, determination and drive to make things happen, even against all odds ;)