Net-work

“Your network is the people who want to help you, and you want to help them, and that’s really powerful.” – Reid Hoffman (Co-Founder of LinkedIn)

At a very early age I was told again and again this fairly common cliché, ‘it’s not what you know it’s who you know’. Ever since, making connections and building strong working relationships has been a key skill I have tried to develop. Not only for myself, but for those around me – never missing an opportunity to recommend people, fair trade products or services to others.

Sometimes networking can be a daunting prospect. Enter a room of strangers (name badge on), introduce yourself, what you and your organisation do, scary stuff. It can also be quite time consuming. Fitting in ‘meet and greets’ is sometimes last on our list of priorities. But however you might feel about networking, it is a wonderful opportunity to give and receive assistance.

KnowHow NonProfit has an interesting approach to creating networking events and spotting opportunities (find out more here). While the method they use is quite scientific it gives some useful insight into a way of measuring effectiveness of networking communications.

The growth of social media has made networking with people a lot easier. LinkedIn, for example, is a great resource to stay connected with people you might meet at a conference, training session or event. But if you are not on LinkedIn, you can find free local networking events on Eventbrite. Relatively undiscovered social media platform Meetup allows users to form groups, organise events and share information,  and is another great tool to keep connected.

For me, networking is all about supporting each other and we should use the resources and skills which we all have to actively give each other our support!

So, network, network, network. You never know who you might meet.

Alex Buckmire

alexbuckmire@voluntaryactionharrow.org.uk

How accessible is YOUR website?

Though an undoubtedly dubious honour to receive, to the winner of this year’s ‘Canada’s Worst Charity Website’ went an invaluable prize: a full website makeover courtesy of the competition’s organisers, Rtraction. And a fierce competition this most certainly was as the charity sector is home to some of the clunkiest, most unsightly and out-dated websites in existence, something that urgently needs to change.

Of course, for smaller, local charities, this problem is understandable; with much of the incredible work going on and the strain on time and resources that this can result in, website accessibility can be easily overlooked. However, not only does a sloppy website not do justice to the quality of an organisation’s work, it can create barriers between a charity and those who might wish to engage with it.

No matter what high standards of quality your services or web content might set, if the people you are trying to support are unable to make use of them due to inaccessibility they are ultimately rendered useless. Perhaps the most pressing question you should be asking yourself when considering your design is: ‘Who is likely to be visiting my website?’ Always consider the fact that many users could have impaired vision, learning difficulties or mental health issues, and a poorly constructed site could potentially be denying them access to important information and support. Definitely do not assume that they are sat behind a desk scrolling their mouse across the screen of a desktop PC because the means by which people view your website are likely to change frequently and radically, and you must be ready to adapt accordingly.

The advent of mobile computing and ubiquitous internet means that even the most lovingly and painstakingly composed websites are being stretched and squeezed into unsightly shapes and sizes as, in all likelihood, they will be viewed through a tablet device or Smartphone. Displayed through a large monitor your site might look great, but much of its impact can get lost when shrunk down to the size of a credit card on someone’s mobile phone. Navigation, visibility and responsiveness can all heavily suffer if you don’t look ahead to anticipate the new and constantly changing ways that people are going to engage with you. Google’s hyper-futuristic, hands free, head mounted Google Glass monitor is now in development and, while it might seem like elite technology now, in the future it, or something like it, could be commonplace. Websites will need to be as pliable as putty to keep up.

James Wright

jameswright@voluntaryactionharrow.org.uk