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Most of us have experience working at the airport, a hotel or at home late at night. Surprisingly much of nonprofit and association management work is not done face to face. Except for educational offerings even board meetings are more likely to be held online or on the phone. Is it possible your organization could become virtual?

Because nonprofits are usually people-centric, it is possible that many are sure there is no way that a virtual existence is possible. There is always an argument for hiring local, yet there’s no reason a virtual employee cannot be local. But let’s consider ways it COULD work and possibly meet the challenges of hiring and retaining staff and keeping funds flowing to the cause. Let’s be realistic, if faced with closing the doors or going virtual, a nonprofit might agree to make it work.

What should a group consider if they need to create a more virtual presence?

You can start small:  Virtual assistants have been around for a while. They are so popular they even have their own association. “The International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the professional education and development of members of the Virtual Assistance profession.”  A parent who wants to work at home, someone with barriers to getting to work or a night owl who likes to get the work done “off the clock,” could serve as a virtual assistant. If the relationship is successful, there is a good chance it will last.

Recognize you will still need face-to-face time.  You will still need to talk to your virtual employees on a regular basis. If you can do this in person, that’s great. If not, make sure to use Skype, Facetime or even a weekly phone call to check in.

Technology is your Friend:  Bookkeeping, customer service, copywriting, web design, social media, newsletter production and more can be done remotely. You will need to become familiar with the many tools to help your virtual staff access data. Don’t forget to secure your confidential data using proper security measures.

Expect Management to be the Same:  If your virtual staff are independent contractors make sure they have all the credentials. If they are employees, you will still have working hours and reporting expectations that don’t relieve you of management duties. This is no different from what you would do if your staff were right under your nose. You should continue to keep your virtual staff connected with the rest of the team.

Harvey Gail is president of Spire Management, a non-profit consulting, association management, and event planning company in Salem, OR., @HarvGail.

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