Following on from our previous observations – that TSOs use of social media concerns more than raising funds – comes a recent article in the Non Profit and Voluntary Sector Journal that considers the extent to which the ‘use of the Internet’ is related to volunteers’ social capital and commitment to the TSO. Conducting their study within the German Red Cross (GRC), Eike Emrich and Christian Pierdzioch used an online survey to examine the relationship between amount of Internet use (in relation to their voluntary work) and outcomes like satisfaction with their role and willingness to expand their efforts within the GRC. Although not demonstrating causality, the results do show a correlation between increased Internet use and these outcomes and the authors suggest that this is because the volunteers have more information about the GRC, voluntary work available and their specific role as a volunteer. As a consequence they propose that using the Internet as a communication medium – for example to let groups of geographically diverse volunteers know more about how the organization functions– could bring about more volunteer commitment and more trust in the TSO, breaking down some of the differences between paid employees and volunteers.
Overall this work suggests that TSOs might do well to take a more varied and nuanced approach to using The Internet to engage volunteers than focusing on increasing donations. However we are struck by the use of the very broad term ‘Internet use’ which does not give much insight into what form of technology-support is helpful: social media? website? databases? While producing statistics which provide broad quantifiable evidence of the strength of relationships, surveys do lack the specificity which is required to better understand volunteers’ experience and to inform TSO’s specific strategies for exploiting digital media to engage their volunteers.
 Emrich, E. and Pierdzioch, C. (2016). The Internet and the commitment of volunteers: Empirical evidence for the Red Cross. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, April, 1–18