This week on WPblab Bridget and Jason discuss taking on volunteers for a nonprofit and how to keep them interested in working as a volunteer webmaster for your WordPress website.

Inspired by Should You Work with a Volunteer?

Jason works for a nonprofit and Bridget works with nonprofit businesses

With volunteers, you need to give them encouragement (“Yes, you can do this!”), but there are limitations

  • They need to know the software (WordPress)

Communication is important, even if you enable your volunteers, you need to communicate with other departments, employees, etc. that the volunteer has the authority and ability to get/share information

Volunteers should be empowered & equipped – make sure they have the right access to everything they need and the right tools to get the job done. (ie. don’t have a Hackathon without making sure your participants have laptops!)

Don’t require all of your volunteers to be in the office when they volunteer – they may be stay-at-home moms/dads or have other work-related obligations and their availability and schedule will vary

If you can trust a volunteer with your website, you should be able to trust them with borrowing a $200 chromebook!

If you aren’t sure if they can be trusted yet, WordPress is great in that you can control their level of access and perhaps only allow them to draft posts or pages but require approval before they are posted.

Editorial Calendar

In the WordPress project, everyone involved from WordCamp organizers, to Meetup organizers, to contributors to different teams … is a volunteer! We need to remember that volunteers are giving of their time because it’s a cause that is important to them and that their time is worth something.

Maybe someone who wants to volunteer doesn’t have all the skills – try pairing them up with people who can fill in the gaps and encourage them to do what they are able to do, rather than discourage them

Add or delete users from your Campaigns organization

Give them a “sandbox”  that they can just ‘play’ with and learn how things work and make mistakes, then give them enough access to be able to do what they need to do, but not so much that they can do damage

  • Be very careful with young interns to instruct on ‘behavior’ and ‘voice’ for social media

Social media is typically the primary way people will use to get in touch with you and your organization

  • Try not to answer/fix everything publicly, use DM and email as well, redirect to proper channels

Part of equipping people is giving them the information they need to know how to answer questions or who to contact to get them answered properly

The worst thing you can do on social media is ‘never respond’ to someone trying to contact your organization

Have a plan in place for after your “summer interns/volunteers” leave to go back to school. Don’t let those social accounts die.

If you’re relying on automated tech, make sure it’s working, especially if you’re using it during a crucial campaign – make sure that replies are getting to your audience

WordCamp Atlanta – WordPress TV – Mallie Hart – Automation vs. Scheduling – be intentional even with your automation, and be sure to respond to questions

If you need to, divide and conquer – set up a team where someone handles facebook, someone else takes care of instagram, etc.

Have volunteer work-days – gives you a chance to get them all together and observe how they work and what their unique skills are – they may think they fit in one area, but you might find they are really skilled in another area that you weren’t aware of

Don’t put your volunteers in a “silo” – make sure they are communicating – maybe once a month have a meetup or a hangout with coffee/snacks – they will feel more connected and more valued & excited to keep contributing

Referring and bringing your friends is a great way to grow the volunteer base


Thanks for helping with our show notes!

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2 Comments

  1. Patty on August 9, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    In my experience, it’s a bad idea. I’ve had dozens of clients come to me because their volunteer web person got busy and stopped responding. The work is too hard and too ongoing to expect someone to stay engaged for years. And the transition to a professional is usually a big pain; I just had to wait for months for the volunteer who built the last site to send photos. The site had to be re-created from scratch because it got hacked and the volunteer didn’t even keep a single backup.

    • Patty on August 9, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      On the other hand, just today I did volunteer work myself. I built the site in 2010 and have maintained it with the exact same standards I give to all of my paying clients. I did a complete redesign when that became necessary, and I usually respond to their requests the same day. So if you can find someone like me, that’s different. 🙂

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