Reducing barriers to volunteering
There’s some disconnect between non-profits and tech volunteers.
What are the challenges:
- No dedicated community management role.
- Defining bite sized of pieces of work.
- Projects that are like too big too quick. The non profit can’t support
the thing the volunteer wants to do.
- Non-profits not knowing what to ask for. Not having a clear thing to say
“this is what we need you to do for us”
- Onboarding process: Getting them to the process where they can actually work
- “By the time I onboard that person, I should be hiring them”
- The tradeoff of what that volunteer did vs. what a full time employee
- Retention is a major issue. 70% come once twice and never again
- Why the 30% of volunteers say - after their spent the first hour
- It’s hard to identify something that the things that a newcomer can do
- Organizations under-estimate how much work that it is to work with
- Onboarding is the burden. Once the on boarding is smooth, that will take
care of what is smooth.
- Is anybody doing this successfully? Matching tech volunteers.
- Less so with coders and developers
- We have success with business analysts because they are consultative,
- “Discovery” -> “Design” -> “Build” -> “Maintain”
- Team for tech - they do some great projects with non-profits. They
commit to work with a project for 3-5 years. They’re doing the project management for that non-profit.
Having a dedicated staff member. Project manager - the person that answers their questions and gets them set up.
This person checks in and makes sure that things go okay. That person usually doesn’t exist at many non-profit.
It would be most productive if that person is in the non-profit who knows the non-profit.
A person that holds their hand through it. Volunteers go off on a code tangent.
The coding part is unique for developers. It’s a lot of set up.
- Have volunteers build the role itself.
- Tech volunteers there is a hierarchy in tech - people don’t want to do
the volunteer on boarding work. Orgs want to retain the engineering staff.
- Certain things lend themselves better to volunteers.
- Bugfixes are much simpler but many people don’t want to do that because
- Putting a small team of volunteers onto prototyping projects might be a
good use of volunteers.
- Skipped the onboarding, basically was just milestone checks for the day
- The volunteer is looking for the bite-sized chunk. The non-profit needs
more comprehensive support though. So it feels like there is a disconnect between the two.
- There is a minimum bar for contribution, some people might need to spend
some time going through some tutorials. Maybe there should be a “readiness” checklist - things you should know prior to contributing.
- Readiness checklist with examples - “if you don’t know git here’s a
- Dev environment spin up should be very smooth.
- Really great documentation.
- Needs finding has to go both ways - what’s the takeaway.
- Have the contributor CLA verifying they’ve read the contributor guidelines
- More time needs to be spent on devops if it’s not smooth.
- Wikimedia has a matchmaking process where a volunteer fills out a form.
- They have hundreds of volunteers to. What are the items to be done and
what can the volunteer do?
- Need a checklist for both the volunteer and non-profit.
- Direct contact with users.
- “The journey is part of the experience”
Where is the most valuable place to use volunteers? Non-critical tasks that we still really want We have to focus on these critical tasks
Are hackathons useful?
- Maybe, but often the non-profit doesn’t get much out of it.
- One successful hackathon was where people came with particular area
problems, create prototypes, and it was long (9am-10pm).
- Invite only hackathons are definitely useful.
- Gone from a one day event to a three day event. The people that show up
for a three day event are way more committed. The quality of their presence is much higher.
- Structured events go better.
Maybe some of the practices that have been acquired from the coding communities would be useful in other spheres.