Volunteering strategy

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At the heart of WMUK - our volunteer strategy

Volunteers are central to Wikimedia UK and the Wikimedia movement in general. Ideas for many of our events come from volunteers and they are the ones who lead projects and deliver things like training and editathons.

Wikimedia UK has been through significant expansion and professionalisation in the last two years. It is important that this takes place within a framework where our existing volunteers remain at the heart of the charity. Additionally, we need to attract new volunteers if we are to expand our programme of activities. Below is a list of suggestions on how we can attract, engage and retain volunteers going forward.

But most importantly we want to know what YOU think. Here are some key questions...

Key questions

  • Who are our existing volunteers?
  • Who are our potential volunteers?
  • How do we encourage more people to volunteer?
  • What are we doing that might put people off?
  • In what areas should we focus our volunteer recruitment?
  • How do staff relate to volunteers and how can they support volunteers without squeezing them out?
  • How can a London-based charity effectively support volunteers from outside the M25?
  • What do we do well currently?
  • What lessons have we learned from our experience to date?
  • Are there any other organisations (inside or outside the Wikimedia movement) who have had similar challenges and what can we learn from them?
  • How do we develop the existing volunteers and potential volunteers that we have?

Analysis

What is a volunteer?

The definition can range from those who organise, lead or assist in Wikimedia UK events through to participants at Wikimedia UK organised editathons, members of the charity, or even all UK based Wikimedia and other encyclopaedic or educational Open Content projects editors. Our principal aim as a chapter is to get people involved beyond editing although one of our overarching aims, in line with the Foundation, is to reverse any decline in the number of editors.

How many volunteers do we have?

Currently 106 volunteers support the chapter and its mission (beyond simply editing on Wikimedia projects) on either a weekly or monthly basis. This represent an increase from 69 the previous year. There are approximately 6,000 active editors from the UK on Wikimedia projects. We estimate an increase of one active volunteer every ten days with a bonus likely from our forthcoming work in Wales.

By category with growth or other measurements

Trustees

5 (soon to be increased)

Members

~220. We lost a significant number owing to a lack of renewals from those joining during the 2011 fundraiser. With regular newsletter and other communication, we have started to reverse this decline.

Every week volunteers

In a typical week, we probably have (this is not a complete list):

  • discussion of setting up 3-6 events, 2-6 volunteers involved
  • delivery of one Wikimedia event, with 2-4 volunteers present
  • follow up from an event, 1 volunteer involved
  • one committee meeting, 3-6 volunteers present
  • 0-1 meet up, 2-10 volunteers present to discuss ideas
  • talking to 1-2 potential Wikimedia UK partners, 1 volunteer involved
  • 1 volunteer meeting with appropriate staff to discuss a project they are working on

Every month volunteers

These are volunteers who contribute less often, maybe once a month when time permits or interest dictates. The things they do will be similar to the previous group but less often. They may have specialisms that they like to participate in e.g. themed editathons.

Editors and at what levels?

There is not one universal type of editor. Every editor contributes in different ways, whether that be fixing typos, editing content, writing new articles, sharing images or a combination of these and other tasks. They are all as valuable and important as each other. Only with a combination of all the different ways editors contribute to the various projects can the projects be successful. The development of the Visual Editor is an opportunity to develop a new generation of contributors.

What are the incentives to volunteering?

Different people volunteer for different reasons, whether it is altruism, because they find it fun, to meet other people, peer recognition, intellectual stimulation, improve job prospects, to help Wikimedia and its idea of sharing free knowledge, or because of patriotism - helping their country, culture or language community.

What are the barriers?

  • Lack of knowledge on how to volunteer.
  • Lack of opportunities.
  • Lack of variety of suitable opportunities.
  • Antipathy to "newbies" from some established community members.

Below we explore this in more details.

Activities

Area of activity Actions taken or proposed
Growing members and active volunteers
Increasing online sign ups

The German chapter has demonstrated that this is an important way of developing part of the volunteer base. However, we do not currently have a high volume of online donations as we are not in the online annual campaign. We need to make the process as attractive as possible as part of the existing donation check-out process.

A second aspect to achieving more online sign-up membership is having clearly identified benefits for someone joining. Current benefits are voting rights, a monthly newsletter and the ability to apply for micro and macrogrants. The latter may not be sufficiently compelling to most potential members as they may be new to editing.

We urgently need to be making more of meetups and events as a benefit members can enjoy, albeit not exclusively (i.e not members' only events) and perhaps including a mention of membership in all electronic communications - perhaps as part of a standard footer.

Increasing in-person recruitment / offline sign ups

A new member / volunteer join us leaflet will be ready by October. This will allow people to express interest in volunteering and or apply for membership while providing them with information on the benefit of doing so, and where or who they can go to get more information. This leaflet will provide a flavour of our programme activities and ask what particular areas they'd like to be involved in. It can be used in person by volunteers to encourage people to fill it out, and provided at events or at institutions.

We need to provide a briefing to volunteers about engaging and recruiting event attendees - not as an afterthought but a core part of events because it will mean they remain in contact and are more likely to keep editing. That this is everyone's responsibility isn't currently well understood or adopted.

New members' pack

This will be a section in the volunteer handbook. It will contain information that a new member may find useful and encouraging case studies. It will be distributed by email to new members when approved - possibly as a designed PDF as well as an on-wiki version.

Joining webpage

Our website is not as accessible or user friendly as it should be. As part of the planned overall improvement, an attractive webpage using a webform integrated with our database on the Drupal platform will be developed. This needs to clearly describe the previously identified and expanded benefits of joining, newsletters, participation on our democratic framework, current and future volunteer opportunities. The new membership approval process has helped in cutting down the turnaround time of membership application.

Growing membership
How to volunteer page

Prominent on the website a 'how to' page on getting involved with links to editing, writing pages, learning events, coming to events, taking photos for Wikimedia Commons, adding entries to WikiVoyage, become trustee etc...

Volunteer handbook

An (online) volunteer handbook to be developed to carry information that will be helpful for volunteers as part of their volunteering activities. The handbook will contain a practical how-to guide for things ranging from how to organise a specific type of event such as a wikimeet or editathon to more general info on how to get involved in the charity, or visit the office to the mundane but essential tasks like how to go about claiming expenses. Other information contained in the handbook includes stuff like a checklist for things to have in place for any event, contact information and policies that apply to volunteers.

Prioritisation by volunteers

We can't push every opportunity equally, we have to make decisions as to which potential partners we pursue first and what subjects we ask them about first. We could prioritise by encyclopaedic or educational impact - but as a volunteer-led organisation we should instead prioritise the sort of events that our volunteers want us to hold. That means asking the volunteers what subjects they would most like to attend an editathons for, rather than prioritise by that which is easy or even most educational or encyclopaedic.

Dedicated office space

We have ensured that there will always be space for volunteers and visitors. This has been successful in that there is rarely a week when this facility is not used, but it can be developed more. Potential changes in the office setup will allow us to create an even better dedicated space to volunteers.

Office open days

While the office is always open to volunteers to visit, having specific advertised office open days may attract volunteers who wouldn't otherwise visit to go to the office. This will give an opportunity for staff to engage with volunteers, getting feedback and finding out volunteers needs, develop a working relationship with volunteers such that they feel better supported and able to approach the office for support in their activities. This could be bundled with volunteers coming in for meetings, related to what they are working on. We are proposing a small reference library to assist editors.

Wikimeets

Feedback from March workshop suggests a large number of volunteers discover the chapter through word of mouth during wikimeets. To develop this channel of attracting volunteers, we will continue our encouragement and support of the development of new wikimeets until we reach a stage where there are regular wikimeets happening within a 60 minute journey of 90% of the population. While it may be not be desirable or financially feasible to make a commitment for a trustee or staff to attend 50% of all wikimeets, it is important to have some form of chapter representation at least once a while to build and maintain relationships, get to know our members, volunteers and Wikimedia editors, and for them to get to know us and the chapter.

Recognition of volunteers

It is important for us as a volunteer driven charity to recognise and thank our volunteers for giving up their time. This will make volunteers feel appreciated and maintain morale, resulting in them being more likely to continue volunteering with the charity. This has previously started as part of Volunteer Week, and continued with the new Focus on individuals section in the Members Newsletter. Currently, we are designing a range of WMUK barnstars.

Training of volunteers

We have Training the Trainers workshops where volunteers are trained in how to better provide Wikimedia training during outreach events. The review of this program is now completed and lessons learned, we should explore ideas of how else we can support and train our volunteers such that they feel better able to contribute to the charity. Smaller training events independently or in cooperation with other organisations e.g. U3A

Equipment for volunteers

We have consulted with volunteers as to what they would like as a central resource for sharing. This now includes laptops, cameras, slide copiers and microphones. We have began monitoring the equipment uses.

Outreach merchandise

Lines of merchandise have been developed in the past with volunteer feedback and involvement. This will be continued. A review of outreach merchandise was conducted to see what's popular, what's not and to solicit ideas for new type of merchandise to acquire. There is a real appetite and this is a wonderful way to promote WMUK while saying thank you to our members and volunteers.

Members and donors communication

We will continue with our regular members and donors newsletter to update people with a clear interest in our work. These communications can also be used as a way of encouraging recruitment of members (from the donor pool) and volunteers (from both).

Volunteer / member social events

Held to discuss issues in common and encourage face to face socialising and the building of relationships.

Training of staff

Our staff training day was dedicated to improve knowledge of volunteer engagement. Many ideas were discussed.

Developing volunteer and member loyalty
Follow up

It is crucial that we follow up with volunteers and attendees of events, so that they are made to feel we have not forgotten about them. Follow up will also allow us to discover where we are attracting for example new editors that actually carry on editing after a training event.

Volunteer database

A database of volunteers containing information such as what type of events they like to attend, what type of special skills they have, how far they are willing to travel to an event etc. will allow us to more specifically target communicate with our volunteers when looking for volunteers for a specific event. Such a database will also allow us to investigate the area where we are lacking in volunteers and thus target our future activities in recruiting volunteers in those areas.

Microgrants & Macrogrants

We now have a streamlined system for responding to volunteer requests, which will hopefully led to quicker turnaround in decision making.

Funding application working group

KTC liaise with KB to establish a working group to look into how volunteers can collaborate to creating funding applications to external bodies and receive grants for projects they wish to see funded.

Creating an integrated community

When staff positions or Wikimedian in Residence positions come up we ensure that volunteers are alerted to the opportunities and that all job descriptions recognise the value of community participation.

Protecting Volunteers
Spread the load

The main way to avoid volunteer burnout is to avoid overloading any one person or group with volunteer requests, to the point where they no longer enjoy volunteering. This goes hand-in-hand with increasing the number of volunteers we have as more volunteers means less reliance on any one, which would also allow volunteers to be more selective by volunteering in areas they are interested in.

Staff support

Ensuring there is always a 'go-to' person on the staff to help out and offer guidance. The office is becoming a pool of experiences and knows who can offer expert advice from within the community. We do not want to have to reinvent wheels all the time.

Development

This includes training courses (e.g. media training or Train the Trainer) and opportunities to learn through experience. Working with more experienced volunteers is an excellent way to gain experience while ensuring a quality result and opportunities for feedback.

Progress

Item Progress Date
Volunteer growth

About one new active person every ten days. 69–86 over year.

Volunteer portal

Being worked on

August/September

Meetups

7 new or revived meetups occurred or planned. Chapter offering financial and other support to key volunteers to set up new meets.

Member/Volunteer recruitment

Promo leaflet for events and mailouts.

End of September

New members pack

Subsumed into volunteer portal

September

Joining page

Subsumed into volunteer portal

September

Office IRC hour

Been doing one a month. Good turnout the first time, poor afterwards.

Not been a success. Possibly try again in 2014.

Volunteer handbook

To be worked on along with / as part of Volunteer portal.

September/October

Volunteering webpage

Subsumed into volunteer portal

End of September

Office open days

Still informal, need to plan for this.

Recognition of volunteers

Annual awards at AGM; new Focus on individuals section in the Members Newsletter.

Member communication

Monthly since January

Donor communication

Being used to encourage volunteering, membership and donations.

Volunteer training

Media training done. Ideas for more welcome.

Equipment pool

~15% allocated but not yet spent. Monitoring of use and impact started.

Outreach merchandise

Review conducted, seeking more ideas.

Staff training

This year's focus on volunteer recruitment, development and retention.

Took place July

Volunteer database

To be updated, developed and use properly.

Migration end of September

Funding applications

Process altered at the July board meeting. Impact of new process to be reviewed in due time.

Big Picture

Cannot keep fishing in the same pond. Need to open up to readers and potential editors and volunteers through accessible events. Development of MediaWiki software such as the Visual Editor will help.

Resources / Reading List