This is an archived version of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site from January 2001.
The materials on the web site were written or compiled by Jayne Cravens.
The Virtual Volunteering Project has been discontinued.
The Virtual Volunteering Project web site IS NO LONGER UPDATED.
Email addresses associated with the Virtual Volunteering Project are no longer valid.
For any URL that no longer works, type the URL into archive.org
.
For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).
 
 
 
 
  Virtual Volunteering Project Logo

 
 
 
FAQs

Resources for AGENCIES

Resources for VOLUNTEERS

About the Virtual Volunteering Project

Subscribe to VIRTUAL VERVE

What's new

Site Index

Home Page

  working with web volunteers

(this page is a companion to Managing Technical Assistance Volunteers)

Many organizations want to use an online volunteer to initially build or maintain the agency's web site. This is an excellent way to involve an online volunteer; however, before you involve such a person, there are several factors to consider to ensure that the person in this volunteer role will meet your expectations:

 
POLICIES

Your organization needs to have a policy regarding its web site, and should communicate this policy to whomever helps you with your web site:

  • design & tools
    Do all web pages have to adhere to a particular "look"? Use a particular set of colors or a specific font? Use cascading style sheets? Do the web pages have to be accessible for people using assistive technologies?

    It's a good idea to give volunteers a template to follow when they have been assigned to create a new page. Even just saying, "It should look like such-and-such page that's already on our web site" is a big help.

    Also, a web volunteer noted, "If you have specific programs you absolutely prohibit volunteers from using, do tell them up front. They may decline to join the project, but you will have saved yourself a big headache down the road."

  • security and approval process
    Who has access to upload new pages or to delete pages on the web site? Who is the one primary person who approves all materials before they are uploaded to the site? Should pages be uploaded to a "beta" site first and, if so, how often is the login and password for this site changed?

    All of this needs to be clearly communicated to web volunteers before they get started on an assignment.

  • content and links to other sites
    What is the mission of your web site? What is your criteria to link to other web sites? (read the VV Project's linking criteria as an example)

  • upkeep
    How often do you want your web site updated, at minimum? What pages should be updated regularly, and who has responsibility for making sure those changes happen?

All of these questions need to be explored before you start recruiting volunteers to help with your web site.

 
SCREENING & RECRUITING

It's fine to ask web volunteers for a sample of their work during your application process. Even a volunteer's personnel web site offers insight into their design capabilities.

Many people who volunteer to help with your web site won't be professional designers; they will have a learning curve that's more significant than a pro. However, that shouldn't keep you from involving them. Start a web volunteer with just a one-page assignment, and see how he or she does. From there, you can decide if this volunteer is ready for something more advanced.

More information on screening and orienting online volunteers is available on our web site.

See these resources for information on recruiting online volunteers:

 
AVOIDING OVER-RELIANCE

A web site volunteer will not be around forever. No matter how dedicated a person may be to a cause or organization, eventually, that person will need to move on, or won't be able to provide the level of service needed by an organization.

It's important, therefore, for an organization to make sure that it hasn't built an over-reliance on a web site volunteer, in case that volunteer needs to quit or postpone his or her service for a while.

A web site volunteer should build web pages that are easy for anyone on staff to modify, as needed. That means that:

  • the volunteer should not use an .HTML tool that makes the page difficult to modify for anyone not using the same tool.

  • the volunteer should refrain, as much as possible, from using features that would be difficult for a nonprofit staff person or another volunteer to change.

  • if the volunteer uses an advanced feature as part of the web site, such as .cgi, .perl or FLASH technologies, they should document their work in detail and provide this documentation to the organization, so that they may pass it on to a new volunteer who eventually takes over this assignment.

A way to prevent over-reliance on one volunteer is to have more than one volunteer helping with the web site, so that if one leaves, there's always someone else to take up the slack. More information on using multiple web volunteers is offered later in this document.

 
APPROVAL AND ACCESS

Create a place on your web site just for viewing new and in-progress pages (a "beta" area). Volunteers should upload any new pages to this area first, and this material should be reviewed and approved by the appropriate staff person BEFORE they are uploaded onto the public portion of a web site.

If multiple volunteers are working on a site, they can either upload their work to the beta area, or send pages to a primary volunteer or staff person, who then reviews pages and uploads them to the public area of the web site.

Should your volunteer have the power to upload pages to the public portion of your web site? It depends on many factors. The VV Project suggests that this responsibility be given only to one person. The more people who are changing pages on a web site, the more likely it is that someone will accidentally delete someone else's work.

You can further share responsibility by giving each volunteer a specific directory on your Web site to supervise and contribute to. For instance, one volunteer could be in charge of the section dealing with online versions of your print publications (newsletters, annual reports, etc.), while another is in charge of the pages focused specifically on fund raising and donor relations, and still another is in charge of all of your interactive forms.

Be sure that there is one person who is keeping a record of volunteers and their web assignments. It's a good idea for volunteers to check in weekly with that person and submit the names of the web files they are working on, and the target dates for those files to be finished (to make sure that more than one person isn't working on the same file).

Also, encourage volunteers to view web files they are working on through their own web browser first before uploading them for your review. This allows volunteers a chance to catch and revise their own mistakes.

 
OTHER IMPORTANT SETUP TIPS

A staff or volunteer should archive the web site at least once a year, particularly if significant changes are made to the site (like a complete redesign, or a complete overhall of information from season to season). Offline, a copy of this archive needs to rest with the organization. If the organization has room on its Web server, consider also archiving the site there, for future reference by other volunteers.

Create an "admistration" directory (password protected, if possible) where volunteers can upload files that will be helpful to everyone, now and in the future, such as:

  • a list of all web pages and directories, and dates when these files will need to be updated
  • an overview of web traffic statistics, to show what weeks or months the site is visited the most
  • postings to newsgroups and lists regarding the web site (announcements about new information, for instance)
  • unused pictures and artwork (that does not yet appear elsewhere on the site)
  • a list of all current web volunteers and their e-mail addresses (for easy reference)

 
MANAGE THESE VOLUNTEERS!

Volunteers need to report in regularly about their progress on an assignment, obstacles they face, tools they are finding valuable, etc. Consider requiring volunteers to check in once a week during the assignment to update you on their progress (even if they haven't accomplished anything that week).

Requiring this regular communication lets you see potential difficulties well-before they become major problems, and reiterates the seriousness of the assignment to the volunteer.

Also, regularly encourage volunteers to provide feedback about the assignments you are giving them as well as suggestions for your web site. If a volunteer suggests a feature for your web site that you don't understand, ask the volunteer for an example of this feature on another web site, so you can see how it works.

For more detailed information about managing web volunteers, see our resource Managing Technical Assistance Volunteers.

 
CASE STUDY

At the VV Project, online volunteers build many of our pages. These volunteers can use whatever web-authoring software they wish so long as VV Project staff can open these documents with something simple, like Notepad on an IBM/Clone or simpletext on a Mac. They also have to adhere to our design standards (like complete accessibility for people using assistive technologies).

These volunteers with assignments must check in every week, either Monday or Friday, and tell me:

  • what assignment they are working on
  • how many hours they've worked on this assignment (even if it's none)
  • what percentage of the assignment is left to do (half done? 75% done? have they even started?) and how "on track" do they feel?
  • any problems/obstacles they've encountered in completing this assignment, or any comments or opinions in general they would like to make about the assignment (love it, hate it, learning a lot, what they are learning etc.).

Online volunteers upload their completed work via FTP to a password-protected beta area; they have access only to this beta area, not the entire web site. The Project manager reviews submitted materials and, if all is well, uploads these to the public part of the site.

 
For more detailed information about how the VV Project Manager supervises her online volunteers, see How the Virtual Volunteering Project Involves Online Volunteers.

For more detailed information about managing web volunteers, see our resource Managing Technical Assistance Volunteers.

We have more information on how to delegate responsibilities here on our web site.

 


 
Information for those who wish to
quote from, copy and/or distribute the information on this Web site

 
If you find this or any other Virtual Volunteering Project information helpful, or would like to add information based on your own experience, please contact us.

If you do use Virtual Volunteering Project materials in your own workshop or trainings, or republish materials in your own publications, please let us know, so that we can track how this information is disseminated.


 

Copyright © 1999 - 2000 The University of Texas at Austin
All Rights Reserved.


 
This is an archived version of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site from January 2001.
The materials on the web site were written or compiled by Jayne Cravens.
The Virtual Volunteering Project has been discontinued.
The Virtual Volunteering Project web site IS NO LONGER UPDATED.
Email addresses associated with the Virtual Volunteering Project are no longer valid.
For any URL that no longer works, type the URL into archive.org
.
For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).
 

If you liked the content of this web page, subscribe to Jayne's blog so you can know when new information on this subject is available. Don't have an RSS reader to subscribe to blogs? Not sure what RSS is? Try this RSS tutorial.

about Jayne Cravens | contact Jayne Cravens