Minimum Contributions for Volunteers


(Caitlin Neiman) #1

Hi all,

For those of you managing volunteer communities, I’m curious to know if you require minimum activity levels from your volunteers. If you do, could you explain why you did so and how you messaged it?

I’ve been having some conversations with colleagues recently about implementing minimum activity levels for one particular group of volunteers, and I’m curious to hear how others have handled this.


[18 April] What are you working on this week?
Rolling Out a Moderator Program
(Piper_Wilson) #2

Hi Caitlin,

In the last community I volunteered for, they asked for a minimum time commitment of 15 hours per week. That may sound like a lot but many of us regularly worked more hours than that.

Prior to that, I volunteered as a moderator in a group forum. They wanted to see the volunteers to be active in the group at least 3 times per week, it didn’t have to be a lot but they wanted a presence out there.

Each time, the requirement was known to me and I agreed to it before I became a volunteer.

It sounds like you already have your volunteers and now you want to add some requirements. Is that right?


(Sarah Hawk) #3

Hey Caitlin,

I used to manage a large volunteer team and yes, we had an expected minimum time commitment (so that everyone took a fair share of the load and no one got burned out).

This is the email that we used at the time:

Being a Mentor is a type of internship with one of the largest and most active communities for web development and programming on the web. Through here you can establish yourself as an expert in a field.

Being a Mentor requires a level of commitment, and it is only fair that we tell you upfront what is expected from our Mentors, so that you can accept this position in full knowledge of what you are accepting. The duties should be simple and not much different to what you were doing as a community member.

  1. As a Mentor you’re expected to spend at least one hour per week in the forums.
  2. You should visit your team forum at least three times per week in order to stay updated with what your team is doing. (We have weekly check-ins at the start of each week so that we are all aware of who is around and who has lots of other things going on in their life…)
  3. You are expected to behave as a leader and help members with their problems and questions.
  4. You should continue to post on the forums for your enjoyment and for the enjoyment of others. We’ve enjoyed your posts so far, and we think you should keep going.

Also as part of the Community Team we have additional duties for our Mentors:

  1. Assisting The Crier Editor in writing the Community Crier, which is issued every two weeks - everyone on the team has a section they help write.
  2. The Community Team not only looks after the General Chat and Community areas but also the Market Place - this is an area which currently needs a great deal of work, not just reported posts, throwing water on arguments and giving a general impression that the staff are all seeing and hearing but also in coming up with new and improved ideas to make it a better place.

That said, I’ve since done a lot of research into volunteer teams and depending on which country you are in, you need to be pretty careful about setting time expectations without crossing the legal boundary of what defines a volunteer. You can read more on that here.


(Caitlin Neiman) #4

Thanks for your input, @Piper_Wilson and @HAWK!

That’s right. Some of the contributors spend several hours a week with us and some contribute here and there. I’m worried about attrition from the “here and there” group – who are still very valuable to the organization – if we were to suddenly start mandating minimums.

I’ve been following that thread and have been totally fascinated by it. Since we have volunteers from all of the world, I think we need to be particularly careful about how minimums could impact volunteer status.


(Piper_Wilson) #5

Thanks. I love guessing correctly. :wink: There are so many possible pieces to consider.

First, are you dissatisfied with the current level of engagement? Perhaps a better way to put it is, is there actually a problem that needs to be solved? I am the type of person that loves procedures and guidelines. For ME, I’d much rather have something concrete in place than a loosey-goosey system but MY personal preferences wouldn’t necessarily be what is best for the community.

Then, and I’m just covering my bases here, have y’all tossed around any other possible ideas or does a time commitment seem to make so much sense that y’all have stopped looking. Not necessarily wrong, just bringing up something to consider.

Next, assuming that there is an issue that needs attention, what type of commitment would you put into place if you were not going to take the here and there folks into account? Maybe they’re already close to meeting those levels.


(Laura Small) #6

Guess I am a little later in asking here - but how did the volunteer organization track your work? How did they monitor that you were actually doing the 15 hours per week? Curious about the accountability. It’s one thing to say, you must commit 15 hours per week, but it’s another to track it and then dole out consequences if requirements aren’t met. Just curious! thanks


(Laura Small) #7

That is really helpful.
What tools did you use to hold volunteers accountable ?


(Piper_Wilson) #8

For the time commitment, we had a chatroom where we called out our time in and out. The chatroom was available for more than just that though. Primarily it was a collaboration tool. We were also using Desk to track our tickets so, if someone was calling out a time in, but not working many tickets, it was a safe bet they were loafing.

That being said, I think we rarely had to dismiss anyone. If a volunteer wasn’t contributing, they’d generally resign on their own.


(Sarah Hawk) #9

They were required to check in once per week to a dedicated thread, but otherwise it was pretty informal. I worked almost full time in the community and had a good feel for when I hadn’t seen someone for a while. It was easy to see who had posted when, and how many posts they’d made etc so a quick profile glance was usually enough.

Anything more than that starts to get into employee territory.

I have worked for an agency in a paid position where our time was regimentally tracked. We were required to be logged into Skype and a chatroom during shifts, and there was a shift tracking tool but I can’t remember the name of it. @musingvirtual will know.


(Katherine Mancuso) #10

You rang, Hawk? :slight_smile: The shift tracking tool in that agency’s case was bespoke for the company.

However, I’d recommend looking into Toggl if you do want to do time tracking with volunteers. I’ve used it successfully both for work and volunteer time tracking. https://toggl.com/

My friend Anca’s tool built specifically for volunteer time tracking is called Track It Forward, but I personally haven’t had the pleasure of using it yet: https://www.trackitforward.com/


(Sarah Hawk) #11

Thanks. I second Toggl. I’ve been through Paymo, Harvest and Toggl in the last few months and it has my vote. Built in Pomodoro timer as well.


(Laura Small) #12

Thank you so much! These are very helpful suggestions. I’ve struggled with finding the right tool. So will explore these further!!! thank you so mcuh


(Laura Small) #13

Thank you for the tip! Been struggling with this - looking for some new tools and ideas!
Appreciate the help!