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creating a volunteer reservoir
creating a volunteer reservoir

I've been involved with voluntary organisations for over 25 years, either as a volunteer, employee or organiser.

Every organisation has suffered from the same problems: lack of volunteers, volunteer burn-out, missing skills and cliques.

The problem usually arises when a new task/team/role is created and the default option is to look at the existing pool of volunteers and asking some of them to take on the task. Without consideration of them having the required skills, or importantly available time, just that they are already "known people".

So the challenges all volunteer organisations face is

  • how to prevent burn out
  • how to ensure the right people are in the right role
  • how to identify skill sets
  • and most importantly how to increase the pool of available volunteers

Joomla! is no different.

There are teams of volunteers working on a myriad of different tasks, some in public and some in private, and yet when a new task is created what happens.

Typically people from the existing pool of hard working volunteers are asked to work on the new task. Their selection is based on the fact that they are "known" and have "proven" skills.

But are they the best people for the job and will their current volunteer effort suffer? After all, as volunteers we only have so many hours that we can contribute.

So the real problem is not finding bodies to do the tasks but finding the right bodies with both the required skill sets and available time.

So how do you become a volunteer?

The usual answer in the joomlasphere is to start by answering support posts on the forum or by writing documentation. This will get you noticed and in time you will be "invited" to work on a specific team or task.

But this doesn't work!

If you are an advertising executive with "Ogilvy & Mather" or "Saatchi and Saatchi" and want to volunteer then your skills may not be best suited to the forum or writing documentation. So what next?

How do you find the right volunteer?

If it was a company then you would place a job recruitment notice outlining the skills required and wait for applicants.

But that never seems to get adopted in the volunteer world, probably because "positions" come and go over time and potential volunteers only look once at offering their services and don't check the "job board" on a regular basis.

One option that many voluntary organisations I have been involved with have successfully adopted is the "Volunteer Skill Reservoir".

This is a method of collecting information of "potential" volunteers and identifying their interests and skills.

This way when a new team or task is looking for volunteers either to expand or satisfy a new requirement they can go to the "reservoir" check the available talent and invite the most appropriate people to participate.

Several years ago I had a conversation with a Mambo user that went as follows.

USER: "Hey, I've just built a web site with Mambo, it really rocked and saved me a huge ammount of time and money. I'd like to say thank you with a donation - how much do you think would be appropriate?"

BRIAN "That's great, really glad it helped you out, we don't really need the money why don't you spend an hour a week answering some questions on the forum"

USER: "Well I could do that but I don't think my knowledge is that great and I can't commit to a regular ammount of time, that's why I was offering the money"

BRIAN: "OK, well what are your skills, maybe we can find another way for you to volunteer"

USER: "Well the main focus of my business isn't building web sites, we work on PR and Media Relations"

BRIAN: "Eureka!!!"

USER: "No the accent is Australian not Greek"

BRIAN: "We don't have a regular need but every few months we have to write Press Releases and talk to magazines. I know what I want to say but without resorting to guides and manuals I don't know the industry lingo to ensure maximum coverage etc. Can you help out with that?"

USER: "Perfect. It won't take too much of my time, it's something I can do and it's using my specific skill set to "give back"

Filling the Reservoir

It really couldn't be easier. Create a form with the volunteers contact details, skill sets, areas of interests and the time they can contribute.


J o o m l a !

Brian Teeman

Brian Teeman

Who is Brian?

As a co-founder of Joomla! and OpenSourceMatters Inc I've never been known to be lacking an opinion or being too afraid to express it.

Despite what some people might think I'm a shy and modest man who doesn't like to blow his own trumpet or boast about achievements.

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