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Try these 5 tips to make the most of your collaboration with online volunteers

By Linda Kotschack

30 Apr 2018
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Whether it is your first time working with online volunteers or you have managed many already, it is easy to agree on one thing: there are things that work and things that don’t, there are small actions that can maximize the results of a project and that can be applied to all online volunteering work processes. Here are 5 top tips on how to make your collaboration with online volunteers as successful as possible.

Always assess the applicants

Carrying out an assessment may seem as a tedious and time-consuming task when you have already gone through CVs and application forms. However, a quick assessment test will give you an idea of how motivated and responsive the candidates are and how well they have understood the volunteer assignment.

A proper induction gives the volunteers guidance

Create an induction note for the volunteers that they can keep as guidance throughout the course of the assignment. This document should include the background indicated in the original opportunity as well as the task description. You can also add details on the practical execution - maybe your assessment test made you aware of something that needs to be clarified? Finally, always include timeframe and deadlines in the induction note.

A mid-term review allows you to make sure the volunteers are on the right track

Asking the volunteers to send in their work half-way through their assignment is key, whether they are working on a public drive where you can follow their progress, or independently. This gives you the possibility to see that the volunteers have interpreted the assignment the way you intended and may also give ideas of things to change or add that will improve the final product. By encouraging the online volunteers to ask questions during the mid-term review, you will make them feel more accompanied during the work process and they might raise important issues that would otherwise not be brought up.

Encourage teamwork

One of the most common things you hear from volunteers is how they enjoy and learn from working together with other global citizens from across the world. Whether the volunteers are working on separate products or one together on one project, encourage them to exchange information, via email, online calls or social media. If you have a bigger group, you can also assign an online volunteer as a group leader to ensure coherent results and efficient communication.

Be attentive to the volunteers’ experience and knowledge

Many times we manage online volunteering opportunities in fields that we are not experts in. The volunteers offer not only their time but, more importantly, their expertise, and it is important to know how to take benefit from that. The final product and the results of the collaboration can only gain from a volunteer manager’s receptiveness to suggestions brought forward by the volunteers. Ask them what they think about the tasks, bearing the objective in mind, and maybe you will have a much better outcome than the one you first imagined.

If you need any support or suggestions regarding how to carry out assessment tests and design inductions, or any other matter related to online volunteering, please write to info@onlinevolunteering.org.

Linda Kotschack is an experienced online volunteer coordinator for projects including research, design, social media management and translations, with a focus on Latin America and the Caribbean.