The whole world is shifting to working as remotely as possible. Many nonprofit teams like yours are now exploring virtual volunteering or expanding the amount of work they do with skilled volunteers online. We’ve zeroed in on several key principles to keep in mind as you manage remote volunteers and organize virtual pro bono projects.
Treat every pro bono project like a project you’re paying for
While all seven of these tips will help you manage remote volunteers well, this one is like a golden rule for successful projects. For you as the client, you’re already investing time and energy into working with the volunteer just as you would for a paid contractor. For skilled volunteers, the project will appear in their portfolio or on their resume alongside their contract work, and so it should be treated with the same respect.
Prepare your work before beginning your search
What does your project call for? Managing your volunteers well begins with planning your project beforehand. Since you and your volunteer partner won’t be able to collaborate or check-in together in-person, it’s essential that you lock down your project scope prior to beginning work so expectations are crystal clear. Try to focus on the specific deliverables you want achieved by the end of the project and use those details to draft an effective project scope. Nonprofits and skilled volunteers using Taproot Plus can also opt to use the scope template available under the project resources heading on the project page.
Identify what you’re looking for in a volunteer
Once you have an idea of what you need accomplished and have defined your project scope, you’re ready to articulate what skills and strengths you’re looking for in a volunteer. Since your project will be taking place virtually, consider adding items such as experience working with remote teams or comfort using video-conferencing systems to your list of ‘must-haves.’ Confer with your team to make sure you’re on the same page about the must-have competencies and the nice-to-have skills you’re looking for. Make sure these skills are clearly stated in your project overview to help streamline the interview process.
Set expectations with your volunteer
Now that you’ve chosen your volunteer, make sure everyone involved in the project is clear about the timeline and what will happen during the engagement. For Taproot Plus projects, which are typically done one-on-one or in small-teams, it is critical to solidify the scope of the project during the kickoff phase. It’s also important to get specific about how you will manage technology. How often and how will you communicate? What systems will you use for calls?
Make time for additional communication
Good interpersonal communication is important for clarity, especially when you aren’t able to catch up in person. When you work remotely, it’s important to make time for more conversations and follow up than you might schedule for in-person projects. Video calls, traditional calls, and text-based chat options are all worth exploring. These are all items you should address at the very beginning of your project.
Be timely and honest with feedback
While this is always an important aspect of managing pro bono, it becomes increasingly important when all of your communication is handled remotely. If you allow the project to move forward without sharing your concerns, you could end up with frustration on both sides. The scope of work should define how many rounds of review and feedback the project will include. Don’t be afraid to use them all! Referring back to these agreed upon expectations will make certain that the project doesn’t get stalled in perpetual cycle of feedback and review.
Don’t forget to celebrate!
After you and your volunteer have worked together on a project, it’s important to give that work the proper recognition, closure, and full-on celebration—especially when you’re working together at a distance. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate gift or costly celebration; small gestures like having your volunteer join an upcoming team call so you can highlight their work can go a long way. The more unique to your mission, the more meaningful your recognition can be. If you’re looking for ideas, check out our blog on ways to celebrate your volunteer!