Volunteer help for your website

A volunteer could give their time and skills to help you build your website. However, you need to think carefully about your expectations and their motivations, be realistic about what can be achieved and how quickly, and plan for the inevitable time when your volunteer decides to quit. Here are some thoughts on how to find and manage website volunteers.

Voluntary doesn’t mean amateur

Don’t ask a volunteer to design your website unless they have the same skills as a professional web designer. Interview them and ask to see other work that they’ve done, until you’re satisfied they can do the job properly. If they can talk confidently to you about web design without talking over your head, that’s a good sign. Don’t be afraid to reject volunteers if they’re unsuitable.

If you need a volunteer to help keep the site’s content up-to-date then techie skills are less important: look instead for someone with good grammar and spelling, fairly good basic computing skills, the ability to copy text accurately, and plenty of spare time on their hands.

The better organised you are, the more likely your volunteers are to do a good job for you. Always provide them with a short, clearly written project brief and state what standards you expect.

Get free advice

Web design is a constantly shifting area of technology and you may sometimes need advice. Many consultants and web professionals are happy to give some pro-bono advice, particularly if it can be done quickly. If your website isn’t getting many visitors, ask an expert in search engine optimisation to give an hour or two of their time to help you figure out what the reason and solution might be. If you don’t know which content management system to implement on your new website, find an expert to help you decide. It doesn’t hurt to ask and if they decline, thank them graciously for getting back to you. If they agree, ask for a short written report and remember to thank them.

Find a helpful geek

In the UK a charity called IT4Communities can help you find a suitable volunteer. I’d recommend you contact them rather than use your local Volunteer Centre because IT4Communities specialise in matching you with technically adept volunteers and will help you define your needs properly.  IT4Communities has a case studies section on their website, showcasing some of their successful volunteer projects. Some of these are web design projects and one of the case studies is about how, whilst living in Australia, I gave a website health check to The Theatre Royal Stratford East. In 2010 I worked three days a week for IT4Communities at their office near Barbican, London, so I can recommend their service to charities that need a volunteer.

You might also use Sparked, a website that enables you to get advice and sometimes practical support from volunteers online. It’s not all IT related, because as well as help with website development you could ask for help with logo design, copy writing and similar tasks. The kind of tasks that work well on Sparked tend to be quicker and simpler than those on iT4Communities.

What’s their motivation?

Volunteers need to get something out of the work they do for you: a sense of achievement, sharing skills, socialising. If they do a good job, send them a thank you letter, provide them with a reference or recommend their work to other charities.

School kids and university students are often given a project to create a simple website. They may decide to ‘help’ a charity by using them as their project. Remember, by definition a student is someone who hasn’t yet learned to do something, so why let them loose on your site? They almost certainly won’t be available to fix any problems afterwards.

Watch out for wannabe web designers who want to build up their portfolio by creating you a free website. An organisation I know once had a volunteer design their website. He became angry when they later altered the colour scheme because it no longer matched the picture in his portfolio. Volunteers should be doing the work primarily for your, not their own benefit. Also, very few beginning web designers can design standards-compliant websites.

Your volunteers won’t be around forever

Many are between jobs, retired, on holiday from university, employed part-time or on long-term sick leave and their situation may be subject to change with little notice. Therefore, don’t give long-term projects to volunteers unless the work could easily be taken on by someone else when they leave. Don’t give volunteers urgent work and tight deadlines, that’s unfair.

You’re in charge

If you’re not a very technically-minded person it can be tempting to leave everything in a volunteer’s hands, but this has its dangers. For example, I know a charity that fell out with their volunteer web designer, who then claimed copyright of their website, deleted it and changed the passwords. Ouch. When working with volunteers on websites, ensure that the charity has ownership of the domain name and the hosting account, retain all passwords, and make clear to the volunteer that you own copyright on any work they create for you. Ideally, put this in a simple, short contract that they sign. Try to communicate regularly with your volunteer about progress and any concerns you or they have.

Share

27 Responses to “Volunteer help for your website”

  1. Thank you for giving this information. I am a VSO volunteer and looking for a volunteer who can help us build a website for a health organisation we are establishing. If you know of anybody, please let us know through the above email

  2. Hi – more than happy to get involved in helping a charity or two out on the side with web design work – have done a few CMS for people. Please get in touch :o)
    ki105@ic.ac.uk

  3. Robert Gray

    Hi Kay
    My name is Robert Gray from Castle Point Volunteer Centre
    I am looking for a volunteer website designer to help our local group RUG Opera. RUG put on concerts and shows to raise funds for charities mostly based in Southend, but have also visited Suffolk, Brighton and Jersey.

    RUG are putiing on a Charity Gala Production of Die Fledermaus in November in support of Lennox Children’s Cancer Fund and Far Havens Hospice and would like to set up a website so that we can sell lots of tickets and and support these charities.

    So a few thoughts:
    where are you based, would it be practical to help,
    what are the costs of buying a site and hosting it?

    I would be realyy grateful if you were able to help

    With best wishes
    Robert Gray

  4. Cornelius

    Hi,
    I’m Cornelius and live in a small town near the famous Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya. I run a small business training centre with several volunteers requseting the wesite and see if they will assist us in training our poor youths.
    We will like to get a volunteer to assist us to build a simple website to assist us get global awareness.
    Thanks in advance.
    check http://www.marahills.blogspot.com for waht we are doing.
    Cornelius
    email me: marahills@gmail.com

  5. Im always on the lookout to build up my ‘portfolio’. If anyone wants a voluntary web designer/builder email me on the address below. I have designed websites and will happily answer any questions you might have.

    email: saam_1@hotmail.co.uk

    Robert Gray
    “what are the costs of buying a site and hosting it?”
    it depends what your after, a simple forum site you can get for free (www.proboards.com). But if you want a full site it does cost, the best thing to do is to look around and see what suits you the best. There are plenty of different web hosters so you will find what you want, or you can get someone like me to do it for you.

  6. Bonnie Pastor

    I am in need of a web designed that can help me create a website for a 501 c3 that was started in 2005.We are devoted to the education and medical research for a genetic disease. I am based in Los Angeles, Calif.

  7. I have just finished building a site for a non profit org and so am now free to take on another project.
    Please email me at the.brit@ymail.com

  8. Clarkie

    Hi, I’m looking for a volunteer to design and build a community web site that will work similarly to the BBC-i web site. Is anyone interested?

    Thanks

  9. Hope Okeny

    We are a local charity organisation in Uganda looking for a volunteer to buid a website. We work with the local community children infected with HIV/AIDS and are trying to rebuild the lives of many whe were displaced by the civil war.

  10. Hope Okeny,

    If you could email me at: the.brit@ymail.com, i will be more than happy to work with you to get a site. I can also show you previous sites I have built for other NPO’s.

  11. Ed Linehan

    Hi, A Homeless Charity, who provides temporay cold weather accomadation for homeless people are looking for someone to build them a website. We are happy to provide a reference and assist in any other way, for who ever designs our website.

    Thanking You

  12. Jordan O'brien

    Hi,
    We’re starting a children’s home for HIV/AIDS orphans in Africa. It is called O’brien Homes named after O’brien Family (Founder and President of O’brien Homes International)whoa are both HIV Positive.
    The Homes will provide orphanage services to over 60 orphans who are from families or victims of HIV/AIDS parents.
    It will create a home away from home with full facilities like School, Residence, Market and fully serviced 30Acre compound.
    Thank you for the assistance and acceptance.
    Jordan O’brien

  13. I am interested to do a volunteering jobs to design a website.
    I could help if anyone needed a job. Just text me back.

  14. Hi

    I am looking for a volunteer to help me build my charity website on free help on depression, loneliness, relationship etc. I also want to build a ahop on;line selling videos

  15. Hello, I have a health and beauty consultant company, we do volunteer work for the community for hospitals and schools I am in need of help to make a website for the company we will be having an event in the summer of 2010 and we have a lot of media and other organizations teaming up with us especially now that we are campaigning for World Empathy. we are a really positive company we work will hair-loss patients if there’s any help out there it would be greatly apreciated.ebsobers@gmail.com

  16. Brigitte

    Hello,
    Our organisation “THE AMERICAN AFRICAN YOTH CENTER” based in USA mission is to help schools and charities in Africa to fulfill their needs. Actually, we are looking for a volunteer to build a website for a school in Cameroon. If you can help, please email for more information at mcascorg@yahoo.com
    Thank you,

    Brigitte

  17. Hello!

    The Pixel Project, a volunteer-staffed 501 (C)(3) nonprofit organisation working to end violence against women is in need of a web designer who would be able to assist us for the duration of our current campaign.

    Volunteer period spans from now (ASAP, actually) to March 2011.

    Please email us for a full job description. We estimate an average of 5 to 8 hours per week required.

    Thanks!

    Regina

  18. Hello,

    We are a charity based in Nepal, and currently looking for volunteer who can help us either redesign / further development of our website. Also, we expect some help from volunteers in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)as well. If anyone is willing to contribute their time as volunteer and seeking opportunities please contact us at :vcap.nepal@gmail.com for further information.

    Thank you!

  19. Hi guys need your help!!!
    I need to redesign my website devoted to an international folk craft http://www.elluse.com.
    It was build for me but it doesn’t function properly, I would love to do it myself but need some directions and advice. I’ve self studied HTML CSS PHP and MySQL but never had a commercial experience in building websites so it will be my first project. If someone is willing to help me I would be soooo grateful.

    svitlanapearson@hotmail.com

    Tha you :) :) :)

  20. I’m Tracey, and I am deaf. I am based in Riverdale, Maryland. I run a small/private Not-For-Profit organization, “Seeing Eyes ~ Signing Hands, Inc” (SESH, Inc) 501 (c) (3) since 2007, runs by volunteers and by donations only. We are devoted to improve deaf education and Guyanese Sign Language research for the poor deaf community.
    We will like to get a skilled (website designer) volunteer or two (badly needed) to assist us to build or set up a very SIMPLE website about getting involved focusing on Deaf Awareness and our volunteer work for poor deaf youths and older adults from deaf community in Guyana of South America. We have found and planned to use one of a FREE domain websites available on internet that offers a smallest fee monthly or without fees charge. All we need is a volunteer or two just to place information on a new website for us about our service, about our mission, about our vision, about donations, and about our free deaf awareness workshops to public once yearly or bi-yearly. Also put some photographs of our past activities.If you can help, please email for more information at sesh4guyana@yahoo.com. Thank you for your time!
    Sincerely,
    Tracey C.

  21. Hi, Im looking for a web developer that could work on my non profit website.
    if you are interested then email me on

    surf[at]smthakur.com

  22. Hi Jason,
    I am looking for a volunteer to help with the free redesign of our website http://www.impactaid.co.uk. We have a focus on global poverty and international development. The original site looks so mushy-murshy and I would really like a professional touch to it. We are a practically new not for profit organisation so paying for professional services is an issue.

    Thanks.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>