Proposal:Traditional Volunteer Management Rewards and Recognition

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Request for Discussion / Sign-Ups

Every proposal should be tied to one of the strategic priorities below.

Edit this page to help identify the priorities related to this proposal!

  1. Achieve continued growth in readership
  2. Focus on quality content
  3. Increase Participation
  4. Stabilize and improve the infrastructure
  5. Encourage Innovation


This proposal defines Wikipedia contributors as online volunteers. This is a list that explores traditional volunteer recognition, formal and informal, and ways they might be adapted for Wikipedia contributors who have assumed high-responsibility roles or contributed a certain number of hours.


The most effective volunteer recognition at traditional nonprofit organizations has been a combination of formal and informal actions (see references).

Informal recognition of volunteers happens at traditional organizations when volunteers come in contact with staff members over coffee, talk with board members and other volunteers at special events, see first hand how their contributions are used onsite at the organization, etc. Formal, traditional recognition of volunteers has included special gatherings, small gifts or discounts at local businesses. How could these traditional ways of recognizing volunteers be adapted to recognizing volunteers for Wikimedia?

Some possible ways to adapt traditional formal and informal recognition of online volunteers to Wikimedia:

  • Recognize high-responsibility/high-contributing volunteers the same way donors are recognized (in newsletters, program updates, press releases, annual report, etc.).
  • Emphasize in various internal and external communications the impact particular volunteer contributions have had and the difference the volunteers responsible have made, not just numbers of volunteers and hours they have provided.
  • If you have a printed or email newsletter or program update sent to donors and partners, give online volunteers -- or at least high-responsibility volunteers -- the opportunity to sign up to receive these as well.
  • Have a bulletin board onsite at the Wikimedia offices with a constant rotating series of photos submitted by Wikimedia contributors of themselves, to remind paid staff that Wikimedia contributors are real humans, not just a login name or numbers.
  • Give a lapel pin, pen, mug, banner, bumper stickers, or other material with the Wikimedia logo to volunteers who have contributed a certain number of hours or are serving in high-responsibility roles.
  • Invite Wikimedia contributors to participate in some way in Wikimedia strategic discussions (not just the one happening now). Inviting their participation is a sign that you value their contributions.
  • Highlight whenever an online volunteer's feedback has been used to make a decision.
  • Invite online volunteers to online special events/celebrations.
  • If you are hosting an onsite event, consider creating a way for online volunteers to view the event in real time.
  • Allow volunteers to submit photos of themselves to include in online or printed recognition (however, note that some volunteers do not want to be identified with their full name or location alongside their photos).
  • Send a postcard or letter with a personal, hand-written note from a staff person.
  • Profile a volunteer of the week or month on your web site.
  • Prepare customized, downloadable, signed certificates of appreciation for high-responsibility/high-contributing online volunteers, that can be print outed and displayed as they like. It is very important that these be CUSTOMIZED, with the volunteer's name (be sure everything is spelled correctly) and a line about the specific service they provided.
  • Prepare a short video thanking specific volunteers for their service. Just 30 or 60 seconds would be enough. It could come from your volunteer coordinator, your executive director, your board president, or other volunteers.
  • Develop an online badge or logo that volunteers can place on their individual Web sites or online profiles, which notes that they hold a high-responsibility role with the organization or have contributed a certain number of hours and that links back to your organization's web site.


I believe that proven volunteer management/volunteer support techniques could be easily adapted for Wikimedia.

Key Questions

  • How will high-responsibility, high-contributing volunteers be identified, and how will the process of identification be transparent?
  • How will the choice of who receives what award be made, and how will the process be transparent?
  • Will volunteers be selected by someone to receive a recognition, or will they self-select?
  • Will this create more discord among volunteers, with people feeling that some are unfairly favored or ignored?

Potential Costs

As I noted in my comments to a similar proposal, "Volunteer Management practices to Expand Participation", putting in a more structured volunteer management system comes with costs.

Potential costs for these recognition ideas:

  • Who will spend time coordinating these activities? Is paid expertise needed to manage this process, to ensure that it happens regularly, in a timely and fair manner?
  • Who will evaluate performance and take appropriate action based on volunteer performance? Again, is paid expertise needed to manage this process, to ensure that it happens regularly, in a timely and fair manner?
  • Some of these activities have a cost (like pins, pens, mugs, etc.).


Community Discussion

Do you have a thought about this proposal? A suggestion? Discuss this proposal by going to Proposal talk:Traditional Volunteer Management Rewards and Recognition.

Want to work on this proposal?

  1. --Eleassar 06:42, 3 July 2010 (UTC)