What problem does this solve?
Volunteers are the heart of the Wikimedia movement, contributing to Wikipedia, Commons and other Wikimedia projects worldwide every day in many different ways. While not everybody might have the same reasons for doing so, we all have in common that we are driven by some sort of motivation. Without it, people would simply stop volunteering. This is why staying motivated is crucial. First and foremost, motivation comes from within oneself. There are also external factors affecting a person’s motivation – one important factor contributing to motivation is knowing that your work is appreciated and valued. And here’s where we can step in as volunteer supporters from Wikimedia organizations.
There is a somehow strange gap between the immense reach that Wikimedia projects have in the public and the often rather low visibilty of individual volunteers and their contribution to the Wikiverse. Trying to close the gap could lift appreciation to another level. How can you achieve this?
What is the solution?
Make volunteering visible and worthwhile: even if recognition of their voluntary work is not what drives most volunteers in a Wikimedia context, it can be truly motivating for some to make their achievements more visible to the "outside world". In addition, skills and experiences acquired through the voluntary work can be beneficial in non-Wikimedia-related contexts as well. As a volunteer supporter, you could for example:
- Give active volunteers the possibility to present their activities and projects at events related to their fields of interest. This can be done by offering travel grants or by the covering of conference fees as well as by acting as an agent between institutions and volunteers. Especially for Wikimedia volunteers who don’t dislike speaking in public, the chance of presenting their activities and projects can be an effective sign of appreciation.
- Tweet / post / blog about a project or help with media coverage. Don’t make it sound like your organization initiated or conducted the project if you want to show appreciation to individual volunteers. Differentiate between the level of anonymity a volunteer wishes and his or her modesty. If you “feature” volunteers regularly don’t let it always be the same people, try to reach as much variety as possible. Finally, be careful with copyright issues. Some volunteer photographers wouldn’t appreciate it at all if you uploaded their prize-winning images on Facebook.
- Provide certificates of voluntary work that might help volunteers with job applications etc.
- Inquire whether institutions in your city or country offer reduced prices for people engaging in voluntary work in general or Wikimedians in particular.
Things to consider
- While this strategy is highly effective for some volunteers, make sure you know your volunteers well before using this strategy, as some volunteers do not appreciate public recognition.
When to use
- We did actually one of the points suggested at WMMX. Cool pattern! ProtoplasmaKid (WM-MX) (talk) 12:43, 7 May 2016 (UTC)
- Appreciation of volunteer work I: give individual feedback
- Appreciation of volunteer work II: make it tangible
- Appreciation of volunteer work IV: towards a culture of appreciation
- Wikimedia Polska's approach to countering volunteer burnout through volunteer tracking, recognition, mindfulness, fun and cultivating a community culture of care, as shared during Wikimania 2021