What problem does this solve?
Volunteers normally have to provide their private contact details when, for example, initiating partnerships with GLAM institutions, contacting publishers regarding literature scholarships, asking rights holders to release an image, or contacting other institutions with regard to working on Wikimedia projects. But institutions are used to being contacted by fulltime members of staff within an organization, and still find the idea of collaborating with volunteers somewhat odd.
What is the solution?
With official business cards and personalized email addresses issued by a Wikimedia chapter and featuring the relevant country domains for Wikipedia and its sister projects, volunteers can operate as officially recognized members of staff, making it significantly easier for them to establish external contacts.
Wikimedia Deutschland (along with Wikimedia Österreich and Wikimedia CH) has been issuing business cards and email addresses to volunteers since 2011. This has shown itself to be a straightforward and useful way of providing support to volunteers when it comes to making contact with institutions and official bodies.
Email addresses and business cards should only be issued where there is lasting or projectoriented collaboration with the volunteer in question. The criterion for issuing business cards and email addresses could be whether the volunteer already has the right to vote in Wikimedia projects, such as the Germanlanguage Wikipedia, for example.
At Wikimedia Deutschland, business cards and email addresses can be requested easily by sending in an application form containing the user’s personal details, his or her preferred email address(es), and the information that is to feature on the business cards.
Email addresses are issued in the following formats: [firstname.surname]@[project].de or [username]@[project].de. It is recommended that volunteers use their real names because this creates a more professional impression when establishing external contacts. Wikimedia Deutschland operates the following domains:
The new email address is set up as a forwarding address, known as an email alias, for an existing e-mail address specified by the user. There is therefore no inbox: the emails sent to and from the new address go via users’ private accounts and their respective email providers. The technical steps required for setting up this forwarding function vary depending on the specifications of the user’s email provider.
The business cards will be designed by Wikimedia or an external graphic designer. They will then be printed and sent to the volunteers.
The users themselves decide what information is to be included on the business cards (real name or username, address, email address, etc.). The logo of the relevant Wikimedia project must also feature on the design, e.g. the Wikipedia logo.
The back of the card must feature a reference to the chapter that issued it. For example, the following sentence is printed on the back of the cards issued by Wikimedia Deutschland: Mit freundlicher Unterstützung von: Wikimedia Deutschland – Gesellschaft zur Förderung Freien Wissens e. V. (“Kindly supported by: Wikimedia Deutschland – Gesellschaft zur Förderung Freien Wissens e. V.”)
In order to demonstrate the benefits of this kind of support and to encourage an exchange of ideas and experiences, individuals receiving the support should draw up regular reports in which they give a brief overview of their contacts and success stories. In practice, the question has been raised many times as to how volunteers can be encouraged to share their experiences and findings, and thus illustrate the benefits of the support scheme to other users.
The process of issuing email addresses and business cards is relatively quick and inexpensive, and makes it easier for volunteers to establish lasting contact with institutions. This kind of support is also a way to show appreciation, and it strengthens the bond between volunteers and Wikimedia projects.