Wikimedia Conference/Program and Engagement Coordination/Wikimania 2017 report/Volunteer Support

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Volunteer Support - What makes the difference?[edit]


Participants: Jan Groh (WM Czech Republic) , Tamás Mészöly (WM Hungary), Hogne (WM Norway), Gereon K (German Community), Giuseppe Profiti (WM Italy)

The session focused on the participants’ support to their community. The following things were mentioned as ways of supporting volunteers:

  • Travel grants
  • Small grants (e.g. for library fees)
  • Edit-a-thons / events
  • Food / catering + accommodation
  • Photo competitions
  • Meeting places / rooms
  • Trainings / webinars
  • Chapter-Help with help pages
  • Software & literature access (media)
  • Local meetings (organized by chapter)
  • Free access to libraries
  • Mentoring program for newcomers
  • Coordination / organizational support (getting prizes from volunteers or organizations / museums)
  • Group dynamics
  • Support with PR
  • Support with requests to officials / official contracts etc.
  • Legal questions
  • Prizes for contests, merchandise
  • Insurance

The session then moved on to look at what would happen without this support. Here, the following things were mentioned:

  • Without travel grants → less people would be able to attend meetings, less ideas and learnings would be exchanged there, volunteers might contribute less because they are less motivated or don’t feel appreciated
  • Without small grants (e.g. for library fees or literature) →  people would not write about certain topics they don’t have literature for, the quality of the content of Wikipedia might suffer
  • Without coordination / organizational support → volunteers might not initiate big projects when feeling they are “on their own”, contact to institutions would be made more difficult
  • Without support with PR →  there would be less press coverage and thus less awareness of Wikimedia projects
  • Without legal support → volunteers might feel left alone and leave projects when encountering problems
  • Without insurance for meetups → volunteer organizers might be afraid of being held liable for accidents, they might refrain from organizing meet-ups
  • Without support for photo and writing competitions or technical equipment → people would probably contribute content anyway, but the quality might be less good and people might be less motivated

In general, people felt that without volunteer support in the Wikimedia movement, volunteers would probably still contribute, but their possibilities would in many cases be more limited. When looking at the examples mentioned, it became clear that one central aspect of volunteer support seems to be its effect on a volunteer’s motivation. This means that a lack of support would probably have a negative impact on the motivation to keep contributing to Wikimedia projects.

The next part of the session focused on describing the concept of motivation: what it is, what it results from, and how it can be (positively and negatively) affected.

There was a general recognition of the motivational dynamics described by Veronika and Raimund: that one can try to positively influence the motivation of volunteers by making their conditions for volunteering easier and by providing the best possible framework for volunteering, which was illustrated with examples from the Wikimedia context. It was also noted that one should carefully consider it before introducing remuneration of volunteers, as well as gifts and prizes, because those kinds of external motivators may have adverse effects on the motivation for volunteering in the long run (known as the "over-justification effect").