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Managing Community Volunteers: Keeping them Motivated and Active

I started many successful volunteer programs for the Clan World Network and other websites. Over the course of building communities, I was always faced with the challenges of keeping my volunteers happy and motivated. This article describes how I did it.

I started many successful volunteer programs for  the Clan World Network and other websites. Over the course of building communities, I was always faced with the challenges of keeping my volunteers happy and motivated. I was able to keep my volunteers working hard by giving them new things to strive for and giving them the proper sense of appreciation. I trained them by providing guidelines and tools necessary to do the position. It is important that you trust your volunteers and handle issues or problems internally. Let them make decisions for themselves.

This article is going to focus on one of my gaming competition websites called Clan ladder at Clanladder.com. It was by far the biggest and most active of all my sites. The site averaged over 1000 games a day in various game ladders and different types of play from all over the world. The ladder site allowed users to record match results and to be ranked accordingly. The volunteers played a critical role in the order of the community, the website, and the welfare of the ladder. The staff was tasked in providing a positive atmosphere and experience for all the users playing games. Each volunteer's job was to uphold the rules of the ladder match play and act accordingly if need be. This is where the role of each volunteer gets complicated. The only rule besides conduct rules that I enforced what the volunteer could not handle or influence any action that involves his/her account or team accounts.

When you recruit a volunteer who works for free and donates their time, you have to expect things to go negative at some point over time with the individual.

The following common reasons for removal that happen:


  • Burn out
  • Personal issues/Awol
  • Resignation/Fired
  • Moves on to a new game.

When I planned this volunteer program, it is important to understand I knew I had to plan for an expected length of time where they would stay active, involved and interested for before leaving. I figured I would need the a volunteer to stay with the Clan ladder game for 4 to 6 months. So how did I get them to stay and help for that length of time? It was easy actually. I set up ranks and roles with in a command type structure inside of a chain of command. The adherence to the chain of command for each was one of the most important aspects in this volunteer program. Below is a list of the structure of the chain of command. I am not going to cover in this article what tools are specific duties each person had..

The Volunteer Chain of Command Structure was set up as follows with time it took before promotion. I have inserted and removed levels to control the promotion flow.

 


  1. Referee (Probationary and Training – 2 week minimum)
  2. Level 1 (Beginner Admin with Basic Tools – 1 month)
  3. Level 2 (General Admin with Complete Tools – 3 months)
  4. Level 3 (Supervisor of the Admins and Reported Issues to Head Admin)
  5. Head Admin (Reported to Me)

 

In this chain of command model, for handling complex issues above level each admin volunteer first went to the next level admin available if needed for help or rule interpretation unless there was an issue only a certain level admin could handle. This allowed the newer rank admins to use your next low level admins for help so you didn’t overwork and overburden the supervisory admins or head admins with common issues.

This is where the length of time of keeping you volunteers working for your site. Each rank came with a predetermined criteria for advancement. Advancement is the big key for volunteers motivation. As the Admin advanced in status, the individuals training knowledge increased through practice and experience The supervisor status was generally the last rung on my admin organization chart that most would achieve. I didn’t burn through many head admins, they lasted a long time through delegation of the tasks. Once the volunteer was promoted and achieved the maximum rung on the volunteer tree, they either stayed to become a valuable asset or they became bored due to the lack of advancement and moved on. On the big game ladders I needed multiples of many supervisors due to high volume of help requests. On a low volume game ladders, where a volunteer became bored and reached the maximum potential, I always tried to please an accomplished admin by providing them with new game ladder to recruit for and train new admins if they wished.

This is how I kept my volunteers active and motivated over many years of operation for Clanladder.com. While there may be other methods, I think this process of training through the use of the chain of command is a good way to lead. Empowering your volunteers to make decisions based on proper training you provided is a good example.

I would like to point out that I met many of my good friends that I know today because I got to know them as a first as a player and better as volunteer. I value their friendships and everything they have done for me. I am thankful to have accomplished everything with the help and passion of the volunteers.

 

This article was also posted on my website www.mbhahn.com

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