Volunteer onboarding

Are there any processes in place for converting people who filled in the volunteer form into fully functioning volunteers?

I signed up a week ago and have not been contacted yet about the form I filled it. I don’t mean this as a criticism of the organisation now and I don’t mind having to wait a bit, since all you lovely people do this in your free time.

If currently replying to all the forms is a lot of work, maybe it would make sense to have a specific person in the team for on-boarding new volunteers?

For me, an email from a person in charge of volunteers saying that (in my case) the lead developer will contact me in 2 weeks time would help a lot with getting invested in the project. If time would allow, a short videocall for onboarding would help even more.

PS: please don’t take this as a hint that you should do my onboarding really soon. I won’t have much time to work on Couchers until the 1st of June, when I will quit my job to go travel <3


Hey @lenanrt!

A number of members of the team are always reading and categorizing all the signup forms, and we do try to respond to as many as we can.

People who indicate skills that we have an urgent need for are contacted by email and we schedule a video call to discuss more. Sometimes that chat leads to onboarding, and sometimes it doesn’t (for example, if the person who signed up doesn’t have time at the moment, doesn’t want to commit, or we’re not ready for the work that they could do for whatever reason).

However, we don’t respond to everyone who indicates interest in being a volunteer, which could be due to a few reasons. While we do our best to bring everyone on board who’s interested, there sometimes isn’t a role that matches the person’s skills - in this case we keep it on the back burner, so to speak. Do you think it would be better for us to respond anyway? I guess I tend to think it’s better to hold off until we have something positive to say (i.e., we need your skills now! Are you available? vs. “Unfortunately we don’t have a need for x skill at the moment.”)

One form of volunteering and contributing is by being an active beta tester and forum poster! So sometimes we take someone’s indication of interest as a sign they may participate in the community. Some volunteers have been onboarded due activity we’ve seen on the forums or beta bug reports, for example.

Anyway, thank you very much for bringing this up!

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Thanks for responding @Emily :slight_smile:

To answer your question: I think it would be better to always respond, even if someone does not have the necessary skills at the moment. I think most people would be more inclined to contribute later on if they got a personal response saying their skills are not needed at the moment compared to not getting a response at all. I think there is also a lot of value in the “we’re not sure about you yet, but person X get back to you in a bit” response.

Do you currently do the filtering in one or two steps? As in, would the lead developer always check the forms for developers and then process them fully, or do you first have a more general check from someone else, and then send it to the specialist afterwards?


I think I’ll defer this question to someone else, since I primarily only answer community-related signup inquiries :slight_smile:! Thanks for your questions!!

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Hey @lenanrt, very good points. The volunteer form you just filled out is actually new (previously wasn’t integrated with the app) and had more focus on general feedback, and we’re establishing new processes for that now. We’re going to get it down to responses out within a week.


I used to work closely with someone who worked at an org called Public Lab, and they do a really wonderful job of balancing the needs of 2 layers of community: platform builders and platform users. They are a very open community, so they write a lot about their learning and practices, and I think we could learn a ton from them in building couchers :slight_smile:

Best summary presentation: https://publiclab.org/notes/warren/03-22-2018/libreplanet-talk-sharing-strategies-for-welcoming-newcomers-into-floss-projects-first-timers-only-list-moderation-and-more

I’d be happy to participate in a “watch (and discuss) party” if others are interested in borrowing some of their software outreach tactics!

EDIT: the best best take-away is the philosophy of “first-timers only” issues (and “first-timer-only candidate” issues), because they’re really the engine of contribution in that org <3