Volunteer Web Builders

Volunteer Web Builders

Get help building a new site or improving an existing one

By: Joan Heberger and Karen Thomas

February 27, 2001

"We need a Web site so we can get online donations and offer a chat room for our clients. Let's recruit a techie volunteer."
- Small Nonprofit Organization

Whoa! Slow down. Before you ask a volunteer to stream your staff meetings on the Internet, it's important to think about what your Web site can do for your organization and what your volunteer can do for your Web site.

A volunteer can build a brochure style (5-7 page) Web site for your organization, or he/she can help you improve an existing site by:

  • adding new graphics or pages
  • improving the look and feel
  • assessing the need to redesign the site navigation
  • helping you plan for big changes like bulletin boards or the inclusion of multimedia

CompuMentor has matched many small organizations with volunteers to build new sites or improve existing ones. We've learned a couple of valuable lessons:

Lesson 1: Be Prepared

Develop a plan for your Web site before you recruit a volunteer. You should already have the answers to these questions:

  • Do you have Web hosting space?
  • Do you have a domain name?
  • What type of software would you like to use to build the site?
  • What OS are you using?
  • Do you have graphics for the site?
  • Do you have the text for your site?
  • Who will update and maintain the site?

Assess your Web site needs and identify clear goals. Have text and images ready for the volunteer. Spend time browsing other sites and identifying design elements you like. TechSoup offers tons of advice about Web site planning (see article: Planning Your Site)and implementation (see article: Implementing Your Web Site ).

Lesson 2: Be Realistic

Never forget that volunteers don't get paid, so don't overwork them!

Some jobs are just too much to ask of a volunteer, unless that person is planning to apply for sainthood. For example, building the "back end" technology to link a donation page to your donor database is a huge job. For complex jobs, it's best to ask a volunteer to evaluate the needs first, then determine how much time the project will take.

Real-Life Examples of Successful Volunteer Web Projects

Volunteer Dyuti Sengupta worked with the NIAD Art Center (National Institute of Art and Disabilities) to build an online gallery of clients' artwork. The nonprofit Webmaster Rose Kelly was prepared for Dyuti, giving her all the necessary clips of client work and solid ideas about what she wanted to build.

The San Francisco Education Fund wanted to reorganize their extensive Web site and add more content. They realized this was a big job, and that they would need to hire a professional Web developer. Before doing so, they asked volunteer Derek Chung to help them make a site map of both the current and desired page layouts and advise them regarding a more intuitive site design. According to Carolyn Winter at the SF Education Fund, "Derek listened to all our concerns and ideas and created an 'ideal' site map of what we want it to look like. The best thing is that we now have a document of our ideal site that we can show to Web designers before they bid on the job."

About the Authors:

Joan Heberger is a former project associate at CompuMentor.

Karen Thomas is Senior Program Manager for TechCommons at CompuMentor.


Copyright © 2001 CompuMentor. This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.

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