Volunteering, Roles, and Involvement Levels! OTW Willing to Serve Drive 2012

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As the OTW continues with our Willing to Serve recruitment drive, those of us on the Volunteers & Recruiting committee wanted to take the opportunity to talk about different levels of involvement and the different role categories within the organization: Chair, Staff, and Volunteer. Everyone in the OTW is volunteering; there are no paid positions in the organisation, which can sometimes get confusing since Volunteer is also a specific type of position within the org. We welcome participation at any level you are comfortable with, from a few hours spent in a single testing party all the way up to the equivalent of a full-time job. Of course, most of the people who choose to donate their time and energy to the OTW fall somewhere in the middle.

Every January, in between our working terms, our elected Board members meet to discuss the coming year and the standing committees that will be necessary to carry out the work planned for the term. They then solicit and appoint staff members to serve as Chairs for those committees. The work of a Chair combines steering the committee toward both its short- and long-term goals, as well as building and managing the team of people who will carry out that work.

The Board then reviews the lists of staff who have said they'd like to continue to work in the OTW, as well as the lists of people (maybe you!) who signed up during the Willing to Serve drive. The Board sorts, approves, and distributes the lists of potential staff — new applicants and seasoned veterans — to the relevant Chairs. Each Chair then creates their committee by selecting people from their list, until all of the people have positions. These are our Staff: they serve on committees, with ongoing responsibilities and projects. They work in a team that meets regularly in chat and holds ongoing discussions, via email and within shared online documents. Staff who have put in a full term's service (or the equivalent — breaks and hiatuses are welcome) become eligible to run for a seat on the OTW Board. Being staff means a significant and reliable commitment of time and/or effort, though the Volunteers & Recruiting committee works hard to be sure that this can be accomplished flexibly.

We have four large groups of Volunteers — coders, tag wranglers, testers, and translators — and one smaller group, fanlore wiki gardeners. There can also be some short-term project-based volunteering going on, as with the two people who recently worked on the Journal committee's Zotero bibliography project.

Sometimes the very names of the volunteer groups can cause confusion. Tag wranglers, the volunteers who wrangle tags, are easy to confuse with the Tag Wrangling committee, and the same happens with translators and the Translation committee. It is a common misconception that the Translation committee produces our translations, but they don't. Rather, the committee manages the projects and the teams of volunteer translators who do the actual translation work.

Volunteers work with and answer to a committee, but they are not committee members. Unlike staff, recruited mostly through our end of term drive (currently), volunteers can step up at any time of the year as we do year-round intake — except for a brief hiatus near the end of term (that's right now) for the busiest committees. Volunteers are accepted in as soon as we can guide them in and find a place for them to contribute.

Staff tools may include access to sensitive or confidential information, but volunteers only have access to the tools necessary to achieve their tasks. Volunteers are not eligible to run for a seat on the OTW Board, because Board members need to have the familiarity with our projects and structure that a staff-level commitment confers. In terms of workload, the burden on volunteers is more flexible; a volunteer has a lot of control over how much time and effort they devote to the org.

You can join our ranks as a staffer or as a volunteer, depending on the committee and the project you're interested in, and on what you would like your level of involvement to be. Just let us know! We’re also happy to welcome you at a low level of involvement to start off, if you’d like to try us out. Volunteers can become staff, and we often have people change roles (or apply for the first time) in the middle of the term. Sometimes that’s exactly when we need them!

We know that the inner workings of the OTW can be opaque, and we're working to address that, with this post and others like it. This year we've also heavily revised our volunteering form (ticky boxes!) so that you can tell us what you have to offer rather than trying to puzzle out where you might fit. We hope that makes it easier, but please feel free to contact us and let us know if we can do anything else to illuminate our workings!

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