Scott Magdalein: Volunteerism in Bible Technology

They have around 300 volunteers at some level of activity. Testing and UI translation are big areas of activity: also data management. Also user support: about 600 support tickets per day. They also spend a lot of effort on app store management and review (like voting down troll comments). Social media “omnipresence”: we want our users to feel like YouVersion never sleeps.

Be ready when people sign up to volunteer. Some volunteers act as management, but more it’s clear communication. For internationalization, each language has a lead who makes sure the translations are getting done, that enough people are active, and that the translations are accurate.

Managing all the volunteers used to consume 40% of his week: now they’ve broken it down.

They use HighRise HQ for managing volunteers (37 signals). [also Google Groups, Wave, BaseCamp, Skype conversations]

  • Where do they come from? Somebody volunteered, we said yes and posted about it, and now we get 10-15 signups a day! All over the world (but English is required).
  • How much do they work? Minimum is 5 hours, all the way up to essentially full-time. Use MyGengo for managing volunteers.
  • Why did you start recruiting volunteers? We’re part of a church, so it was natural.
  • Do you vett them before they get involved? Yes, similar to our hiring process for staff.
  • How do you handle legalities? Hard problem: we choose wisely who we allow on the team. They sign an agreement that code they write for YouVersion belongs to YouVersion, and that they won’t steal their thunder. [comment: in our non-profit, we can’t even have interns because of legalities.]
  • What about quality of work? Quality is a result of passion, not skill. We have a culture of excellence and don’t accept mediocre work.
  • How do you keep them engaged in projects? Need to not see them as “free label”: let them work on what they’re passionate about and make sure they’re working on things that are meaningful.
  • What don’t you let them do? Volunteers don’t create the vision.

Scott is @scottmagdalein on Twitter.