Revised on September 18, 2013

 
Short-term assignments for tech volunteers

 
There are a variety of ways for nonprofits, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), schools, government agencies and other mission-based organizations to involve volunteers to help with short-term projects relating to computers and the Internet, and short-term assignments are what are sought after most by potential "tech" volunteers. But there is a disconnect: most organizations have trouble identifying such short-term projects.

Below is a list of short-term projects for "tech" volunteers that is based on a list brainstormed by myself and by members of TechSoup Global's Volunteers and Technology online discussion group in 2005. I've added a lot to it over the years. These one-time, short-term assignments might takes a few days, a couple of weeks or maybe a month to complete. But each have a definite start date and end date, shouldn't go on longer than a month (maybe two) and do not require a volunteer to make an ongoing commitment to the organization - once an assignment is done, the volunteer can move on to another assignment, or stop volunteering with the organization altogether.

Volunteers who fill these short-term assignments will still need to be vetted! They probably won't need criminal background checks (unless they will have access to information that could allow them to contact your clients, particularly children), but you will need to make sure people have the expertise they claim, and that may require reference checks and viewing work samples. It will certainly require an interview. If a volunteer is too busy to go through your organization's standard application and orientation process, they are too busy to undertake a short-term tech assignment and give your organization the quality it needs. More information on interviewing in this article: Finding a Computer/Network Consultant

Also, some assignments may require organizations to purchase software or other equipment that the volunteer will install on the organization's systems. Make sure volunteers know that they must get permission, in writing, before purchasing anything, even if they aren't expecting reimbursement.

Short-term assignments for volunteers relating to computers and the Internet:

There are also many long-term, ongoing assignments for tech volunteers, ofcourse, such as web design, web site management, being on-call for tech problems, backing up systems, producing live online events, etc. But before an organization involves volunteers in such high-commitment endeavors, the organization should consider creating a few short-term assignments, to get used to working with tech volunteers and to help staff identify the best candidates for longer-term assignments.

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