People volunteer for different reasons. After doing this for more than 25 years, Susan Finch has seen a lot of motivators. One is the need make their mark to be seen, heard, to feel important. That can still work for an organization, but without some guidelines and roadblocks in place, it could result in a website going down, social media debacles, embarrassment, loss of sponsors and volunteers. Tune in with Nina Hambleton and Susan as they go over some simple, helpful tips to prevent this and still allow your incoming volunteers and board to make their mark in the most positive way.

I want to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the nature of nonprofits and we’re well-meaning volunteers can kind of botch stuff up. This is more coming from our experience, what I’ve experienced with my clients, because in addition to running, Binky Patrol, I have a marketing firm, Susan Finch Solutions that takes care of all online pieces for companies, including their website, social media domains, podcasts, and more. And I’ve seen a lot of organizations have their online presence, social media websites, everything gets botched up because of well-meaning volunteers, interns, or those wanting to make their mark. You know, the ones at the ego, it’s kind of the nature of nonprofits and business organizations. They have a rotating board of directors and officers, and many times, well-meaning volunteers and board members want to help and change things.

They want to bring what is familiar to them and make changes to create their mark. And then they leave the next year and in their awake as a mishmash of methods code to that incoming volunteers and board members have to detangle undue redo, fix rebuild.

Here are a few suggestions to keep this debacle from happening in your organization. It’s never too late to do this. If you don’t have it in place yet, start now document this stuff and create a guide to onboard volunteers and board members, two different guides. And this can include a style guide. What fonts do we use? What colors here’s our logo. These are the right logos. Don’t please don’t do this. Please don’t say these words, please do this. And an explanation of the tools used for the website.

If it’s WordPress, that would mean plugins. Why you use it, the theme that you use, and that you don’t want people changing those. And the easiest way to do that is to not give them access, to be able to make those changes. You can’t just make them all admins and let them do everything. Make them contributors. If they want the bigger stuff done, they can send you a request or something. Same with social media. You don’t want them to be able to invite all their friends or whoever they want to, to be able to contribute to your stuff and give them access, limit it with all your marketing material, same thing we use Drive, you know, a nice central location for all of our templates that we use. And so we allow people to use those because drive like it has versioning, which is super cool.

So if somebody breaks something or botches it up, I can go back a couple times to where it wasn’t broken. And we limit admin access to most things I know for the Binky Patrol website, it’s not in WordPress yet. It’s in, some other proprietary content management system and there are only three super admins that can make big changes. Everybody else is a user and they are locked down to only be able to edit their pages, and their stuff. And it’s worked out really well and it makes it easy too. Then we can lock people out, remove them, delete them, and update them whenever we need to.

Another thing is passwords, I know it’s tempting to make one sheet and say, here’s how you get into everything. Be careful who you share that with. Be careful who has access, and what the sharing rights are. Can anybody with the link get to it, or only those invited? Can those invited invite other people? Lock it down, and make sure it’s safe and protected.

So one of the ways to fix all this is to have a constant point person. Somebody that doesn’t change out year to year, you might have this amazing volunteer that says, yeah, I can spend three hours, you know, a month or a week or whatever, doing these pieces. It can also be an outside vendor like me, a founding volunteer, or an advisor who can be the gatekeeper.

I work with a business organization, the SDIPLA. That’s a San Diego Intellectual Property Legal Association. They work with me as their constant and have for about eight years because their officers change every year, including who has to access the PayPal account. Each year we update the passwords. That’s just the drill we do. And they all know it. The officer’s page gets updated and the access gets updated. They send me the content to add.

They add an event and an article each month, that’s all they do. It’s not a whole lot. So it’s not very costly, but they don’t have to spend the time on the learning curve each year. They can just focus on getting good speakers, and talking to their members and they leave the maintenance to me.

Maybe you can find one of those constant people, somebody that has some knowledge knows how to write and spell has good judgment. Maybe you can find somebody like that. And that’s the volunteer. Even if that isn’t what you guys do. Maybe you’re like us. We make blankets, but we have a couple of volunteers that I trust to do social media for us, whom I trust to edit the website. They don’t make blankets. They’re no good at that. They don’t deliver. They don’t do anything else. That’s the piece they help with. It’s a way to get more people involved too.

Recently, an organization came to me, pulling out their hair. The key point person had been outranked by a board member and the board member had limited website experience but didn’t realize how limited her experience was. She thought she knew it all. So she didn’t ask any questions about the structure of the website that had been working perfectly for five years. And she added this invasive editing system. She added Eliminator when they already had Cornerstone on the site, which is already invasive. And then you have Eliminator, so the plugins are fighting for who’s in charge of the site. And what it did is it blocked all the existing pages from being edited as they had been for years, the constant point person has to rebuild the homepage, the key inside pages because it’s no longer editable due to these conflicts.

The board member is leaving this week. So at that point, they will remove the plugin scene. If that will solve the issue. If not, they have to start from scratch and rebuild a complex, beautiful page that was built for them by a web developer a few years ago. They had just certain areas that they could edit without breaking the page or having to know a lot about code and things. So they have a mess. There was nothing I could do either. And I can’t walk that person out until they tell me I can. So just something to be aware of. People might think they know a lot and have different reasons for it, but they’re just coming in that first year, trying to help, trying to do something. You know, they, oh I know a better way to do it. Oh, we did it this way before.  Or I’ve used this before. No, find out more from them and why they want to add those things. It might be just something simple that they’re just not familiar with yours and they need to know how to use it.

Don’t let people have access to everything, especially to change your website, because it can bring it all down and cost you a lot of money to get it fixed.

If you have an ever-changing board, remember to remove their rights when they leave. They’ll also stop getting as many notifications too, which they will appreciate because they’re not responding to them anymore. And it just clutters up all their inbox. We also suggest when you add the new board members do not give them the ability to add new editors and admins only let them be contributors and comment on behalf of the organization.

Time is precious and it’s limited trying not to spend it undoing and fixing so you can spend it growing, having all these policies and writing board members and volunteers should have to sign off on these. So, you know, they’ve read it. There is no gray area or confusion and they can ask questions then too. Maybe, you need to update those policies. Sometimes those get outdated. I have my volunteers at Binky Patrol. They send me reminders every year. “Hey, don’t forget to send us our anniversary graphics.” Oh, crud, forgot that. “Hey, remember to do this, and mm, this is outdated”. And those amounts aren’t high enough yet for, you know, donation, values, and things for blankets. Okay. So I need to update it, but they send me those requests. We talk about them as a group, we review them and we make decisions on what to update, and then they have it all in one place, one master place, one master document drive folder.  This ensures everybody’s working from the same consistent materials, the same consistent guidelines you want your volunteers to feel successful.

The main thing you want to be able to do is to serve who you’re serving, be able to bring on volunteers. So they feel successful immediately and can begin to contribute rather than botching things up.



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