Non-profit Wisdom from Wikipedia

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Wikipedia is ranked the 6th most popular in the world (fifth most popular in the US), so it might come as a surprise that it has only a staff of 10, and the rest of it’s enormous success is built on volunteers. Wikipedia is a non-profit. (Cash-strapped non-profits: think about that next time you’re wondering how you’ll get everything done on your current budget.)

Of those 10 employees, almost all of them are focused on keeping the website up and running. They manage the site, handle design, manage servers, babysit the network – generally make sure that the information goes where it needs to. The volunteers, on the other hand, feed the site, make sure the copy is correct, handle bite-sized tasks, which in the aggregate, are enough to make Wikipedia one of the biggest sites on the planet.

The important lesson here is not just that you can accomplish great things with volunteers, but that they need to be applied to the correct task. If something is as integral to your organization as your website, pay for it. You’ll free up volunteers for other tasks that meet their individual skills without weighing them down with such a complicated task as a website, but you’ll never be emotionally beholden to someone who’s donating their sweat (and possibly tears) to your site.

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