Your church members help keep your church running. From tithing to volunteering their time, without them, it’d be impossible to keep the doors open.
When it comes to your church website, volunteers may be able to help out even more. In fact, you could let volunteers manage your website.
With all the other responsibilities your church staff has, you could save hours every week by letting skilled volunteers handle some of the daily website tasks. You just need to do a little prep work to ensure everything’s ready for them to take over.
1. Know Their Skill Level
No matter how excited a volunteer might be, you don’t want just anyone managing your church’s site. For someone with little to no experience, you might put them in charge of taking photos for the website or doing usability testing.
Ask any volunteers applying for your website management team to list their skills and skill level. While you can train them on some tasks, such as using your specific content management system, it’s easier to pick people who already have experience when it comes to things like updating or backing up information.
For best results, you’ll want to put together an actual team and not just one or two people. If you have a few highly skilled volunteers, they may be willing to train others so you have a more well-rounded team.
2. List And Define All Management Tasks
How much do you want volunteers to have access to? Of course, you trust them, but do you want them managing all aspects of your church website or just certain parts, such as writing blog posts?
Before you pick volunteers or assign tasks, list and define all management tasks. Some common tasks include:
- Uploading new web page copy
- Uploading new blog posts
- Updating website software, such as the core CMS, themes, plugins, etc.
- Setting up and maintaining backups
- Responding to visitors’ questions and feedback
- Performing site audits
- Suggesting tweaks and upgrades based on feedback
- Conducting usability tests
- Implementing new features
You could have volunteers do all of this and more or just a few things. Naturally, the level of responsibility varies based on your church and budget. For instance, you may have a website maintenance service to handle much of the backend maintenance tasks.
For every task you list, define the responsibilities and how often they should be performed.
3. Set Up A Dummy Test Site
Before letting volunteers manage your website, set up a dummy test site. This can just be a recent backup of your current church site. This site shouldn’t actually be live online.
While this might seem like additional work, this gives volunteers a platform to prove their skills and do a little training.
The best part is they can’t mess up anything. Since it’s not attached to your main site and it’s not live, if something goes wrong, your volunteers can just start over.
There are multiple ways to set up a test site. It doesn’t take long and it’s well worth it. The last thing you want is a volunteer to push the wrong button and ruin your church’s site.
Another reason to do this is so volunteers have a way to test out any changes they want to make on the dummy site before going live. This gives them a chance to work out any kinks.
4. Train Volunteers On Basic Site Tools
Even experienced volunteers might not be 100% familiar with your specific website backend. Plus, you’ll have a specific process in place for doing things.
For example, if a volunteer is responsible for writing or just uploading blog posts, they’ll need to know which plugins to use and the preferred formatting. You could also have templates in place for them.
You’ll want to train all your volunteers on what all the available tools do and which ones they’ll be using most. Creating a guide, complete with visuals, helps. Plus, they’ll have something to go by without needing to ask you the same questions over and over.
5. Define What Changes Require Approval
Just because you’re letting volunteers manage your website, it doesn’t mean they can do anything they want. After all, you don’t want a church member taking out their anger over not getting their way on something by ruining your church website.
Make a list of what changes are and aren’t acceptable. You shouldn’t try to stifle your volunteers’ ideas, though. However, before volunteers can make certain major changes, they have to get approval first.
Think of it as the difference between adding a few new throw rugs to a living room and knocking out a wall between two rooms. The first is something simple, but the second is a more permanent and noticeable change that could rock the structure of the home if not done correctly.
Be willing to listen to your volunteers’ opinions on improving your site. However, always retain the right to veto any changes that you don’t feel are a good fit for your church.
6. Create Policies For Types Of Content
If any of your volunteers’ responsibilities include creating content, you’ll need to create content policies. This includes policies for:
- Blog posts
- Web copy
It’s important to remind your volunteers that any content on your church website should reflect the values and mission of the church, not their personal opinions.
In addition to what types of content are and aren’t allowed, you should give them some basic resources for creating great content, such as:
- HubSpot – How To Write Compelling Web Copy
- Nectafy – The 8-Part Guide To Writing Stellar Website Copy
- Reach Right Studios – 7 Elements Of Blog Posts That Inspire And Engage
You should also define what types of images are appropriate. If volunteers aren’t taking photos in and around the church and community, provide them a list of acceptable image sources or choose from our list of free and premium graphics sources.
7. Train On How To Interact With Visitors
Sometimes, volunteers may have to interact with website visitors. Letting volunteers manage your website means they have to know how to interact professionally. If someone leaves a highly inappropriate comment, would your volunteers know how to respond?
It’s far too easy to let emotions get the best of you. However, your church website isn’t the place for heated debates, name calling or otherwise negative behavior.
While inappropriate comments on blog posts should be deleted, others can be addressed. From comments to questions/feedback, your visitors want to interact and be responded to.
Teach your volunteers on how to handle tough situations and questions. Teach them how to take a moment to calm down before reacting. Also, train them to respond using appropriate scripture as well.
Most importantly, require that any responses go through at least two volunteers before being sent. This helps reduce the chance of controversy.
8. Give Each Volunteer A Trial Run
Now that you’ve trained your volunteers and have their responsibilities in place, it’s time to give them a trial run. Give them certain tasks to complete. This can be on your test or live site.
For your content writers, assign them each a piece of content to work with. Do the same with any volunteers who’ll be managing comments and other interactions with visitors on your site.
Let them go through a trial period for a few weeks to ensure they can fully handle their new responsibilities. You may even want to create a closed or secret Facebook group for your website volunteers to interact with each other, share tips and ask questions.
9. Ensure Backups Are In Place
Before letting volunteers manage your website, ensure you have current backups of your site. Even if volunteers will be setting up future backups, already have a few ready to go just in case the trial period doesn’t go well.
You should also check in regularly to see if backups are in place and to verify they work. After all, backups of your church website aren’t useful if they don’t work or don’t contain all relevant data.
10. Set Up Individual Management Accounts
To keep better track of who’s doing what, set up individual management accounts for everyone. While it may be tempting to have one single volunteer account, if something goes wrong, you won’t know who is responsible and you can’t rely upon someone admitting fault.
Not only can you stay on top of who’s responsible if something goes wrong, you’ll also know who’s responsible for what goes right. For instance, if you have a blog post that goes viral, you’ll know exactly who logged in and uploaded it. Recognizing your volunteers’ hard work is always a great idea!
Finally, you’ll also be able to see which volunteers are most dedicated to their new roles. If a volunteer is supposed to be in charge of updates, are they logging in regularly to check or just once a month? Is one volunteer going the extra mile when it comes to comments? What about the one who constantly checks for broken links and fixes them?
As with any volunteering position, it’s important to pay attention to who is doing the best job and who isn’t taking it seriously. Your church website is important, so you’ll want a team who fully understands this.
11. Assign Staff To Monitor Results
As with any team, you need someone to serve as their supervisor. Assign one or more staff members to answer questions and monitor results.
These will also be the people who approve or disapprove major changes to the site. Letting volunteers manage your website works well if you have the right people overseeing the project.
Your staff will also be in charge of determining which volunteers have access to the website and which ones have other duties, such as content writing, editing, usability testing, checking for broken links and so on.
Ideally, you’ll want a few staff members who are somewhat familiar with managing a website or are willing to train themselves or take classes. This ensures they know how to check that the volunteers are doing well. Also, they’ll be better prepared to answer questions.
Remember, don’t micro-manage your volunteers. This will just drive them away. Lead, but let your volunteers do their jobs.
12. Create A Schedule
Everyone has their own idea of when things need to be done. To prevent any misunderstandings, create a set schedule. For example, do you want backups performed and tested weekly or twice a month? What days should they performed on?
When it comes to uploading content, how often and on which days? Your volunteers may be managing your church website, but you’re still fully in charge of the schedule.
Make the schedule available to every volunteer. Don’t just give them their own schedule with just their tasks. Instead, give them the full calendar. This will help volunteers figure out the best times to do things when their tasks occur on the same day, such as making sure new content is uploaded before the scheduled backup occurs.
13. Let Volunteers Take The Lead
The time has finally come to let your volunteers manage your website. After carefully choosing the right people, training them, testing their skills and ensuring their know your church policies, it’s time to let them take the lead.
Sit back and let them handle the website while you handle your other responsibilities. While doing this may seem scary at first, you’ll enjoy having more time for ministry.
Be open to hearing their feedback on the website. After all, there’s always room for improvement. Since they work with it all the time, they’ll be some of the first to notice if some updates are necessary to keep it performing well and bringing in new members.
Also, encourage them to listen to feedback from other members. They have ideas too.
Encourage volunteers to take charge. Recognize all the hard work they do. If they’re happy in their role, you may find even more members willing to volunteer in other areas.
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