Sometimes while I’m driving or brushing my teeth, I will suddenly be seized by the thought that we have overlooked someone’s contributions. I will worry that perhaps a volunteer has been toiling away at something, and we’ve failed to recognize his or her efforts. Reflexively, I’ll begin a mental run-down of recent conversations and ongoing projects to check if we had forgotten anyone.
Routine community-building tasks at Mozilla can be a challenge sometimes because of the nature of our organization. We don’t have a central database collecting information on everything our volunteers are doing. A community manager cannot log in somewhere and pull down a list of all the things someone has done for a project. Many non-profits deal with this by relying on volunteers to log their own hours, but not all contributions can be captured by a measure of time. Recently, a volunteer from the German community came across a potentially unsafe add-on and flagged it with the AMO team. An entry of “15 minutes” in a time log wouldn’t do justice to the importance of her contribution.
Over the years, we’ve developed work-arounds to overcome these limitations. One of them is nurturing a culture of recognition. By creating habits and rituals around thanking people publicly, we can better ensure that volunteers are properly recognized for their efforts. (We recognize contributors in other ways as well, but this post will focus on public recognition). At the beginning of every weekly team meeting and bi-weekly community meeting, we’ll ask whether anyone should be recognized. Everyone is encouraged to report their own contributions as well as the contributions of others.
Each month, we create a fresh public wiki to keep track of things. At the end of the month, this becomes the official nomination list for the title of Friend of Marketplace or AMO, and the newest honoree is celebrated in a blog post and several mailing lists. We also take advantage of the public Monday project meeting to thank our contributors. Every meeting is recorded, so people in other time zones can easily tune in. The most rewarding thing is when people ask me to help them recognize a contributor they’ve been working with, because they see people being mentioned and want the same for their volunteers.
We do have some tools available that automatically log contributions, such as Bugzilla, One & Done, and the add-on and app reviewer tools. Having these tools in addition to a community that actively appreciates each other’s work helps to make my moments of worry a little more manageable.