I recommend reading this post alongside Khorton's Volunteering guide, and Aaron's volunteering isn't free.
In product development, a sprint is a short, time-boxed period when a team works to complete a set amount of work. Sprints are useful because you set yourself a goal and complete it, even if it's not perfect. Some benefits of volunteering in sprints include:
- You can quickly get onboarded to a new organisation and can make progress on specific, well-defined projects
- You can get the bulk of a project done quickly (80/20) and speed up timelines for organisations
- It can be a good learning experience or resume item for you
- It’s motivating to complete a project
Sprint-able projects include:
- Writing an article or report on a specific topic
- Doing a software migration or setting up a new process for an organisation
- Running a one-off event or activity
|Over the summer of 2019, a group of primarily volunteers (including me) helped launch the EA Hub Resources (now EA Groups Resources). Without the volunteers who sprinted, I estimate the project would have taken ~several months longer to publish.|
A marathon means working on a project for a longer time, but working less intensely. On the other hand, marathoning can be incredibly valuable for long-term stability in an organisation. Having ongoing volunteers reduces recruiting, onboarding & turnover costs for organisations. Some benefits of marathon volunteering include:
- Ongoing support for smaller tasks can be valuable for organisations
- Low time commitment
- You can build an ongoing relationship to the organisation
Marathon-able projects include:
- Systems which require minimal maintenance (like approving new users for a site)
- Small development tasks like tweaking an existing feature or configuring a system
- Creating social schelling points by hosting recurring events, like picnics or dinners
|On the EA Hub team, we had one volunteer developer worked with us for over a year. They were available a few hours week and would take on small projects. Although they weren't able to take on developing entirely new features or do overhauls of the system, they were able to provide support to the lead developers over time fairly reliably.|
A Sprint + Marathon Combo
Some projects require a sprint to set them up, but then only a couple hours a week or month to maintain them. These projects can have passive impact with minimal effort.
|The Pineapple Operations public directory of operations/PA talent has some set-up costs (e.g. initial publicizing, creating automations), but in the long-term the main maintenance costs will be reviewing the directory periodically to remove any spam users.|
Thanks to Aaron Gertler and Amber Dawn for feedback.