Community Organizing: How to Build a Volunteer Team

Learn how to build awesome volunteer teams to execute on your organizations mission.

April 09, 2019

Building a team is where most new organizations fail - especially when they take the common and historic “committee” approach. I too made this mistake when I launched KCWiT, and it almost killed the organization. There were no defined rules and everyone in the group had agendas they were trying to push - and not that they were bad agendas, it just prevented the group from having a cohesive vision and getting anything done. It wasn’t long before I was doing the bulk of the work to post events and get feedback and launch new programs and recruit volunteers … and likely would have burned out had a group of volunteers from CoderDojoKC not pulled me aside and told me they wanted to help.

As I mentally reviewed EVERYTHING I did to make the program happen every month, I began to group those tasks into roles that could be executed by my savior volunteers. These grouping evolved into our default roles for launching new programs(like Angular Girls KC), and we continue to evolve these roles to meet our needs.

As of today, KCWiT has 6 programs:

2018 Coding & Cupcakes team at KCKC

2018 Coding & Cupcakes team at KCKC

These programs have similar team structures to run them, and the roles are defined and iterated on as needed, and used for our recruitment process.

Our org chart looks something like this:

- Executive Team: president, secretary, treasurer
  - Operations Director
    - Fundraising Director
    - Diversity & Inclusion Director
    - Internal Technology Coordinator
    - Community Outreach Chair
    - Strategic Partnerships Director
    - Membership Director
    - Membership Engagement Director
    - Content Director
    - Newsletter Director
    - Creative Director
    - Business Process Analyst
    - Data Analyst
  - Programs Director
    - CoderDojoKC Director
      - Co-director
      - Mentor Director
      - Marketing Director
      - Curriculum Director
      - Master Director
      - Junior Mentor Director
    - Coding & Cupcakes Director
      - Mentor Director
      - Marketing Director
      - Curriculum Director
    - Coding & Cocktails Director
      - Co-director
      - Mentor Director
      - Marketing Director
      - Curriculum Director
      - Technical Materials Director
      - Presentation Director
    - Events Director
      - Marketing Director
      - Sponsorship Director
      - Presentation Director
      - Attendee Director
    - AngularGirls Director
      - Attendee Director
      - Marketing Director
      - Sponsorship Director
      - Mentor Director
      - Community Outreach Director
    - Django Girls Director
      - Attendee Director
      - Marketing Director
      - Sponsorship Director
      - Mentor Director
      - Community Outreach Director

You can see the kickass individuals in these roles & making things happen at KCWiT here

KCWiT Jan 2019 Quarterly Objective Meeting

KCWiT January 2019 Quarterly Objective Meeting


These are some examples of our program leadership roles and their role descriptions:

Program Director

The program director is responsible for coordinating, managing, and running Coding & Cocktails program. This is a speaking/public facing role. Responsibilities include:

  • Running sessions
  • Coordinating with bartender to purchase supplies
  • Bringing session materials: worksheets, stickers, decor, water
  • Checking out and bringing laptops, hotspots, and other tech from KCWiT registry
  • Guiding general direction of program
  • Managing Cocktails team

Program Co-Director

The program co-director is responsible for coordinating, managing, and running Coding & Cocktails program. This is a more administrative role. Responsibilities include:

  • Assisting in running sessions
  • Coordinating with Venue every month for space usage
  • Responding to email questions in 48 hours
  • Managing Eventbrite orders/cancellations/waitlist

Marketing Director

The marketing director is responsible for marketing the program both to attendees and potential mentors/volunteers through identifying and understanding target markets and planning, developing, and implementing marketing strategies that align with the programs goals. Responsibilities include:

  • Export previous attendee information from Eventbrite and import to mailchimp
  • Live tweet/facebook stream events + photos
  • Sending monthly micro-newsletters to attendees
  • Schedule monthly social media posts to promote event
  • Post/schedule weekly engagement posts
  • Post eventbrite events with tracking links to community calendars
  • Post program mentor/volunteer/leader bios to KCWiT blog

Mentor Director

The mentor director is responsible for recruiting, communicating with, and managing mentors. Responsibilities include:

  • Sending monthly reminder emails to mentor mailing list
  • Sending warm intro to new mentors on mailing list
  • Onboarding new mentors
  • Tracking and reporting mentor attendance

Curriculum Director

The curriculum director is responsible for setting yearly curriculum outline and selecting monthly curriculum content. Responsibilities include:

  • Reviewing annual curriculum outline to ensure it matches current industry practices
  • Helping coordinate presentation + technical materials with monthly curriculum

CoderDojo team selfie

CoderDojoKC team & mentor selfie at a 2019 session


We have a formal interview process which may sound insane for a volunteer community organization, but the quality of our team, our culture, our work, and our ability to manage expectations with our volunteers has increased dramatically since implementing this process. There are a couple truths about working with volunteers - you’ll encounter people who are SO EXCITED about your mission and can’t WAIT to get involved … until they find the next exciting volunteer thing and you never see them again. (This is why we have a rule that mentors have to come mentor at our events three times before getting their special mentor t-shirt) You may encounter people who’ve sat on boards before where they showed up to a monthly one-hour meeting where meeting minutes were discussed and nothing happened on the days in between and that is their expectation for “volunteering”.

Volunteer Role Postings

We have all our open volunteer roles posted on our website and feature an open role in our monthly newsletter.

Join Coding & Cocktials Leadership team banner

Join Coding & Cocktials Leadership team banner

Interviewing Volunteers

Our first round interview with an applicant for one of our roles is super low key, we get to know them and their background, review the role they’re interested in applying for and explain how our organization functions. This first interview has a two objectives - to get to know the candidate & their reasons for wanting to get involved and to clearly communicate our organization’s expectations for volunteers.

Most people volunteer because they believe in an organization’s mission, but may have additional reasons for doing so - be it resume padding, speaking opportunities, leadership experience, etc. If you understand your team’s motivation for being involved you can help deliver that for them and have happy volunteers that stick around for years.

Our 1st Interview Outline document looks like this:

- How did you hear about Kansas City Women in Technology?
- Why would you like to get involved? 
- What skills do you bring to the table? 
- Background in tech/career? 

Organization Information
- History
- Leadership structure
- Core Values
  1. We prioritize work-life-volunteer balance.
  2. We solve problems, then automate the redundant.
  3. We communicate clearly and consistently.
  4. We manage expectations of ourselves and our services.
  5. We effusively seek feedback to improve ourselves and our services.
  6. We don’t try to cure cancer.
- Communication strategy & tools
  - Google Drive
  - KCWiT Email
  - Slack
  - Trello
  - Eventbrite
  - Mailchimp
  - Other role specific tools when needed 
- Time commitment & calendar
  - Attend at least one session for each of our programs and events
  - Monthly Program Directors/Operations Team Meeting
  - Monthly Program Meeting
  - Quarterly All Team Meeting
  - Program Attendance
- Additional volunteering & speaking opportunities

Role Information
  - Role overview.
  - Reporter/reports/other team members involved
  - Role goals and objectives
  - Role time requirements

Steps Moving Forward
  - Explain next interview steps

After the interview we follow up with an email outlining everything discussed and next interview steps. This is a bit of a process, especially for a team of volunteers, so we have all our emails templated and almost all the leadership members on our team responsible for interviewing use Calendly for scheduling these interviews as well as one-on-ones with direct reports.

Volunteer Red Flags

In the last 6 years I’ve probably interviewed (or been scheduled to interview) 150+ people for volunteer roles on the KCWiT team and have seen plenty of red flags that lead to people not being good fits for our team. These include:

  • No-showing an interview
  • Rescheduling 1st interview multiple times with less than 2 days notice
  • Having their secretary/assistant reschedule the interview
  • Bringing their assistant/spouse to the interview
  • Talking poorly about every previous boss they’ve ever had
  • Sending a hostile email after not hearing from us in ~1 week about the role
  • Mocking the fact that we have an interview process for a volunteer role
  • Insulting other members of our team during interview process

It may be tempting to take any candidate who’s interested, but as a volunteer leader - you have something special to consider: the emotional and mental energy that will be required to manage an individual. There is no paycheck here, just your own free time and energy, so be aware of that when reviewing candidates.

It’s also worth noting I do relatively few interviews these days - I opted NOT to pull a Larry Page and trust my team to interview and make sure candidates are a good fit for our team. = )

Role Offer

When we decide someone is a good fit for our team and the role they applied for, we send a formal offer letter recapping the role(or offering a new one that may be a better fit) and giving them a deadline to respond by usually 3-5 business days.

Hi {Candidate Name}!

I wanted to let you know that Kansas City Women in Technology would like 
you to join our team in our Coding & Cocktails Co-Director Role. We feel 
with your background, passion, and skill set you'd be a great fit for 
this position. The role is as follows:

Program Co-Director

The program co-director is responsible for coordinating, managing,
and running the Coding & Cocktails program.  This is an administrative
role. Responsibilities include:

- Assisting in running sessions
- Coordinating with venue for space usage
- Coordinating food or catering for the event
- Responding to email questions in 48 hours
- Managing Eventbrite orders/cancellations/waitlist
- Updating and clearing student laptops prior to and following session
- Updating the website with new event information
- Managing attendee & mentor Slack invitations
- Attending Coding & Cocktails monthly leadership meetings
- Attending quarterly Kansas City Women in Technology leadership meetings
- Participate in selection of financial aid recipients

If you are still interested in joining our team and you'd like to accept,
please let me know by Friday, April 12th, 2019.

Thanks for your time and your patience!


Once a candidate has accepted the role, we send another template email asking them for information so we can get their accounts created, get them addded to the website, and schedule an onboarding meeting to show them the ropes. (We are legit Eventbrite MASTERS at this point, I don’t know if anyone has pushed the limits of that platform like we have)

Hi {new team member}, 

We're excited for you to join the team! Things I need from you 
for on-boarding:

For our Records
- Preferred email address(for password recovery)
- Address
- Phone number

For the Website
- Bio 1-3 sentences
- Headshot
- Twitter handle
- Preferred name to be listed
- Preferred pronouns

Our Tools
- Gmail - you'll have a personal email 
set up where all communications will go to
- Google Drive - where we house all our internal 
documentation, leadership contact sheet, and meeting minutes
- KCWiT Internal Google Calendar - all our meetings, 
programs, and events are listed
- Eventbrite - how we track attendees/collect their information
- Mailchimp - mail lists + open/click analytics
- Hootsuite - schedule posts for Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook
- Slack - private leadership channels
- Trello - Team task management
- Mixmax(optional) - personal email tracking

Our Calendar

We have a calendar for public and private events, with setup 
start times, etc. KCWiT program events run the 2nd Saturday of 
the month, board meetings occur the Monday after, typically 
the 3rd Monday of the month, and quarterly objective meetings 
occur on the Sunday after 2nd Saturday.

Schedule Onboarding Meeting

We'll need about an hour to get your accounts created, walk 
through our tools and processes, and talk through your first 
few task items. Find something that works for you on 
my [calendar](


I know this seems like a LOT for a volunteer organization, but people are constantly amazed at the work we do and at the scale at which we operate and this is why. Clearly documenting roles, interviewing for them, and having an onboarding process allows our volunteers to be completely aware of our expectations and enables them to quickly begin operating autonomously in their role and making a difference within our organization.