One of the biggest roadblocks employees run into when considering a volunteer workforce is the great burden of communication and coordination needed with volunteers. The LDS Music App team solves this problem by utilizing a church service missionary to be the primary contact between volunteers and ICS employees.
The LDS Music app gives users access to all Church-published music on their iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Currently, volunteers are working to get Church music transcribed for needed languages for use on the app, among other things. “They are actively involved in testing beta software, making sure everything functions right, and ensuring the content is displayed accurately,” said Elder David Sierakowski, community manager.
Hilton Campbell heads the LDS music app team as the project lead and developer. In the beginning of the project, Hilton himself coordinated with volunteers. “The burden of community volunteers can be pretty high,” Hilton said, especially with the now 174 volunteers committed to the project, and more joining every day. “It was fully consuming. It wasn’t working.”
To lighten his load, he enlisted the help of a church service missionary, David Sierakowski. David’s primary responsibility is to coordinate volunteers and serve as a buffer between them and Hilton. “As soon as David came on board and took more of that responsibility, it lightened my load and allowed me to focus on the development effort while they produced content.”
Daily contact is a must. Hilton and David talk for fifteen minutes each day, and David coordinates with volunteers by email, phone, a Google group, or through JIRA. “David buffers me from the content work. He’s talking to a lot of people and following up and making sure things happen,” said Hilton.
Part of David’s duties includes matching volunteers to tasks. “The hardest thing for me is to try to understand all the [skills] that each volunteer may have and give them the opportunity to serve. . . . Matching the two together has been the toughest thing.” The team is thankful, though, that the LDSTech website allows people to list their proficiencies. It helps them match people who have certain language skills to specific tasks.
David’s work with volunteers isn’t totally separate from Hilton. Both are very involved in the content generated by volunteers. Although David communicates with volunteers and reports back to Hilton on a daily basis, there are situations when Hilton engages the volunteers directly. “Oftentimes I'll throw out a question on the [Google group] and anyone who wants to weigh in tags on the conversation,” said Hilton. David is the community manager, but Hilton as project manager still keeps a close eye on the project’s progress.
Hilton gave three key practices to successfully working with volunteers:
1. Designate a community manager.
Whether it is an employee, a church service missionary, or even a volunteer, there must be someone whose primary job is to coordinate volunteers. It’s a demanding, important job. Hilton did note, though, that he would “be hesitant to get a standard volunteer because he might be too transient.” The community manager must be someone who will be available for at least a few months and be able to devote the time to the project.
2. Divide work into manageable tasks.
“Divide work into bite-sized chunks that you can track and make into JIRA tasks,” said Hilton. “I usually tell David what needs to happen and then he breaks it up into Jira items.”
3. Give volunteers adequate time to complete tasks.
“To coordinate all of this, you have to understand when they can volunteer their time,” David said. Volunteers often have full-time jobs and can only work on the project on weeknights or weekends. Project managers have to understand that. “Some are very responsive,” Hilton said. “Some take a week or more, so you have to make allowance for that. The reality is we have to wait till volunteers can get the work done.”
Currently 5 technology missionaries are serving missions, 9 are in the process of receiving a call, and 28 are inquiring about missions. If you’re interested in getting help from a Church service missionary on your project, send an e-mail to
For more information about serving a Church service mission, see Church Service Missionary Opportunities within the LDSTech Community.