Best Practice Notes
This page gives further explanation and information about the agreed Best Practice we have for running Freegle communities.
Freegle promotes reuse. In doing this we:
1. Keep goods that still have life in them out of the waste stream.
2. Promote community spirit by sharing between local people.
3. Provide people with an opportunity to help the environment.
4. Look after each other as Volunteers by offering support if needed.
We want to do all this as well as we can, so we need to make sure that using Freegle is as quick, easy and enjoyable as possible for us and our members.
Many of us started our communities several years ago. Reuse was a brand new idea in 2003 and the rules and ways of working that evolved were aimed at trying to keep communities safe from possible problems, and we didn't know much about how people behaved online. Since that time internet use has increased substantially and we have learned a lot more about online behaviour. There have been many developments which mean that members now expect to be able to do things very, very quickly. There are also many other ways now of reusing items via the internet. We now know that if a Freegler encounters barriers they are likely to be put off from using us, so we need to strike a balance between ‘protecting’ and making our communities welcoming for members.
Experience shows that restrictive rules are a barrier to thriving, so all volunteers should think carefully about these best practice suggestions.
The Freegle Volunteer Agreement outlines expectations of Freegle and Volunteers.
The intent of this is to support Freegle and members, and to safeguard our reputation. All the advice below is within the context of the Basic Requirements of a Freegle Group#Local Rules.
To safeguard your community and give you peace of mind, have back up arrangements in place.
- Make sure all of your Volunteer Team know they can contact Mentors to get some help - email email@example.com
- Exchange contact information with your chosen other volunteers locally and/or nationally in case of crisis.
- We don’t want all your hard work to go to waste, maintaining service for your members is important for them and you.
- Volunteers with moderation status don’t have to all be active moderators (there is a Modtools settings for active or backup status), so having a team for your community is sensible.
- Making sure all volunteers know that they can contact Mentors, or your chosen contacts, means there is somewhere to turn to in a difficult situation.
- All volunteers are encouraged to join Central and other national discussion groups so please do! It is the easiest way to communicate with other volunteers around the UK and to ask for help
Home pages (Freegle website, Facebook etc.) should be welcoming and quick and easy to read. All website homepages should have a logo or local picture, tagline, welcoming message and, optionally, local rules. To do this, go to Settings in Modtools. (see ModTools#Getting_Set_Up for some more info)
- Your homepage content is yours to design to emphasise the local nature of your community by giving it a personal feel.
- Keeping your homepages up to date keeps your current members interested, so review regularly.
- The Mentors or Support team can help you update your homepage(s), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com
New Freeglers need an easy start
- Ensure all posts, especially first posts, are dealt with swiftly and sympathetically.
- Don’t overwhelm members with lots of admin emails.
- The less time and hoops for a new Freegler to use your community, the more likely they will be a contributing member.
- New member moderation will pick up spammers and any misposts.
- No-one likes to be told off or have their first efforts fail, so avoid rejecting first posts, advise kindly how to edit, amend to suit if possible, and only reject as a last resort if accompanied by a friendly email to say why. See ‘Avoid rejecting messages’ (link) for more information.
- If you must question new members (but please don’t!), don’t send long questionnaires or request personal information as that can be very off-putting. See Data_Protection_Guidelines#Guidelines_for_Volunteer_Moderators for legal guidance on personal information.
Ideally, moderation of messages needs to be at least every few hours. Put members who post correctly on Group Settings (unmoderated).
- Messages promptly posted on your message board are good for the person posting as well as those that respond.
- The fewer members there are on moderation the less time you have to spend moderating.
- Moderating once a day is the absolute minimum for a community to thrive.
- Your members can be trusted - you can always put them back on moderation if they slip up.
- The fewest obstacles put in the way of speedy messaging will enable the maximum reuse of items.
- Your team can have confidence that your community is efficient with moderation taking place throughout the day, which you can enable by having a rota or system in place.
- Help is available. Mentors are available for holiday and emergency help: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simple and minimal rules
Keep rules short and to the point. Apply them fairly, always politely, and with flexibility where appropriate. Your community rules are for your community only, it’s not acceptable to try to enforce your rules on other communities, such as asking your member to leave another community.
- The fewer rules you impose, the less work it is for you to moderate.
- No-one is keen on reading or remembering lots of rules, so too many just means that your members don’t know what they are.
- The Disclaimer statement covers legality and safety, so there is no need to duplicate that with a long list of items, but if there are particular items your community disallows (eg. live creatures, weapons) then include them in your rules.
- Review your rules regularly to make sure that members are being sent up to date information and your team is still in agreement with them.
- The fewer barriers in place for people to reuse items the more effective we are.
Don't knock enthusiasm
It isn't an indication of ill intent if a member is a ‘multi-joiner’ or makes lots of requests. Freegle is about encouraging reuse, so people who are able to travel or need things are not going against our objects. They don’t need to be removed or restricted unless there is a very good reason to do so. Occasionally, there will be people who exploit Freegle - but this is rare, and you should assume that people are innocent and kind until proven guilty.
- Keeping things local and helping those in need is great, but our main object is saving resources by encouraging reuse without discrimination to those who are happy to do that.
- A lot of people travel widely in their usual pattern of work/socialising, so joining lots of communities isn't necessarily an indication of extra journeys.
- Asking for lots of things can indicate that someone is happy to reuse other people’s items, not necessarily that they are wanting to sell them.
- People with lots of thumbs up are offering a good service, not taking things away from others.
- Different areas might necessitate different guidelines, but having a relaxed approach might work better in terms of getting lots of freegling happening rather than restricting things too much.
- Look at the number and type of replies a member is making, rather than the number of communities joined, before making an assumption or decision about their intent.
- Members have their own idea of 'local' that probably doesn't align with our Freegle areas.
‘Wanted’ posts are a good thing
Equally accept requests or offers as first and subsequent posts from members. Our primary purpose is to keep things in use, so members who reuse those items are essential for Freegle. Requests should be encouraged, with no restrictions on numbers of wanted posts or numbers of items requested.
For first posts, it’s discriminatory to expect an offer first. For example, someone who has been homeless and just got a flat has nothing to offer - would we want to exclude them?
- Extra hurdles, especially on a first post, potentially stops all freegling by a member.
- It’s very easy to fake an offer, or offer something silly, and get round an ‘offer first’ rule.
- It doesn’t take into account people who may have freegled elsewhere before moving to your area.
- It disregards new member responses to other people’s wanteds.
- If occasionally someone gets a bit carried away with requests that’s better dealt with by a friendly quiet word, not a rule.
- Some members prefer to answer a request for something rather than place it as an offer.
- Encouraging people to freegle can help them consider freegling in the future when they have things to offer; it can be inspiring to receive an item, so encourages subsequent offers.
- Wanted posts often remind people that they have that item languishing unused so will respond with an offer.
- People, including us, overestimate the number of Wanted posts. Most groups have more Offers than Wanteds. Modtools dashboard gives up to date information about this.
Avoid rejecting messages
Avoid rejecting messages if possible. Members have made the effort to post a message, so unless it contravenes core rules (free and legal) or your group rules, try not to reject it. Editing a message and, if needed, sending a friendly personal message to the member to explain, will be more effective in the long run.
- Experience has shown that members who post messages that are rejected often do not post again. No one likes to be rejected and some members will feel hurt at being told they have not used the right words to offer their personal possessions. They may never consider freegling again.
- Personal, positive, friendly messages, thanking the poster, explaining exactly the issue and why their community has these guidelines are more effective than sending out lists of rules.
- Editing messages, then sending a note afterwards to explain, helps the member get it right next time, saves you time and your member hassle.
Impression of you and Freegle
We are providing a service which is helping your members get in touch with one another to keep stuff out of the waste stream, so let’s be good hosts.
- Friendly, helpful messages are far more likely to get the response you want.
- No-one enjoys (or can be bothered) reading long messages, so keep things brief.
- English may not be the first language for some of your members, so clear straightforward messages will make it easier for them to understand.
- Members are freegling, which is what we want! Don’t tell them off or make accusations, always explain any decisions or rules kindly.
- Switching chitchat notifications on in Modtools>Settings>Personal and responding to members who post on chitchat can encourage participation.
- Events and Volunteer requests are a useful service that can stimulate community cohesion.
- Reviewing your standard messages regularly to see how they come across will make sure you are giving out relevant information. It may help to ask someone neutral to help or look at other Standard Messages in Modtools. Contact Mentors email@example.com. if you need help with this.
- Signing off as “Freegle Volunteer” is probably friendlier than “Group Owner” or “Moderator” and reminds members that you are a volunteer, not being paid to do this!
- Don’t be anonymous, let your member know your first name.
Use the member website when you want to be a member. Use ModTools when you want to be a volunteer. Never use your position to unfairly obtain items that are being freegled on your community. It is not acceptable to hold onto messages whilst you reply or to say that you are a moderator or owner in order to gain advantage. See Can I make use of freegle for more information.
Handling problems and complaints from members is tricky. Finding the balance between running your community how you would like it to be run and how members would like you to run it is not always easy but is important to do well.
- How problems are handled is a reflection on Freegle locally and nationally.
- The adage ‘the customer is always right’ has a lot of merit; try to see things from their perspective.
- Keeping calm and polite is the most effective way to resolve situations. Wait a while and reread before pressing ‘send’!
- There is lots of advice in the Wiki that has been compiled by experienced Freegle volunteers on dealing with issues and complaints. See How_To_Deal_With and Member Complaints.
Use tools/services to make it easier to run or use your Community
Take up some or all of the helpful tools and services that Freegle makes available for your members and you.
- Switch Trashnothing integration ‘on’ (Modtools>Settings>Community>Status) to attract more members.
- A growing number of internet users do so via their phones. Enabling and promoting the Freegle App will be appreciated by your members.
- Set Moderator notifications as frequently as you can manage (Modtools>Settings>Personal) so work doesn’t pile up.
- Polite and helpful responses from the volunteer team will make your members feel valued; try to reply to emails to the volenteers address within 24 hours.
Ask for help
You are not alone. All Freegle volunteers are in this together, we have a shared mission, so take advantage of others’ experience, friendship and advice.
Experience has shown that sharing a problem, solutions and ideas is good for you and others. Consider consulting and contributing on the following national groups and helplines:
- This is the platform used to host national discussion groups. All Volunteers are strongly encouraged to become actively involved on Discourse. This is where you can read about things that concern other Volunteers and gain valuable knowledge for yourself. You can ask questions about things you are not sure of or find confusing. There will (nearly) always be someone who can give you assistance or can guide you as to where you can find help
- Freegle Central
- Sharing experience, information and helping each other on a range of issues - http://freegle.in/Central
- Tech and ModTools Group
- Help with problems or questions https://freegle.in/Tech
- Support mailbox
- Help with general problems or questions, particularly techy type stuff! Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mentor Group
- One to one help from experienced volunteers for new communities, and assistance for struggling communities and volunteers - Email: email@example.com
- Info mailbox
- firstname.lastname@example.org - manned not by experts but by friendly people who usually know who to ask!
- Freegle Wiki
- Full of useful information on all aspects of running your community, publicity tips and how you can help Freegle nationally - http://wiki.ilovefreegle.org/
- Rock Cafe
- A place to chat and share with other volunteers around the UK - http://freegle.in/Cafe
- Development Group
- Join this group for discussions and putting into place ideas on how we can help grow and thrive and make a difference nationally. http://freegle.in/Development
- Funding Group
- A place to ask for help and share experience of getting local and national funding assistance http://freegle.in/Funding
- Local Mods Group
- If you have a local mods groups, join it. If there isn't one, why not encourage your neighbouring volunteers to set one up - you can work and share together.
Publicise your community
The more people who know about your community, the better it will be for freegling. Make use of national publicity tools to spread the word and get more members.
- Use publicity features on Modtools to share posts on Facebook and Twitter.
- Follow local reuse, environment, other reuse/recycling sites and share their posts on Facebook.
- Order and use Freegle Business Cards.
- Regularly read Central for ideas and information and also to share your successes or suggestions.
- Check Promotion for ideas.
Freegle is run collectively by all of us, so make sure that you are involved and informed about Freegle nationally.
- At least one volunteer for each community must be a member of Freegle Central, though preferably more than one would be better. (see Freegle Volunteer Agreement)
- All volunteers that are signed up for Modtools with Owner or Moderator status have automatic access to membership of the Discourse platform, where all the central discussion groups are hosted. Click on ‘Us’ in the top menu bar. All Volunteers are strongly encouraged to become actively involved on Discourse. Read, join in discussions, or ask for help on any of the groups. You can see some threads of current discussions on Discourse on the Modtools Dashboard page (click on any of them to see the whole topic).
- Help make decisions on the future of Freegle by becoming a Member of Freegle Ltd - Invitation to Membership application form  . We are proud of our inclusive and open governance so becoming a Member supports that ethos.
- Offer some time to help with the national work of running Freegle. Email email@example.com for information.
Get to know other Freegle Volunteers
Chatting to other Freegle volunteers can help put a 'face' to people and establish better rapport for good and bad times.
- All of us are jolly nice.
- It’s more enjoyable than you might think.
- It’s easier to relate to people online once you’ve met or chatted to them.
- There are ways to do this easily -
- Freegle Rock, social chat group for all national volunteers -
- Zoomstock, a video chat for any volunteer who wishes to join in held every Thursday at 2pm, the link is along the top on Modtools.
- Freestock, an annual (except in lockdowns!) summer meet up for Freegle volunteers, families and friends
- Attending, or even organising, a meet-up of your local communities and fellow volunteers. Face to face or online, either would be good.