Irrespective of busy schedule, disability, and insecurity that pose major constraints to volunteering the advancement of technology has proven a worthy alternative through the introduction of virtual volunteering.
Volunteering is the process of dedicating your time and skills towards the achievement of a cause without expecting or getting anything in return. Through the advent of technology and the internet, the process of volunteering through the internet is made easy.
Virtual Volunteering has been around since the early days of the internet though it was not fully recognized, however people volunteered virtually.
The recent global pandemic that caused many people and businesses to stay indoors made virtual volunteering more popular, as people and organizations sort ways to keep dedicating their services.
This article will be taking you through everything you need to know about virtual volunteering.
What is Virtual Volunteering?
Virtual Volunteering refers to volunteer activities completed in whole or in part using the internet and a home, school, telecenter or work computer, or other internet-connected devices, such as smartphones or personal digital assets.
Virtual Volunteering can also be called online volunteering, e-volunteering or remote volunteering. It means completing volunteering jobs through the internet, in whole or in part using a home, school or office computer.
Virtual Volunteering allows you to search for jobs you can work on through the internet due to lack of time, personal reasons, obligations at home and a disability that would restrict you from working in person.
How Did Virtual Volunteering Start?
The word ‘Virtual Volunteering’ was first used by Steve Glikbarg, the co_founder of Impact Online in 1995. The history of virtual volunteering dates as far back as the early days of the internet. In 1970s, Project Gutenberg started using e-volunteers to make available electronic versions of works in the public domain. A new not for profit organization formerly known as Impact Online, now called VolunteerMatch, based in Alto, California, started pushing the idea of virtual Volunteering in 1995, by 1996 they received a grant from the James Irvine Foundation to begin an initiative to research the importance of online volunteering and to promote the idea to not for profit organisations in the USA.
The research was called the Virtual Volunteering project, with the website launched in 1997. In April 1999, about 100 organizations have been recorded by the virtual volunteering project as employing the help of virtual volunteers and were listed on its website. Due to the increment in the amount of not for profit organizations, government programs, schools, and do many other organizations using online volunteers, the virtual volunteering project stopped listing them on the website in 2000 and instead directed its effort in promoting virtual volunteering, recording organizations with huge online volunteering programs and making guidelines and rules to regulate the use of online volunteers.
The NetAid.org initiative also started in 1999, with an online volunteering section, known as the UN Online Volunteering Service today, managed by the United Nations Volunteers, with a huge number of online volunteers. In 2003, a large number of people have already contributed to the UN’s online volunteering service, each of them with different backgrounds, such as teachers, university graduates, employees from private organizations, etc. However, the UN’s Online Volunteering Service is now an independent body.
Online Volunteering has evolved a lot from what it was in the early days, with many nonprofit organizations and other initiatives embracing its use. With the advancement in technology, and everything going digital, online volunteering is already widely used in the world. Wikipedia is an example of Online Volunteering.
Why is Virtual Volunteering Important?
There are so many reasons why virtual volunteering is important. A lot of people would love to volunteer but due to lack of time, family obligations, jobs, and other demanding factors they might not be able to volunteer in person, now with virtual volunteering you get to volunteer from anywhere at any time, you can work from the comfort of your homes, on your bed, remotely or anyhow you like.
Virtual Volunteering has also created an opportunity for people who are disabled to take part in volunteering. Virtual Volunteering gives you choices across International waters, you can volunteer for any not-for-profit organization from anywhere in the world.
One other good importance of virtual volunteering is in times of a global pandemic, like the recent Covid19 experience, where everyone was locked in, schedules canceled and jobs halted. Imagine a situation whereby you were volunteering in person and then you had to halt abruptly, the best option then would be virtual volunteering. If there was nothing like virtual volunteering, your plans for that period will most certainly be terminated.
How Does Virtual Volunteering Work?
Virtual Volunteering works in different ways, you can perform tasks such as:
However, this is just a small list of possible ways virtual volunteering works, every organization has their own idea, therefore every volunteer will always find ways to help out.
What Are The Benefits Of Virtual Volunteering For Both Individuals and Organizations?
There are a lot of benefits associated with Virtual Volunteering for both the individual and the Organisation, virtual volunteering has introduced a lot of good opportunities for people willing to volunteer but have no time.
Benefits of Virtual Volunteering For individuals.
The following are the benefits of virtual volunteering for the individual:
Benefits of virtual volunteering for an organization
The following are the benefits of virtual volunteering for an organization:
How Can You Find Volunteering Opportunities?
Here’s an outline of the ways to find volunteering opportunities:
Find out what type of volunteering job you would love to do, something that’s in line with your skills and expertise. It could be web design, online tutoring, fundraising, online campaigning, and any other thing you feel you can do.
Here’s a list of some volunteering jobs available to anyone interested in volunteering:
Tutoring will always be in demand, especially in recent times when the global pandemic put half to every activity. If you are an expert in any particular subject, this is a very good way for you to volunteer as a virtual tutor to help students. Sites like Learn for Free provide free and reduced-cost services to bring virtual volunteers in contact with students who need help.
If you’re really good and love speaking other languages, then you volunteer on sites like Translation Common to translate documents, you can also volunteer on sites like By My Eye to help translate instructions for visually impaired people if you don’t know any foreign language.
Text and Phone hotlines
If you have a counseling skill or you’d love to advise people, you can start with volunteering with hotlines. Hotlines are available 24/7 to help people who are troubled and they’ll always need the assistance of volunteers, Some hotlines use audio, while others like Crisis Text Line use texting.
Transcription and Data Entry
Federal entities like the Library of Congress and a lot of organizations depend on accurately transcribed documents, if you have a skill in data entry, digital literacy, and any other related skills then this job is for you.
Letter Writing and Elder Care
It could get depressing being alone sometimes, especially during the Covid19 lockdown, a lot of aged people staying alone might need care and attention given to them to kill the loneliness. Virtual volunteers can easily render their services through organizations like Letters Against Isolation, where you can write letters and create cards for aged people living alone. You can also volunteer on the US Administration on Aging to keep old people company and chat with them.
Coding and Programming
If you’re a skilled Programmer or you’re very good at coding, then you can sign up on platforms like Code for America, where to get to render your assistance on projects that aid different social agendas.
#2. Make a Decision
After you’ve carried out research on the different areas where you can volunteer, decide on how you’ll be making a contribution, know the kind of skills you have and the activities you’d like to participate in, find out what different organizations are looking for in a volunteer, everyone has there own area of needs. So decide on the area you want to specialize in and the organization that’s in need of your skill.
#3. Look for an Organization
After deciding on what type of services you’d love to render, look for an organization. If you already have an organization you’d love to work with, you can reach out to them through their contact information or emails and ask about available positions for volunteers with your skills.
If you don’t have any organization in mind, then you can browse the internet to find anyone of your choice but to help you narrow down your search. Keep reading to find a few organizations you can start with.
#4. Send applications
After deciding on the organisations that interest you and the kind of skills you have to render, carry out a thorough research on the organization. Check out things like the organization’s vision and mission, requirements for virtual volunteers, available skills and opportunities, and the application process.
Follow their requirements closely, find out their available helplines, reach out to the person in charge for more information about the organization and position, find out the documents you’re required to submit, and if there’s any internal application process. Organizations are always looking for and happy to receive new volunteers so you have nothing to worry about.
#5. Accept the Organisation Terms and State your Expectations
Once you’ve already settled on the organization you’d like to work with, ensure that you set out and agree with the necessary conditions with the organization. Make sure you fully understand the terms of the project, project requirements, your responsibilities, what the organization expects from you like, your commitment, deadlines, working hours, and required skills.
Do not be scared to ask questions on areas you do not understand. In as much as you’ll be working from home or remotely, ensure you always keep in touch with the organization, in case of any new developments that might affect the project you’re working on.
#6. Start Your New Role as a Volunteer
The only difference between volunteering and other regular jobs is that you’re rendering your services free of charge, asides this the job is quite demanding and time consuming. To avoid getting confused and disorganized along the way, ensure you follow the five rules of setting goals, which are, specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and timely. Have an organized schedule and work area. Enjoy your job as a volunteer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and collaborate.
Where Can One be a Virtual Volunteer
#1. United Nations Volunteers
The United Nations Volunteers programs contributes to the advancement of sustainable human growth and development by connecting organisations and volunteers from anywhere in the world and at anytime.
They get over 12,000 online volunteers each year, 60% of which are from developing countries, they work with over 180 countries and have 94% satisfaction from both organizations and volunteers. There’s a list of volunteering opportunities listed on the site like translation, research, writing and editing, outreach and advocacy, teaching and so much more. They have a solid search engine with email alert capabilities.
#2. Amnesty Decoder
Amnesty Decoder is a part of Amnesty International, this platform brings online volunteers in contact with organizations that needs their services. Here you’ll be investigating documents, files, pictures and any other information that may serve as an evidence against human rights violation.
This platform connects skilled individuals who are willing to offer their volunteering services with non profit organizations that needs them. Their aim is to support and strengthen the social good sector.
The platform makes use of a good search engine and host an interactive sessions mado the most in demand expertise.
VolunteerMatch has connected a large number of virtual volunteers with non-profit organizations seeking their help. They have over 100 thousand participating organizations, more than 83 thousand opportunities and they have gotten millions of referrals since it’s inception. The platform has a live map with real time updates.
Their top causes are targeted towards communities, children and youths, the elderly, health, human rights, disabled people, animals, the environment, hunger etc.
#5. Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg is an e-library of free eBooks, they were the first providers of free eBooks, founded in Michael Hart who invented eBooks in 1971. The platform was named after the inventor of printing press.
They have more than 60 thousand eBooks based on the titles that have entered the public domain. The platform enlist the help of virtual volunteers to proofread, collect physical books for digitalization, and make CDs and DVDs for people with low or no internet connection.
#6. Crisis Text Line
This is a platform that offers free 24/7 textline to people in crisis in the United States, it makes use of the services of online volunteers who are called volunteer crisis counselors, they work from anywhere at anytime with a computer and good internet connection.
The volunteer crisis counselors answer texts from people experiencing crisis, calming them down through attentive listening, collaborative problem solving, and safety planning. To successfully become one of its counselors, you’ll complete a 30 minutes crisis counselor application and consent to a background check, take a 30 hours web based crisis counseling and intervention training, which you can do anywhere and finally get to work saving lives.
This is one of the largest nonprofit organization targeted towards young people in particular and social change. The have millions of members that represents US area codes and over 130 countries, they connect their volunteers, social change, and civil action campaign to make real world impact on causes they care about.
Some of their biggest campaigns includes, teens for jeans, voter registration, get the filter out, sincerely, us etc. The platform’s causes includes, education, mental health, physical health, homeless, gun violence, bullying, environment, sexual harassment, gender rights, racial justice and a lot more.
#8. Translators without Borders
Translators without borders depends on virtual volunteers to translate millions of words, and they also assist in running the organization. They work with volunteers with different types of unique skills, this is also a plus for you as you also get to learn a new skill which you can use at your jobs.
You can start volunteering with them if you’re fluent in one language asides your native language, you can either choose to translate medical documents or crisis response but there’s still a lot of projects for you to work on covering diverse fields.
They also have other roles such as project management, fundraising and graphic design.
#9. Smithsonian Digital Volunteers
The Smithsonian institute is the world’s largest museum, education, and research complex, with 19 museums and the national zoo. It was founded in 1846 with funds from the Englishman James Smithson.
Asides from the volunteers who supports the organization on-site, they also have digital volunteers who can participate in providing services in the transcription center, Wikipedia volunteer program, encyclopedia of life, Invader ID and other available opportunities. The huge number of online volunteers makes the outstanding digital collections available to a larger audience.
Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most famous platform for people powered research. The research is made possible by millions of volunteers who dedicate their services in assisting professional researchers in carrying out their jobs. Most of these projects have lead to a number of published research papers and several open source sets of analyzed data
You don’t need any special skill, qualification or expertise to participate in the projects. You can easily search for available projects by skills or by fields of study.
What Should I Do Before Signing Up for a Virtual Volunteering Opportunity
1. Carry Out a Thorough Research on each Organization
Beforesigningup for any virtual volunteering opportunity, thoroughly research on the organization you’d love to work with to avoid any issue arising in the future, if possible ask questions where necessary, know the kind of research they carry out. Besides you don’t always have to settle for the first option that pops up with all the options you have to choose from, there might be something better.
2. Keep an eye out for illegal platforms.
While the internet has presented a lot of opportunities to people, there are still some fraudulent activities been carried out there and virtual volunteering is not exempted from it. This is why you need to thoroughly investigate any organization you’d like to work with, to avoid falling into the hands of scammers and end up wasting your time or getting discouraged.
3. Find out the kind of training and experience that is needed
Most times some organizations demand you go through some training and you have some experience, however there are still virtual volunteering opportunities do not require any additional procedure. Find out the kind of training and experience that is required for you before signing up.
4. Communication Channel
Always keep the communication line open, ask questions about areas you find hard or confusing. Find out who’s in charge of the project you’re handling for the organization, don’t forget that communication is very vital to your success and achievements. Ensure you also find out the different ways you can communicate with the organisation.
How do Organizations Attract and Engage Virtual Volunteers
These are some of the following ways you can attract and engage virtual volunteers:
1. Set Clear Goals that are in line With Your Volunteer’s Expectations
Before hiring the services of any virtual volunteer, ensure you set clear goals that are in line with their expectations. Make sure the goals are specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and timely. Make sure they know your organisation’s vision, mission, goals and objectives in order to work according to that as this will ensure maximum productivity and successful outcome.
Ensure your volunteers also fit the job description, do not hire someone whose skill is outside your requirement, except you’re not looking for any specific skills. Map out plans and strategies to serve as guidelines for your volunteers.
2. Makeout Time and Create a Strategy for Your Volunteering Training Program
Attracting and engaging a virtual volunteer has to start with making a proper training program available for them, in as much as it’s going to consume time, it is a very important business strategy that is good for the success and growth of your organization. A good training is the best way to motivate, develop, and engage your volunteers.
Find out some few things like what you’re likely to gain from the training, who’ll teach your volunteers, the kind of resources available and your organisation’s budget for the training.
3. Establish an Interpersonal Relationship with Your Volunteers
Another cool way of attracting and retaining your virtual volunteers is by developing a healthy communication between you and them. A lot of volunteers would love to establish a good relationship with your organization, that’s why they applied in the first place, they’ll also love to connect and build friendship with other volunteers in the Organization.
Find out ways you can develop this relationship, as this is very beneficial in achieving the organization’s goals and vision. You could let them establish contacts by setting up a virtual meeting for them, as well as finding out their interest, connecting with them on social media, and regularly sending out motivation and inspirational text.
4. Respect Your Volunteers Values and Time
This is really crucial to the growth and development of your organization, nobody likes others infringing on their time or questioning their values. Besides they’re already dedicating their time to your organization’s cause and vision by providing their services at no cost. Try as much as possible to value their opinions, listen to their contributions, be attentive to their emotions, avoid stereotyping, and try your best to learn something new from them.
5. Recognize any Achievements Made by your Volunteers Towards the Organization’s Goals
Every one of us love praises, rewards and acknowledgements, in as much as you’re not giving your volunteers anything, that shouldn’t stop you from recognizing their dedicated service and commitment in achieving your cause . Besides not everyone has the heart to dedicate their time to providing their skills without getting any thing in return.
You can send thank you text, praise them for their hard work and also publish their success stories on your website.
6. Always Get Your Volunteers Involved and Updated with Anything You’re Working on.
Ensure that your volunteers share the same mission, vision, goals, and objectives with that of your organization, always keep them updated on new developments, create a social media account where you all take about your achievements and difficulties encountered along the way, promote your volunteers achievements, share their contents and always thank them for the services they render to your organization.
7. Be Available to Your Volunteers at all Times
Always make sure you’re available to your volunteers at all times because they might have issues concerning the services they’re offering to your organization, which you’ll need to attend to, and if you’re inaccessible at that moment it might get them discouraged. The only way you can resolve any issue is by making sure you’re accessible any time you’re help is needed. Make sure you have different opinions for keeping in contact, always make out time for disabled volunteers and ensure you provide each volunteer with any important information they’ll be needing.
8. Be Creative
There are a lot of diverse ways you can keep your volunteers engaged, find new ideas to communicate, foster a better relationship and reward your volunteers, you’re not just doing this for them but also for the growth and development of your organization.
Virtual Volunteering means completing volunteering jobs through the internet, in whole or in part using a home, school or office computer.
The following is the importance of virtual volunteering:
- Virtual Volunteering is flexible.
- Virtual Volunteering creates an opportunity for busy people and disabled people to partake in it.
- Virtual Volunteering can be done from anywhere at any time.
- Virtual Volunteering guarantees security and protection especially in times of any global crisis.
Virtual Volunteering works in the following ways:
- Fundraising phone calls and outreach
- Data entry
- Email marketing
- Web design
- Volunteer tracking
- Video creation
- Virtual assistant
- Marketing or brand support
- Graphic design and photography
- Blogging, copywriting or editing
- App development
- Social media promotions and management
- Virtual mentoring or tutoring
- Virtual campaign
The following are the benefits of virtual volunteering for individuals:
- It created room for disabled persons who could not volunteer in person to do.
- People with tight schedules who can not travel easily can now volunteer at anytime
- More time for volunteering.
- Flexibility in setting a time, choosing location and level of participation.
- Volunteering remotely or from the comfort of your home.
- It’s is more secured, since you’ll not need to travel out of your comfort zone to dangerous places.
- The best way to show your skills and passion, such as virtual tutoring.
- Amnesty Decorder.
- Project Gutenberg
- Crisis Text Line
- Translators without Borders
- Smithsonian Digital Volunteers
- Carry out a thorough research
- Make a Decision
- Look for an organization
- Send applications
- Accept the terms
- Start your new job as a virtual volunteer.
Virtual Volunteering call also be called online volunteering, e-volunteering, or digital volunteering. It is the process by which people dedicate their services to a cause through the internet, with the use of a home or school computer.
These days even people who have busy schedules and disabilities can volunteer online, virtual volunteering can be done from anywhere, at anytime. It has a lot of benefits associated with it but before selecting any organization or platform to volunteer with, endure you carry out a thorough research, and adhere to their rules and regulations.
This article covers all you need to know about virtual volunteering to help you make a better and clearer decision.