Virtual Volunteering - Getting Started
Volunteering has changed dramatically over recent years, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. From serving in a charity shop, signing up for school functions, to building houses, usually volunteering meant going somewhere to do something. However, today’s volunteers now often expect that volunteering is more flexible, including doing tasks remotely, donating their time and skills from home. Instead of being present to volunteer in the “real world,” many people have found their place in the world of virtual volunteering.
Why Virtual Volunteering?
Virtual volunteering allows people to commit their time and services away from the physical site of an organisation, project, or campaign. Virtual volunteers work over the internet via computer, tablet, or phone to provide their skilled services to support a cause that is important to them.
Physical volunteers will always be in demand, but we’ve seen a huge shift towards people’s interest in virtual volunteering. People and organisations have become much more comfortable working remotely.
The internet allows us to do so much more in much less time, and our skills are no longer limited to our geographical location. More skill sets have stemmed from society's use of technology, as well. Because of that, volunteering is no longer limited to just physical labour or attendance.
For the volunteer, virtual volunteering can mean:
- More opportunities to volunteer for multiple causes and organisations
- More time to volunteer
- Flexibility in scheduling, location, and level of involvement
- A unique outlet for skills or passions that aren’t met by physical volunteering
- More positions for disabled or very remote volunteers
- Fulfilling education or career volunteer milestones
For an organisation, or cause, virtual volunteering often provides:
- More volunteer positions that cover more tasks and skills
- Increased access to more qualified volunteers
- More ways to save money on operating costs
- An easier way to access more data for your organisation
- Professional-level communications, branding, and outreach
- Opportunities to grow and broaden your impact
How Can We Make It Work?
Like any volunteering initiative, you need to think about it before leaping in.
In lots of ways, there is no real difference between traditional volunteering and virtual volunteering: you still need the same infrastructure that you create for regular volunteers. You need training, a volunteer coordinator, recruitment strategies, and regular communication and engagement with your volunteers.
- Look for those tasks in your organisation that can be done online. There are likely to be many of your normal tasks that can be converted to online work. Also think creatively, and see if there are other ways to use volunteers from home.
- Check out what other organisations are doing and what the non-profits in your area might be doing to get ideas.
- Make sure you have software for remote work. Not all virtual opportunities need sophisticated equipment. For instance, you might ask a volunteer to track something, such as bird sightings, or do searches online for resources. They can use free, simple and readily available tools.
- Take your volunteer applications online and your interviews with potential volunteers might be done with applications such as Zoom or Skype.
- Be clear with people about what equipment and services they need to do virtual volunteering. Most projects at a minimum require a computer, tablet such as an iPad, or smartphone as well as a secure and robust internet connection.
- Think about how their volunteering hours and work can be recorded – how can they let you know when a task is complete.
- How will you communicate with your virtual volunteers? Sometimes, remote volunteer communication can be hard. How can they contact people when they need help?
Here are some examples of remote or virtual volunteering:
- Website design or support
- Data entry
- Email marketing or management
- Fundraising phone calls and outreach
- Social media promotion and management
- Copywriting, blogging, or editing
- Graphic design, photography
- Marketing or branding assistance
- Video creation
- Virtual assistance, staff support
- Tutoring or mentoring
Of course, this is just a small sample of all the possible virtual volunteering tasks a person could provide. Each organisation has a different approach, so there will be unique ways for volunteers to support each charity remotely.