Virtual volunteering is growing in popularity as a means of volunteering. However, I believe that it is still has much more to offer in terms of its scope and how it can add value. The key is for it to be included in the volunteering mix and for volunteer co-ordinators to be creative about the possibilities.
Exploring possibilities for a small charity with limited resources
The sheer potential of virtual volunteering is worth a second look as it could unlock talent and launch a charity in ways that were previously unimaginable (please note is still requires the same level of support as face-to-face volunteering to ensure volunteer retention).
Imagine being able to access a global pool of volunteers, rather than just those who live locally to the project. Magically, your volunteer recruitment has become global, the accessible skill set is mind blowing, volunteering happens 24/7 and limitations such as office space and access to (working!) PCs have melted away. It sounds too good to be true, right? In a sense, yes, as volunteer recruitment (virtual or otherwise) will never be this simple. However, this does give an insight into the potential of what virtual volunteering can offer.
Let’s break down the offering described above:
1) global talent pool – if your role (or even part of the role) can be done virtually, then there’s no reason that it can’t be done by a volunteer on the other side of the world. Consideration needs to be given to language barriers and time zones.
2) 24/7 volunteering on tap – if your role can be done around the clock, then this is offers great flexibility for people who may wish to volunteer, but aren’t able to commit to set hours. Your volunteer team may be most active in the dead of night by virtue of the fact that they’re in a different time zone.
3) Volunteering in cyberspace – remote volunteers will need their own internet connection and any of your organisation’s platforms and tools required by the role, e.g. databases or social media channels. Your roles are more inclusive now as they can be accessed by people whom, for whatever reason, wouldn’t be able to get to a physical office space.
How do I decide which roles can be done virtually?
This is the time when you – metaphorically – throw away the rule book for how volunteer roles are developed. Start with the task/process that needs doing and then work back from there, detailing the different steps. Once you’ve broken in down into the respective tasks, you can now work out which of these steps can be done virtually. A volunteer role doesn’t have to be all encompassing; it could be a series of micro-volunteering steps that different people deliver remotely. There may be a step in which 75% of it can be done virtually, but it needs 25% assistance from someone back at base to complete it. For example, you may want to thank people on social media who’ve donated prizes for a fundraising event. However, you need someone to take the pics of the prizes, and then your remote volunteer can thank them virtually, and upload a picture of the prize.
Do share your experience of online volunteering...or feel free to ask any questions.
Annie Moon, social impact consultant and virtual assistant of choice for philanthropists.
LinkedIn: Annie Moon
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