Virtual volunteering, sometimes called online volunteering, has been growing in popularity in the last decade. Not only is there now a greater quantity of virtual volunteering opportunities, but there is also a greater range of such opportunities. In its infancy, virtual volunteering targeted mainly technical support personnel, who could assist organizations with jobs like coding or web design. Now, virtual volunteering opportunities are as diverse as in-person opportunities, opening the doors for anybody with an Internet connection to help.
Known for flexibility, virtual volunteering might be the perfect answer to people with a passion to serve but limits in their availability. If you’re ready to think outside the box, consider these easy steps to finding the right virtual volunteering opportunity.
1. What skills can you offer?
Think of the skills you enjoy practicing and wish to contribute to a needy cause. Maybe writing is your forte, in which case you could help an organization write grants for fundraising or blogs for their web site. Are you a whiz with social media? Use your savvy skills to help an organization boost their social media presence. Do you have excellent communication skills? If so, you could become a “tele-tutor,” perhaps with Innovations For Learning, Inc., in which you would be matched with a student, whom you would tutor via video calls. Or, you could offer support to teens experiencing personal traumas through Crisis Text Line. The possibilities are endless!
2. What’s your passion?
Now that you’ve identified your skills, think about a cause that you want to serve. Maybe you care deeply about helping disadvantaged youth, or maybe you’re passionate about the environment. You can even think bigger, and serve a cause overseas. Head to VolunteerMatch, plug in the cause you want to serve, and then narrow the results according to virtual volunteering. UNVolunteers, which focuses entirely on virtual volunteering, allows you to search for causes worldwide. Now more than ever, there is no limit to your ability to serve!
3. What type of arrangement do you prefer?
Believe it or not, there are two kinds of virtual volunteering. Founder of CareerVillage.org, Jared Chung, describes them as the remote/telecommuting model and the “virtual volunteering 2.0” model. The first option requires you to complete a particular project for an organization, from beginning to end. Virtual volunteering 2.0 functions solely through the Internet. This means that your volunteer work isn’t a project that you complete on your own and turn in later; rather, communicating via the Internet or phone is your work, and it is ongoing. Crisis Text Line is an example, as well as Chung’s organization, which allows professionals to offer career advice online to disadvantaged youth.
4. How much time can you devote?
Be realistic, and determine the amount of time you can offer. Do you have a sustained period of a few hours every week, which could fit well with remote/telecommuting volunteering? Do you have just an hour, once or twice per week? Or, do you have only spare 15 minutes here and there, perhaps on your lunch break, or while you’re riding the train to work? If you think your time will be sporadic, consider yourself a “micro-volunteer,” and rest assured that there are organizations that need you. According to Forbes contributor, Ryan Scott, micro-volunteers do “simple volunteer projects in small increments of time.” This might include volunteering for a museum by helping them add tag lines to their images online, which will improve searchability. Most volunteer search engines will allow you to narrow your searches by indicating how much spare time you have each week.
5. Are the roles and requirements clearly defined?
Once you have narrowed your search according to skill, cause, type, and time, you’re on the brink of making your selection. As you peruse opportunities, make sure that the opportunity you select has clearly defined responsibilities and duties. While most volunteer opportunities will have definite parameters and guidance, there might be some that are vague. Be careful to avoid vague opportunities, which will lead to bumps in the road and undue frustration.