Volunteer work is today more in demand than ever, especially with more and more people social distancing due to COVID-19. Fortunately, with an internet connection and a smartphone or laptop, you can use your skills by virtual volunteering for many organizations without even leaving your home!
What Is Virtual Volunteering?
Virtual volunteering offers plenty of options to do volunteer work online. In today’s digital age, many organizations have shifted their business to the internet. Instead of going to the store to buy groceries, we can order online delivery. Instead of attending meetings in person, we video conference.
So it’s no wonder that in today’s world, you can also volunteer online. This is called virtual volunteering or online volunteering. But what exactly does it mean?
Volunteering Goes Digital
Many people think of volunteering as working directly with people. The term makes us think of a museum docents, a caregiver at animal shelters, tutors reading to children, and helping with homework or workers in a soup kitchen. In other words, volunteers perform many activities that salaried staff just don’t have the bandwidth to do. Volunteers take on vital roles without pay.
Of course, volunteering isn’t limited to these types of roles. There are many “back office” activities, such as the administration of a membership list or bookkeeping for a club. Volunteers can also help with website maintenance of a homepage or the translation of a newsletter into several languages. These are all great places to start when considering virtual volunteering.
Advantages of Virtual Volunteering
Many non-profit clubs and aid organizations utilize the internet and social media and therefore provide opportunities for volunteer work. Often you don’t need much experience or skill to help in these positions. You’ll probably need a brief orientation before you get started, but it probably won’t be exhaustive.
Virtual volunteering also gives people with little time a chance to volunteer. You can usually work flexible hours, so you can help at your own pace. Another bonus: introverts or shy people, virtual volunteering might be perfect for you! You can still make an impact by volunteering your time, even without interacting with others.
Virtual Volunteering – Near and Far
Large, non-profit organizations, in particular, are increasingly turning to virtual volunteering. The United Nations(UN), for example, has set up its own internet platform for digital volunteers. There, you can find a variety of virtual volunteer opportunities!
In the age of globalization, volunteer translation activities are of course a major focus. But the UN also relies on online volunteers for writing and editing. Those who do not have a particular affinity for language, on the other hand, can make themselves useful in the technology development area. There are so many possibilities of virtual volunteering – and that’s only within the UN!
Virtual Volunteering Closer to Home
If you would rather get involved with an organization in your hometown, you’ll probably be able to find a virtual opportunity there as well. If you don’t have a specific organization in mind, you can ask your community center. The website Volunteer Match can be a great resource for finding volunteering opportunities.
Once you have found an organization you would like to help, you should clarify a few questions in advance. This includes how much time you can spend volunteering. Good time management will help you. Also, make sure that you have a clearly defined area of responsibility. This helps the entire organization keep competencies and contacts clear. Besides, it gives you the certainty of knowing exactly what to do, especially in the beginning.
Practical Tips for Virtual Volunteering
- Have a contact person/mentor who can advise you through the process. They should first familiarize you with the organization and its structure. They should also be able to help you with technical problems or questions. Nothing is more frustrating with virtual volunteering than when technology is constantly failing and you can’t do the job you’ve volunteered for.
- Get regular feedback from your mentor. Through feedback, they can let you know how they appreciate your efforts, and ways you can improve. One of virtual volunteering’s disadvantages is your potential isolation from fellow volunteers, so communication with your mentor is key.
- Keep lines of communication open. If it’s not working out, let the organization know. Unfortunately, far too often volunteers get overloaded with too many tasks. So, you should let your mentor or others know if your voluntary tasks just aren’t working out anymore.
- Don’t overextend yourself – many volunteers quit their work soon after starting. That’s because they feel overwhelmed. It’s better to start slow when it comes to working hours and abilities. That way, you can grow into your task and test if you like virtual volunteering at all.
Keep Up the Good Work!
Virtual volunteering with an organization is a wonderful way to help others, but it should be something meaningful to you. If it starts to become more of a burden than a blessing, it might be time to consider other forms of volunteering.
What are your favorite ways to volunteer? Any particular organizations that have especially good opportunities to volunteer virtually? Let us know below, or talk with friends and family on FamilyApp!