Sunday, June 29, 2008

Volunteer! (Virtually)

What is Virtual Volunteering?

Virtual volunteering means volunteer tasks completed, in whole or in part, via the Internet and a home or work computer. It's also known as online volunteering, cyber service, telementoring, teletutoring, and various other names. Virtual volunteering allows agencies to expand the benefits of their volunteer programs, by allowing for more volunteers to participate, and by utilizing volunteers in new areas.

Many people actively search for volunteer opportunities they can complete via home or work computers, because of time constraints, personal preference, a disability or a home-based obligation that prevents them from volunteering on-site. Virtual volunteering allows anyone with Internet access to contribute time and expertise to not-for-profit organizations, schools, government offices and other agencies that utilize volunteer services.

Virtual volunteering is similar to telecommuting, except that, instead of online employees, these are online volunteers. Virtual volunteering does not mean that volunteers work solely via the Internet. Many organizations find a combination of onsite and online tasks for volunteers works best for everyone involved (volunteers, staff, clients). Assignments can have different levels of virtuality. For instance, one volunteer may interact with clients online but meet onsite with a staff member regularly; another may talk with a client via email in addition to their regular face-to-face visits.

Virtual volunteering sometimes also refers to the ways volunteer managers use the Internet to interact with all volunteers, regardless of where service is performed. For instance, some organizations allow volunteers to use e-mail to submit time sheets and progress reports, and other organizations use e-mail to communicate with all volunteers, rather than sending them materials via postal mail.

List of Volunteer Centers by U.S. State
* Points of Light Foundation

National Volunteer Clearinghouses
(multitudes of both offline & online volunteering opportunities)

United Nations Volunteer Program


G. said...

Hey sounds like a easy way to get your feet wet as a volunteer. Nice post!

Laurie said...

What a great post! We've involved online volunteers for years - and we wouldn't have it any other way!

I found it when I had two small children - it was a great way to stay involved, without having to arrange childcare!