In the business world, working from home is becoming increasingly popular. It eliminates commute times, saves gas, and allows for greater flexibility in schedules. Taking a cue from the business sector, “virtual volunteering” is catching on among certain volunteer demographics. Of course, this is a given for people with busy schedules who do not have the time to volunteer in a traditional sense by committing to a few hours on a set day of the week. However, when given the opportunity to work on projects when they have time — in their own homes — volunteering becomes an option.
Virtual volunteering is also a great outreach opportunity. High school/college clubs and church youth groups are often looking for service projects. In addition, you may want to explore a partnership with high school industrial arts or home economics classes — even vocational school programs. There are also many other groups in your community who would welcome the chance to volunteer. Volunteerism can help boost self-esteem and foster a sense of connectedness, purpose, and contribution to the community. Consider approaching senior (55 and better) apartment centers and individuals who are homebound.
An Appreciated Distraction
Virtual volunteering could be an appreciated distraction for people recovering from some medical procedures, too. Other agencies to approach may include adult day cares, programs for learning disabled or MR/DD, centers for individuals with mental health challenges, and group homes. Not only will your agency benefit from the extra help, but you may be fostering a real sense of accomplishment among those volunteers assisting you. The list of tasks that could be delegated to virtual volunteers is really only limited by your imagination. They run the gamut from easy to technical, including:
- Stuffing envelopes
- Collating materials
- Assembling crafts, small toys, etc.
- Writing newsletter articles, press releases, grants, etc.
- Calling prospective donors during fundraising campaigns
- Developing educational materials
- Desktop publishing of newsletters, flyers, brochures, etc.
- Graphic design
The duties listed above serve to fulfill an existing mission. However, it might be interesting to think about how a group of virtual volunteers may be recruited to become an entire program or initiative on its own! To successfully manage your virtual volunteers, make sure to give them the same resources you would make available to traditional volunteers. Ensure that work-at-home volunteers are given a training/orientation, and be sure to touch base with them within a week after they begin volunteering. Be clear in your instructions and deadlines, and give volunteers a designated contact name and phone number so they can reach that coordinator in case any questions arise.
Supplementing Traditional Volunteerism
Traditional volunteerism is sure to remain at the heart of the nonprofit world. However, virtual volunteers can act as an important supplement to any program. Explore the ways in which virtual volunteers can produce real results for you.