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examples of virtual volunteering

The Virtual Volunteering Project defines two forms of online volunteering:

  • Technical assistance provided by online volunteers to staff or other volunteers at an agency. Such assistance usually involves task or objective-based assignments, or the volunteer providing a particular expertise to the agency. This would include volunteers who work off-site, using a computer and the Internet:

    • conducting online research: finding information to use in an agency's upcoming grant proposal or newsletter, gathering information on a particular government program or legislation that could affect an agency's clients, gathering web site addresses of similarly-focused organizations, using online phone books and web sites to update contact information for a database, etc.

    • providing professional consulting expertise: answering an agency's questions regarding human resources, accounting, management or legal issues, writing a speech, developing a strategic plan for a particular department, setting up a video conferencing event, providing industrial designs, etc.

    • helping with advocacy: posting information to appropriate online communities (newsgroups, lists, etc.), preparing legislative alerts to be sent via e-mail, keeping track of legislation that could affect an agency's clients, etc.

    • translating a document into another language

    • providing multimedia expertise, such as preparing a PowerPoint, Hypercard, QuickTime or other computer-based presentation

    • designing an agency's newsletter or brochure, or copy editing an agency's publication or proposal

    • proofreading drafts of paper and online publications

    • researching and writing articles for brochures, newsletters, web sites, etc.

    • designing a logo for an agency or program, or filling other illustration needs

    • preparing information for an agency's World Wide Web site

    • writing a technology plan, designing a marketing strategy, or directing other types of organizational planning and outreach

    • making sure a Web site is accessible for people with disabilities

    • registering an agency's World Wide Web home page and other appropriate pages with online search engines, directories and "What's New" sites

    • inputting an agency's volunteer opportunities into the many online databases available for such

    • designing a database system using an agency's in-house database software (FileMaker Pro, Access, Lotus Approach, etc.)

    • providing advanced Web site programming (creating automated forms, interactive areas, e-commerce functions, etc.)

    • doing regular searches for news articles relating to an organization or a particular topic

    • volunteer management assistance: managing other volunteers in the aforementioned activities, providing an online orientation to all volunteers with Internet access (whether or not they are onsite or online volunteers), surveying volunteers via e-mail about their experiences with an agency or program, keeping track of volunteer hours, inputting volunteer opportunities into online databanks, etc.

  • Direct contact between a volunteer and a client / recipient of service. For example, a volunteer, via e-mail or a chat room, could:

    To See These Examples In Practice  
    What about online support groups and
    other informal activities by online volunteers?
    Isn't this "virtual volunteering" as well?

    Absolutely! There are thousands (millions?) of online discussion groups that aren't formally affiliated with or supervised by any agency. On these groups, anyone can ask questions and anyone can provide support to others for just about any subject imaginable. These online support groups deal with everything from using a particular type of software to parents home-schooling their kids to people with a particular disease to fans of a particular hobby.

    To participate, a potential user merely signs up via the web, subscribes via e-mail, or points a newsreader to a newsgroup. There are many advantages to such groups from the volunteer point of view: no application or screening process, no set time commitment -- people volunteer whenever and however they like. Thousands (millions?) of people benefit from these informal online groups -- many are of tremendous value to participants.

    There are materials on our Web site participants in these informal groups might find helpful, such as our index of Resources for Volunteer Moderators and Facilitators of Online Discussion Groups.

    Some of these online groups are profiled on our list of organizations involving online volunteers, because they've initiated or demonstrated an effective or outstanding practice or activity in engaging online volunteers that other groups could learn from and adapt for their own use in effectively involving online volunteers.

    However, the Virtual Volunteering Project is focused on organized volunteering efforts designed to show measurable results and impact, and those designed to demonstrate a certain degree of quality in the type of volunteer service provided. Most agencies need to evaluate volunteer abilities before matching volunteers to assignments and supervise activities to ensure quality. These agencies also must make sure all volunteer activities fit within the agencies' mission. They must also be able to say how many volunteers participated, track and document all volunteering activities, report how many people were served by these volunteer activities, etc. Our materials are geared primarily to this audience of agency staff and volunteers.

    Benefits of using the Internet to find and involve volunteers


    Does Your Organization Already Involve Online Volunteers?
    Then We Want to Hear From You!

    Have you helped or do you help an organization
    via your home or work computer?

    Then We Want to Hear From You!

    Interested in virtual volunteering? Our Project documents and shares best practices and learnings about virtual volunteering, both for agencies and volunteers, via our Web site, as well as through in-person presentations and workshops. Complete information about this Project and our work is available here on our Web site.

    Information for those who wish to
    quote from, copy and/or distribute the information on this Web site

    If you find this or any other Virtual Volunteering Project information helpful, or would like to add information based on your own experience, please contact us.

    If you do use Virtual Volunteering Project materials in your own workshop or trainings, or republish materials in your own publications, please let us know, so that we can track how this information is disseminated.

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