By: NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinksi-Choo
How can you change the world around you without leaving your house? In most of my blog posts, I encourage people to create a positive impact by “going out” to volunteer, serve, and engage with others. Yet, these things can also still be achieved in the comfort of your own home. Volunteering through the Internet is not that uncommon, and there are limitless ways in which one can make their Wi-Fi connection more meaningful than watching funny videos and scrolling through newsfeeds.
What Do Online Volunteers Do?
Online volunteerism includes just as many acts of service as conventional volunteerism. Online volunteers create websites, write blogs, and manage social networking for nonprofits. They can also empower youth through online mentorship programs. (Mentors must apply in advance to ensure they will be a positive online presence in the mentee’s life.) Similarly, you can answer calls on various crisis hotlines. (After completing training to assist individuals in various predicaments, you can help and connect with others.) In addition to writing and editing, online volunteers can also do research, or answer emails and questions. These types of opportunities might relate to the general operations of an organization or encompass specific tasks such as grant writing. The possibilities of online volunteering depend only on a person’s skills and interests, and is something anyone can consider.
Advantages to Volunteering Online
Volunteering is a fulfilling experience, and online volunteering often comes with unique advantages. Online volunteers have the opportunity to use personal knowledge and skills. This is especially true of volunteers who do writing-related or technical tasks. These skills may be the result of a volunteer’s professional life, personal interest, or prior experience, and volunteering becomes a profound manner of practicing, maintaining, or simply sharing these talents.
Furthermore, online volunteers benefit from flexibility. These types of opportunities usually have less time restrictions, making it easier to fit service into your schedule. Some organizations may only be open during certain hours when people are otherwise engaged with work or school. Many online volunteer opportunities allow you to work at any time so long as you submit your contribution at an agreed-upon time. Other options, such as volunteering for a safe crisis hotline, might allow you to choose “shifts” that better fit into your schedule.
By volunteering online, you can also solve the issue of mobility as sometimes distance, transportation, or disability make conventional volunteering impossible. The increased assignment options and flexibility of online volunteering make it meaningful in that it is a platform where people who may otherwise be unable to volunteer can find a way to contribute to a community.
Online volunteers also benefit from being able to engage with global issues. In this approach, volunteers can avoid the adverse effects of voluntourism while still donating their time to issues outside their immediate surroundings. The Internet can facilitate these connections while eliminating the added costs and time commitment of volunteering abroad. Volunteers can use the Internet to work with communities around the world. Perhaps one might provide advice or intellectual resources to a downtrodden community, or choose to remain active in places of sentimental importance such as one’s hometown or where they went to college.
Another way of volunteering on a global scale in a virtual world is through micro-volunteering. Micro-volunteering allows you complete a task in a short period of time, perhaps in a matter of minutes or hours. Micro-volunteerism has become increasingly more accessible with smartphones where volunteers can connect to an organization via an app and easily share their impact. Examples of micro-volunteering include collecting data and submitting it to a database or engaging in activism through social networking. While most of the other virtual volunteering opportunities require a specific skill or a long period of time, micro-volunteering presents the opportunity of a low-commitment, but meaningful task that can be completed with just the Internet and the willingness to help others. Micro-volunteering is much like helping an elderly person cross a road or giving someone directions; it reminds us that not all service has to be a “project.” Sometimes integrating acts of kindness into our everyday lives and our online presence can be just as meaningful as committing several hours a week to a local nonprofit.
Getting Started as a Virtual Volunteer
Hopefully you have gained some insight into the underestimated world of virtual volunteerism. Finding opportunities for virtual volunteerism may take two forms. In the first, you might connect with a nearby or familiar organization and inquire about opportunities to work on service projects from home. Secondly, you can look for broader volunteer opportunities through national or international sources such as worldvolunteerweb.org or onlinevolunteering.org. If you are interested in working with a specific issue or performing a certain type of service, researching organizations related to these parameters would be the quickest way to find a virtual volunteer opportunity. I also encourage you to connect with organizations using NobleHour to find out more about how you can change the world from behind a screen.
Are you ready to find volunteer opportunities in your community? Set up your free NobleHour account today!
NobleHour is the industry leader in volunteer management software and used by more than 6,700 schools, school districts and organizations across the U.S. Our online software solution allows users to manage, track, and monitor volunteers. NobleHour is free for individuals to source volunteer opportunities and track hours, and for non-profits and businesses to post volunteer opportunities. NobleHour pricing models start at $97 annually. Learn more at www.noblehour.com