It’s a beautiful summer evening in Switzerland. The sun rays stream through the big picture windows that frame a brightly lit mountain peak. Jane doesn’t see this. She is busy tapping away on her laptop. Completing the the last sentence, she presses the send button and stands up for a good stretch, arms aloft. Within a few minutes she hears the familiar ping sound of an email in her inbox. It’s from Jorge, the president of an Ecuadorian non-governmental organisation (NGO). He’s thanking Jane for sending out the Fundacion’s monthly newsletter. This is 21st Century Volunteering, we can all do it!
Online Volunteering – a new practice
It has only been in the past decade with internet penetration and widespread ubiquity of computers to the remotest corners of our planet that the possibility of online volunteering has blossomed. Expert, online volunteering (OV) is the practice of using the internet and computer, off site from the NGO being supported. Volunteers complete their tasks from the comfort of their home or office. This is a very handy solution for many who would like to volunteer for a good cause, but just are not able to do so due, for example, to time constraints, or home obligations. The greatest advantage of OV is it’s flexibility for volunteers;
- they don’t have to travel to the project site
- they can tailor the volunteering to their expertise and preference
- they can volunteer at the time and for the duration of their choosing
Online Volunteering – benefits for NGOs
So what are the benefits for the NGOs, the recipients of OV services? Essentially it is a ‘force multiplier’, it enables them to do more. Need to improve communications? OVs can create websites or just a few webpages, write a blog or newsletter, edit a video. Need to get more funds? OVs can write or edit a fundraising proposal or a project concept. At Share A Dream we see at least 3 principal benefits for NGOs:
- Accessing additional resources – OV enables the NGO to access additional support beyond donations or on-site volunteers thereby extending its capability. These new volunteers can turn into long-time supporters, even donors.
- Extending reach – OV helps the NGO become known to a wider range of people beyond just those who can donate or undertake on-site, field volunteering – volunteers could live many thousands of kilometres away on another continent. OV also enables NGOs to reach a greater variety of people, from baby boomers through Gen X to Millennials.
- Improving positioning – utilising OV demonstrates that the NGO is a modern and efficient 21st century organisation. Such an image can be helpful for positioning in the competitive NGO funding space.
On top of these benefits, OV is good for the environment. It reduces the need for volunteers to travel hundreds or thousands of miles to a project or field site hence saving CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.
Online Volunteering – a growing practice in the 21st Century
OV’s flexibility and adaptability is increasingly being recognised by volunteers and NGOs. With exponential growth in internet connectivity and access to computers, OV will become a major form of volunteering alongside on-site, field volunteering. This is 21st century volunteering. Join us!
For more on OV:
Virtual Volunteering wiki
The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook: Fully Integrating Online Service into Volunteer Involvement by Jane Cravens and Susan J. Ellis (2014).