Benefits of Virtual Volunteering
What are the benefits of virtual volunteering?
Online technologies provide an excellent way to augment an organization's volunteer recruitment methods, such as registering with a local volunteer center or sending announcements to civic groups. The Internet can also provide new ways to involve volunteers, and to involve volunteers who may not be able to participate in your traditional opportunities. However, online methods will not replace traditional volunteer recruitment methods, nor traditional ways of involving volunteers. There are many great reasons to recruit and involve volunteers via online technologies:
- Potential volunteers who are not reached by traditional offline means may be reached online;
- There are people who don't read the newspaper's weekly column on volunteer opportunities, or who don't read bulletins from the local volunteer center, but who would, indeed, love to volunteer, and are easily reached via the World Wide Web and Internet discussion groups;
- Potential volunteers who wouldn't call for information or sign on to volunteer via phone may do so online;
- Some people prefer to communicate via online means. Dashing off an e-mail or filling out an online sign-up sheet is quicker and, for some people, preferable to calling an organization;
- E-mail provides a quick and easy way to communicate with current volunteers;
- Even if volunteers work onsite in face-to-face settings, e-mail gives volunteer managers an easy way to solicit feedback, provide program updates, and send meeting or reminders;
- Volunteers can network with each other via the Internet;
- Volunteer managers can use online discussion groups (either via e-mail or via a live chat to allow volunteers who provide onsite, face-to-face service to interact with each other online -- asking each other questions, offering advice, etc. And you have a written record of all interactions, which can be helpful in program reports, grant proposals, etc. (with permission from participants, of course);
- People who prefer not to volunteer onsite may be willing to do so via their home or work computers [Such volunteers are environmentally friendly -- no car exhausts, less paper waste, etc. They also don't take up precious space in your agency's office (desk, phone, parking space, etc.)];
- Virtual Volunteering programs allow for the participation of people who might find onsite volunteering difficult or impossible because of a disability, home obligation or work schedule, which in turn allows agencies to benefit from the additional talent and resources of more volunteers;
- Involving offsite volunteers via the Internet extends the resources of your organization, which can augment staff resources and/or allow your organization to reach more clients;
- New groups of volunteers are emerging--Some age groups and professionals are more prone to use the Internet than other means to connect with information and resources of value to them. These new volunteers can turn into long-time supporters, even donors;
- Online volunteers may have better computer equipment and software than the organization they are assisting Online volunteers may have sophisticated software or programming skills your organization cannot afford to purchase, and may be willing to use these resources on your behalf.