My Social Actions

Volunteering 2.0: The Future of Volunteering is On-line

“Volunteerism is a highly dynamic and exciting field.
It is both responsive to societal trends and a leader of those trends.”

-- Dr. Jeffrey Brudney, co-founder of the Institute for Nonprofit Organizations

The growth of virtual volunteering is opening up opportunities to an increasingly larger number of people interested in getting involved and supporting organizations despite the kinds of barriers that affect classic ‘in-person’ volunteering positions such as time zones, geographical distances, or work/school schedules.

The overwhelming majority of virtual volunteers work from their homes, from computer labs at their schools, from busy internet cafes, or from their offices during breaks from their regular jobs. They are students, young professionals or activists who often have multiple volunteer positions. They help out by moderating discussions, reviewing articles, giving feedback, translating documents, helping raise awareness on an issue or cause, collecting donations, acting as mentors and, most importantly, by supporting and encouraging more members of civil society to share their ideas, projects and inspirations with each other.

Through my job at TakingITGlobal I have had the incredible honour of working with over 100 virtual volunteers from all corners of the world. Their passion, vision and dedication have been an immense inspiration in my professional life, and as their Coordinator I can testify first-hand to the enriching and diverse quality of their work. In the early fall of 2008, however, as I set out to re-structure the way we run our multilingual operations at TakingITGlobal, I realized that, despite relying heavily on virtual volunteers for our multilingual programs, we did not actually know much about them. It was during this process that I became conscious of the fact that the important work carried out by virtual volunteers needs to be celebrated and given more visibility- both on-line and "off-line". As their work continues to support the initiatives of a growing number of international not-for-profits (particularly now in these times of economic insecurity) it is more important than ever to learn how to better attract, manage and motivate teams of virtual volunteers. For this reason, I decided to enroll in an independent research course as part of my Masters of Environmental Studies program at York University to find out precisely how to better support virtual volunteers in their important role as "on-line agents of change."

A central part of this study is a survey, which I have put together to learn more about who the "typical" volunteer is, what motivates volunteers between the ages of 18-30 to donate their time and skills for a cause or organization, what are some of the current difficulties they face, and so forth. Because I believe volunteering and gift economies are an important part of social innovation, I am now asking you to consider filling out this survey. If you are currently a Virtual Volunteer, or have volunteered on-line in the past, you can participate in the study by clicking here.

Thanks for making a difference!

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Comment by Daniel Bassill on March 29, 2009 at 9:35am
I agree with the potential of virtual volunteers. I lead the Tutor/Mentor Connection, based in Chicago. I maintain a web library with information related to volunteer-based tutoring and/or mentoring efforts that help inner city kids. Once section has links to ementoring and virtual volunteering sites that you might find useful.

The web site I point to was built and is hosted by a team at IUPUI in Indianapolis. Some of the maps on my blog are hosted by a volunteer in Wisconsin. A new mapping feature is being developed by a team who started volunteering with me two years ago. The contact person is in Baltimore and the work is being done in India. Another volunteer is in California. Without connecting with this talent from many different places it would have been impossible for me to build my organization to the point where it is, and I think I'm only beginning to tap the surface.


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