Is Microvolunteering Changing The Way We Volunteer?
The Need For Volunteers
Volunteering is a task that many of us have done, or will do, at one time in our lives. Non-profit organizations that help other individuals are usually staffed with very few full-time employees. These full-time employees run the day to day activities, planning, functions and decisions that keep the organization going. Without the organization, hundreds or even thousands of needy people will go without food, medical attention, housing, clothing, or other humanitarian needs.
However, these non-profit organizations perform all these activities on the generous monetary donations from their donors or grants received. These funds are used for the necessary items-purchasing food, medical equipment and supplies, clothes and shoes, educational supplies, supplying clean water or locating housing for those without. These funds are NOT used to pay for skilled designers to design flyers or t-shirts, writers to write copy for these flyers or brochures, programmers to fix or update their computer programs and websites, or help advertise their events and organizations through various social media sources.
This is where non-profit organizations rely heavily on VOLUNTEERS! Volunteers are the life-line to accomplishing tasks that would otherwise cost these organizations funds that would take away from the good they are doing for the needy they are helping. Volunteers supply their time. Their energy. Their ideas. Their skills. Their excitement and their love of helping others!
But, with the world being such a fast, hurried, get everything done as quickly as possible environment, the time available to volunteer in person, on-site, is dwindling. This does not mean that these non-profit organizations do not still need the help. In fact, they need volunteer help even MORE! Their time has become more tangled with projects and day to day duties. Their need for volunteer help has become greater, more necessary and worth much more valuable to these organizations.
Increasing The Possibilities and Opportunities to Volunteer
In 2000, United Nations developed a website for volunteers to volunteer globally online. In 2006, the word “Microvolunteering” appeared, bringing attention to the NEW way volunteers could help others NO matter where they were!
It was clear that the need for volunteers, no matter where they were located, was a highly increasing trend with the ease of access and online activism and social media technology evolving. The term “micro-volunteering” means: easy, quick low-commitment actions that benefit a worthy cause; convenient bite-sized crowd-sourced and network managed projects; voluntarily participating in day-to-day situations to occupy brief amounts of time. (1)
This means that the non-profit organization could utilize several micro-volunteers where ever they are, to do one or several parts of a project, with the end resulting in a finished product, without cost to the organization! The Project Manager, the non-profit organization, stays in contact with the micro-volunteers while the micro-volunteers do the required work on their own time, their own systems and remit their portion(s) of the project for final approval or additional editing. This allows the Project Manager to continue with the daily duties required to run a non-profit, tending to the needs of those that benefit from the organization.
Many micro-volunteering websites have popped up in several countries, for defined needs:
Dedicated Micro-volunteering Platforms-: initiatives that are wholly focussed on featuring third party run micro-actions, eg SkillsForChange, and HelpFromHome
Volunteer Involved Organizations-: VIOs offering micro-actions that have created a separate category for micro-actions amongst their portfolio of volunteering categories, eg vInspired
Non-Profits Offering Micro-Actions-: Defined webpage on a non-profits’ website to align micro-actions that usually furthers the mission of the non-profit, eg Diverse Abilities
So, it is obvious that micro-volunteering has evolved the act of volunteering by the number of websites being created dedicated to micro-volunteers, the number of micro-volunteers offering their services, the number of articles about micro-volunteers and even the number of books written about micro-volunteering and activities.
Not only has the opportunity to volunteer vastly increased with the various micro-volunteering websites, but the types of devices available to use for micro-volunteering has also increased! No longer are we restricted to desk top computers! We have lap top computers, tablets, smartphones, ipads and even internet via television sets and game consoles! Any time internet connection can be reached and a keyboard can be connected, micro-volunteering can be accomplished!
The places we can micro-volunteer are now endless! If an internet connection is available, micro-volunteering can be achieved! Free wi-fi connections are being offered in retail stores, doctors, offices, restaurants, auto repair shops, hotels and even hospitals!
Many people have unlimited internet data connection, so whether the internet is free or not, they can still connect ANYWHERE and help others: a train, a plane, a bus, in a taxi, a car. They can connect while standing in line at the grocery store, on an elevator, while at the park, or sitting beside the pool. While watching your favorite tv show and those annoying commercial ads come on, use that time to help others! While waiting for your children to get off the school bus, use that time to help others! When you are at work, use the spare time on your break or lunch time to help an organization solve a problem that only YOU can solve!
You can help animals, children, strike down poverty, help homeless, feed the hungry, save the rain forest or stop abuse of women. Any cause that you are passionate about needs your help. Any skill, small or large that you might be able to help with ideas, writing thank you letters, designing logos, helping with marketing ideas, producing flyers, creating posters, editing copywrite, blogging, website updates or creations, social media Tweets or Facebook posts, signing petitions to undo wrongs, fundraising ideas or finding Human Resource solutions – any input is greatly appreciated by the non-profit organizations asking for assistance.
Micro-volunteering has allowed those that otherwise could not volunteer – homebound people, disabled, those without transportation, those without means to pay for transportation, or those that work from home, to be able to volunteer and make a difference in the world! If you are temporarily laid-up with a broken leg, YOU can help others! If you have a vacation and have spare time, YOU can help others! If you are in the hospital after an operation, YOU can help others! If you have a mental or physical disability, YOU can help others! It just takes a few seconds–”click” and you have helped someone!
Micro-Volunteering has allowed people to give of their time, their energy, their ideas, their skills, their excitement and continue their love of helping others!
First published in July, 2015
Guest Author: Laura T.
(1) Micro-volunteering entry on Wikipedia