What is microvolunteering?
A quick scout around the web reveals many definitions, but 4 of them seem to be taking more prominence than the rest. These are:
1) ‘easy, quick, no commitment, on-demand actions that benefit a worthy cause’ (as suggested by Help From Home)
2) ‘convenient, bite-sized, crowdsourced, and network-managed’ (as suggested by Skills For Change)
3) ‘the act of voluntary participating in small day-to-day situations that occupy a brief amount of time’ (as suggested by Student Volunteer Connections)
4) “Serving the association….on an as needed basis” – (as suggested by ASAE ‘The Decision To Volunteer’ pg 28)
The actions might be a task that could be accomplished as a whole unit from start to finish by one person within, say 30 minutes or it might be an action that could be broken down into its component parts where an individual is just one of many people performing the same task to achieve an end result. 10 seconds to 30 minutes is all you need to help out a worthy cause!
How do you define a microvolunteering action?
The definition of a microvolunteering action has been given it’s own page – because it’s a bit of a long answer!
How do you define a ‘worthy cause’?
Because it’s just a little bit more than just a simple answer, the definition of a ‘worthy cause’ has been given it’s own page!
How do I volunteer?
Simple! Just choose a category via the coloured ‘Do Good’, ‘Advocacy’ & ‘Green’ Action menus on the homepage. Then choose an action, click it’s web address, and read the instructions on the 3rd party website. If you’re happy with what you see, go forth and microvolunteer! Help From Home is not running the volunteer opportunities, it’s just merely acting as a intermediary to enable you to find the opportunities.
Are all the volunteer opportunities really free to participate in?
Yes, although some of the opportunities may involve postage costs or crafting materials. You may already have stamps or the materials in your house anyway.
Are there any benefits to microvolunteering?
Yes there are. In fact, you’d be surprised at how many there actually are – too many to include in a few sentences, so we’ve collated them onto a separate page, surprisingly entitled ‘Benefits of Microvolunteering’!
Do I need any special qualifications to volunteer?
Although some skills may open the door to more opportunities, the vast majority of actions listed on the website require no special skills at all. Just do it and ‘do good’!
How can I be sure that the organisations listed are reputable?
We have laid down our criteria for the suitability of an organisation to be included on the Help From Home database. However, there is no substitute for research and although we’ve done our bit, ultimately you will have to decide whether the organisation is reputable. As a starter for ten, ask to speak with volunteers already involved in the organisation you’re thinking of helping out.
Do I have to be of a certain age to volunteer?
Absolutely not. If you’ve got the desire to volunteer then just do it, no matter how old or young you are.
How accurate are the times given for each action?
The length of time it takes to complete an action should be viewed as a guidance only, as everybody will work at their own pace. The times stated are either for the whole action or the main thrust of the action.
Can I get recognition awards for my participation in microvolunteering actions?
We work in tandem with vinspired, the UK’s national volunteer database for 14 – 25 year olds, to promote microvolunteering. Vinspired has devoted a category to microvolunteering actions that was created to revolve around the actions featured on Help From Home. They provide a tracking system that can record a participants activity that could eventually lead to a nationally recognised award in the UK for the number of volunteering hours completed. Vinspired administer the award scheme and all enquiries about it should be directed to them.
Can you provide proof of the number of hours volunteered that could count towards my Community Service?
Help From Home is a directory of 3rd party microvolunteering actions and as such does not run any of the opportunities featured on it’s website. We are therefore not in a position ourselves to verify any time spent on the microvolunteering actions. That said though, there are 4 possible routes as to how you might achieve your request:
1) contact the 3rd party initiative directly, to see whether they will verify the time spent microvolunteering. Actions and their associated websites can be found through the coloured ‘Do Good’, ‘Green’ and ‘Advocacy’ buttons on our homepage
2) if you live in the UK and are aged between 14 – 25, visit vInpsired who promote microvolunteering in tandem with us. They feature approx 70 actions from our website and have a method to record your time microvolunteered, although it does not involve signature verification
3) take some screenshots of the actions you’ve completed and record the time you volunteered, based on the time as suggested on our website for each individual action. Refer to our Skills 4 You project for the procedure to create an ePortfolio of actions and how to demonstrate an action has been completed by yourself. You will need to confirm with the court / community service scheme administrator that this is an acceptable method.
4) we have our very own volunteering opportunities which directly help us to spread awareness of the microvolunteering concept. We can provide confirmation of participation if desired
How did Help From Home start?
In 2006, the founder of Help From Home came across a few home based volunteering opportunities which he decided to participate in. He then became aware of other opportunities out there, which didn’t appear to be listed on any of the volunteer portal sites like do-it.org or VolunteerMatch. He felt that these opportunities were just as valuable in benefiting worthy causes as the more traditional ones listed on the above sites. So he set about creating a website that would enable people to locate these home based opportunities all under one roof and voila, Help From Home was born. The rest, as they say, is history!
Do you accept donations?
Yes please, as the running costs are borne entirely out of our own pockets or whatever funding we can get our hands on. You can donate or sponsor us on our Support Us page. Thanks in advance for your generosity.
Are you a registered charity or a non profit organisation?
We’re neither, as we’re an unincorporated association.
Where are you based?
Cardiff, UK – the home of home microvolunteering!
How do you find all the initiatives featured on Help From Home?
We either perform a specific search for an opportunity (rare), or we stumble across something on the net (mostly), or we use our nose to follow something that caught our eye (often-ish). Only very occasionally does an organisation contact Help From Home with a suggestion of a microvolunteer opportunity.
Where can I let you know of an action that seems suitable for inclusion on Help From Home?
Fill in the form on our Microvolunteer Action Registration Form page. You’ll need to give us a brief description of the action and the webpage where we can find it. We’ll take it from there!
My question isn’t answered here?
Just use the Contact Us page and we’ll get back to you with an answer.
As a side issue, Help From Home was asked to contribute to an internet chat session on micro philanthropy in December 2009 for a Canadian activist social community website Taking It Global. The answers to the questions posed below can be found below and are provided for background interest!
What are the pros and cons of being involved with micro philanthropy as opposed to traditional philanthropy?
- You can do it while: watching telly (craftwork – making clothes for needy children and adults), On the bus (smartphone apps), In your pyjamas (home based actions online – click to donate)
- It’s for people who are shy and uncomfortable with a group of strangers as micro philanthropy can be done alone
- You get more bang for your buck time wise. People who perform traditional philanthropy and who want to do more, now have the option to do more in between their traditional philanthropic commitments
- It empowers people to realise they can make a difference, as they can now do something that benefits a worthy cause on their own terms which gives them greater control over the difference they can make
- Micro-actions can be done anywhere, anytime and so therefore people can control the environment in which they volunteer their time, thereby making it potentially safer than traditional volunteer opportunities
- Most micro-actions are non-committal, which means that one of the barriers that inhibits people to perform traditional volunteering, has now been stripped away. You can dip in and dip out whenever you want – how much easier can it get.
- Many micro-actions are computer based and can be performed by an individual acting on their own. This could be perceived as a lonely occupation
- Micro-actions are small tasks which when combined with other people’s actions produce an end result. The volunteer is therefore divorced from seeing any direct results. Could be a bit frustrating if you’re the type of person that wants to see instant results
- There is usually no contact with the recipient of your action. You don’t get to see their smiles when you have helped them out. You therefore have to be quite strongly self motivated to know that you are doing some good. This could be quite off-putting for some people
- Even though your actions are combined with others and you are therefore acting within a team, there is rarely any direct interaction with other people performing the same action. So, even though you are part of a team, you may not feel part of that team and so it may not be suitable for everybody
- With traditional volunteering opportunities, you can normally see proof that a result has been achieved with your actions. With micro philanthropy you are normally reliant on what a website tells you they have achieved. Therefore, what proof do you have that your micro-action has achieved something
- From an organisation’s point of view, there is less control and interaction over the people they are reliant upon in helping them out. It may need more effort spent in convincing, motivating and encouraging people to help them out.
Do you believe that micro philanthropy is effective in making a difference? Why or why not?
- There is a huge diversity in the type of micro-actions that can be performed and is so expansive in it’s scope, that it covers areas that traditional volunteering opportunities simply just do not cover. Therefore, there is more scope to do more good, whereas before there might have been none
- It enables people who otherwise couldn’t volunteer to now contribute their time to worthy causes, eg. Disabled and housebound people. Therefore there is potentially a much larger group of people to pool from, which potentially means more good can be achieved
- Because micro-actions lend themselves to being performed whenever and wherever, the potential number of people able to participate can now be pooled from the whole of the world rather than just a local or national area. More people = more good
- Micro-actions are easy and there is normally no commitment required from people. Therefore, these very attributes might encourage people to explore similar and more actions. The overall time spent on philanthropic actions might increase. More time = more good
- Micro-philanthropic actions are not exactly well known out there. As people, on the whole, aren’t aware that worthy causes can be benefitted via micro-actions, they don’t go looking for them. Organisations wanting to benefit from people performing micro-actions have an uphill struggle to gather a pool of people to help them out. The time spent encouraging and finding people to help them out may be better spent on other things with more effective results
- There are many areas where micro philanthropic actions will never be an effective substitute for more traditional opportunities, eg. Caring for the elderly. Therefore, micro-philanthropy is only effective up to a point – it will never solve all of the world’s problems.