Virtual volunteering describes the growing trend of individuals volunteering online. Virtual volunteering represents a highly digital level of engagement between a non-profit organisation, their volunteers and members of the community. Virtual volunteering presents organisations with the possibility of tapping into a vast number of potential volunteers who have useful skills, specific areas of expertise or simply time, but find physical engagement a barrier.

Do you have the organisational and technological capacity to work with virtual volunteers?

  • Does your organisation have adequate technology for working with virtual volunteers?
  • Do you have a dedicated point of contact for virtual volunteers?
  • Consider what programs/software/platforms best suit the kind of engagement required (social media, skype, Google docs, email, etc) and what technology will be needed to complete the required tasks (for example, if volunteers need to have knowledge of specific programs i.e. Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Final cut pro etc)

Does your organisation have tasks which can be completed virtually?

  • Think of how you can break down projects and split them into virtual and physical tasks
  • Ensure tasks assigned to virtual volunteers are appropriate to the virtual medium
  • Ensure that virtual volunteers can access the information they need to complete their tasks
  • Are there technology related tasks your organisation would like to do but does not currently have the capacity to (eg turning captured footage into films/docos/promotional material etc)? Could you outsource these to virtual volunteers with access to the right technology and skills?

Recruiting virtual volunteers

  • Consider what kind of virtual volunteer you are targeting and tailor your recruitment strategy to best engage them. Consider their online habits – what websites do they use? Do you need to recruit in physical space/through traditional media or through interpersonal engagement and word-of-mouth as well?
  • Recruitment processes also need to screen potential volunteers. Ensure that values align, volunteers are who they say they are/have the skills they say they have, are capable of completing project/task within time restrictions
  • Have clear role descriptions and task outlines
  • Brief virtual volunteers on organisational policies and procedures as well as codes of conduct

Working with virtual volunteers

  • Find ways to make virtual volunteers feel like valued members of the organisation’s staff and culture
  • Clear, rapid communication and feedback loops are important to ensure that virtual volunteers are effective
  • Where possible, link virtual volunteers together so that they can work together as a digital team
  • Find ways to show gratitude and appreciation of tasks done
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