Online & Micro Volunteering - What It Is And How To Do It Well

Making the time is one of the biggest barriers to volunteering. Virtual (online and remote) and micro volunteering offers volunteers the opportunity to under-take bite size activities, often from home, or online, in a way that also works for the cause they support. It can be an excellent opportunity to recruit new volunteers, including for fundraising and digital.

What Is Home, Online, Remote And Micro Volunteering?

Micro volunteering is short tasks that don't necessarily require any ongoing commitment.  It can get lots done quickly and efficiently, and can save charities time and money.  Virtual, online, home and remote volunteering are roles that you don't need to turn up to carry out, and may be micro volunteering as well. 

Essentially, these are volunteering roles that engage people in your cause, who may otherwise not have the time.

With jobs and family commitments, lack of time can be a real barrier to volunteering and this is a simple way to encourage more to volunteer.  Micro volunteering is any activity that can be undertaken for short periods and, if it's online, from anywhere, often from home. It can be used by any charity and it:

  • Enables you to increase volunteering capacity and access skills and experience that you might otherwise have been unable to.
  • Allows you to recruit volunuteers from anywher in the country, not just locally. 
  • Can be used to reach groups who may otherwise be excluded, such as older people or the disabled, if housebound.
  • Often doesn’t require an application process or training.
  • Can be a good way to bring people initially on board and then grow their engagement and commitment to play a greater role in your work.

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Online & Micro Volunteering - Recruiting

There are a whole range of micro volunteering opportunities:

  • Growing your social media follow by having 'Digital Champions' who follow your social media platforms, like, share and engage with people to help you create an active online community.  It takes almost no time at all and anyone can do it.
  • Draft funding bids, case studies, web content, social media posts or newsletter articles.
  • E-mentoring – our people are our greatest asset, but we don’t invest in them enough and this is a really easy way to do so. 

But these don't have to be online, or on an ongoing basis:

  • Help run events or man a stall.
  • Give talks to local organisations, to promote your work.
  • Undertake a personal fundraiser, rattle a collection tin, sell raffle tickets or distribute collection tins to local shops.

Professionals, particularly those with young families, may really like you, but simply be too busy to give you the time, so micro-volunteering can be perfect for them. Opportunities might range from:

  • Providing expert input/review for plans, stratgeies, policies, proposals, or pitches.
  • For those who are professionally qualified, ad hoc advice on a range of issues, such as fundraising, legal, HR and digital.  
  • Or perhaps using their networks and contacts to direct you to people who can help you with a particular issue, or;
  • Opening doors that might otherwise remain closed.

For lots more examples of micro volunteering ideas read this and for ideas on keeping volunteers engaged, read Sarah Swaysland's blog

Micro Volunteering Management

Micro volunteering is often about offering quick, convenient tasks, but you still have to provide an appropriate level of direction and support.  It's not always possible, but try to avoid the sometimes significant admin that you may require for long-term volunteers.  A good way to do this is to provide simple, clear instructions for each task. 

Micro volunteers usually work online for short periods, so it can be difficult for them to see that they're making an impact and that's important to them.  Also, they may have very little interaction with the charity's staff and other volunteers, which can lead to them feeling somewhat isolated form the charity and its work.  Think about how to encourage communication and feedback.  For example, by creating a volunteering Facebook group to keep them up-to-date and engaged, or even have micro volunteering meet ups online.

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