Virtual volunteering: Service time that fits into anyone’s schedule

Traditional forms of volunteering can be challenging to fit into busy schedules. Explore virtual volunteering and discover resources to get more involved in a way that works in any schedule.

According to an article on PolicyMic, getting more active in one’s community through volunteering was the sixth most popular New Year’s resolution in 2013. Michigan State University Extension educators explain that volunteering can be a way to not only give back to the community, but to also make friends and build skills at the same time.

If asked to describe what volunteering looks like, many of us would paint an image of volunteer work that is more traditional in nature: that is, we’d describe an individual who physically goes to a location to interact directly with clients on behalf of an organization. While many find that kind of volunteering to be very rewarding, it can also be very challenging for individuals with erratic schedules, people who commute to work over long distances or those who have previous engagements during regular volunteering time.

Virtual volunteering can be a good solution for people who want to spend more time being active as volunteers but cannot make more traditional forms of volunteering work. In “The Virtual Volunteering Guidebook,” Susan J. Ellis and Cravens define virtual volunteering as those tasks which a volunteer completes either in whole or in part online through a computer. Virtual volunteering benefits both the volunteer and the organization: it allows the volunteer to complete their service in a time that works best for them while extending the resources of the organization.

There are several degrees of virtual volunteering, some of which require more levels of technical proficiency than others. For instance, as a virtual volunteer an individual might do something as simple as do an internet search for an organization to find an article to use in their latest newsletter, research for a grant proposal or to keep current with the latest trends in the field. Alternately, more technically skilled volunteers might help update a website, design a new logo or answer the public’s questions on behalf of an organization. Individuals who are looking for more direct client contact can help an organization expand its reach by connecting through video chatting, e-mentoring or tutoring, or providing virtual learning opportunities.

If virtual volunteering sounds like a good fit for you, here are some resources to get started.’s Volunteer Resource Center offers some great tips for how individuals can get involved – even with tasks so simple they only require a smart phone. VolunteerMatch is an online clearing house listing service opportunities. You can sort the volunteer positions by cause areas, opportunities suitable by age of the volunteers, or by local or virtual opportunities. Chances are, the perfect volunteer position exists to help you make your 2013 resolution come to fruition!

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