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Learn tips and hints to use a variety of electronic and technical equipment to enhance work with volunteers.

~ December 2007 ~ Topics

So, What Are You Doing To Engage Virtual Volunteers?

So, What Are You Doing To Engage Virtual Volunteers?

There is a plan somewhere in the organization to engage virtual volunteers. These are people whose service to the cause comes with the click of a mouse or tracker pad. It seems a new concept...not comfortable? Best get with the plan and find those positions. AARP, the US based organization serving the older community is promoting this type of volunteering. Check out their Web site for more information and ideas that can spur you to creative thinking for your organization.

The site offers an array of ideas for ways seniors who are computer savvy (and there are plenty of them out there) can get involved and do good work. Here is a sampling.

  • International Issues
    • Nabuur.com: The Global Neighbour Network
      Volunteer "neighbours" join in online discussions with representatives from communities in developing countries. They help solve the problems of the local communities by doing research, serving as mentors, contacting organizations and experts, writing plans and proposals, and searching for donations of supplies or equipment. For example, neighbours did research to help residents of Zapotillo, Ecuador, who wanted to set up an information technology center in their town to provide education and employment opportunities. They found Internet providers in Ecuador, arranged a donation of used computers from Australia, found a company to donate free shipping, and worked on getting the computers through customs. Other volunteers are helping villagers in Cochiraya, Peru, to find retailers and distributors to sell their alpaca textiles.
  • Health
    • Ann Foundation
      This nonprofit's mission is to improve the quality of life for children with visual and hearing impairments. They currently have projects in India, Uganda, and Rochester, New York, and they seek virtual volunteers to help with writing grant proposals and finding companies that can donate medical equipment and software for the blind and hearing aids for the hearing-impaired.
  • Mentoring and Advice
    • icouldbe.org
      Volunteers mentor underprivileged teens online and help them with educational and career planning. The goal is to steer mentees toward careers they never imagined by linking them with mentors in a wide range of fields. Teens participate through their schools or after-school programs and select mentors that match their interests. Mentors and mentees communicate throughout the academic year via online discussions and activities on the icouldbe.org website. Mentors work with mentees on activities that help them define their goals-for example, writing a mission statement and autobiography, defining their top three priorities in life, etc. Volunteer mentors commit to participating for at least one hour a week.

So, what can virtual volunteers do for your organization? Check out these ideas.

Grant writing - Grant writing is multifaceted. You need someone to do research on needs; hard evidence that frequently comes from governmental sources. A great job for a volunteer. What about copy editing? That is checking for typos, bad grammar or syntax. Some organizations ask volunteers to find possible grant sources. The list of possible jobs in this area seems endless.

Design questions - some experienced people can help with design issues. Recruit an expert to look at your Web site and give you the truth about its effectiveness in recruiting volunteers, as an example. Share a logo or brochure and get suggestions for change. Students in graphic design are often looking for real projects to put in a portfolio. Let them design something for your organization.

Raise money on eBay - Volunteers can organize the sale of items on auction sites, like eBay. It can be done on an individual basis. For example, I sell my old books and the proceeds go to my favorite organization. An ambitious volunteer could organize a group of other people to do the same thing and increase the $$ going to the organization.

Translations - Would you love to have print material in several languages? A virtual volunteer, with the right credentials, could work on this type of project.

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