The image of a volunteer that usually springs to mind is the person who is physically out in the community lending a hand: building a house, cleaning up a park, reading with a child.
Yet all around the globe, at any given time, thousands (if not millions) of engaged citizens volunteer virtually — using their computers, the Internet, even cell phones.
Interested in learning more about how you can volunteer anywhere, at any time? Read on.
What can you do?
If you've got access to a computer, thousands of different volunteer projects and roles are available to you — from your home, the library, a coffee shop, anywhere with an Internet connection. Here are just a few:
- Develop, update, or manage the website for an organization or social, environmental, or political effort
- Mentor a young person
- Translate outreach materials for organizations and projects
- Create a blog, podcast, video, or social networking profile for a nonprofit organization or grassroots movement
- Staff a crisis hotline for domestic violence, suicide, or other critical issue
- Review and provide feedback on an organization's strategic plan, marketing strategy, safety and security procedures, or website
- Assist with research, analysis, writing, or editing
- Write a grant, get the word out on fundraising, or send emails and make phone calls to current or potential donors
- Create a virtual global team of Idealists who support one another's efforts to do good wherever they are in the world
And while it's often called online or virtual volunteering, getting involved remotely doesn't have to require an Internet connection. For example, you can use a cell phone to tag photos, text locations of community features like bicycle lanes or public parks, or even check in on and stay connected in an accessible way with a young person you're mentoring.
Why online volunteering?
So why might you consider this mode of getting involved?
- Busy schedule? E-volunteering offers flexible scheduling. By determining how much time you're able to contribute and then fitting it into your day as you can, you can get involved in a way that's more convenient for you.
- Tough time getting around? E-volunteer from home. Online volunteering can also be great for people with transportation or mobility challenges, or with family obligations (like young children) that make volunteering in-person difficult.
- Want to reach (far, far) out? E-volunteer around the world without a passport. Lastly, online volunteering is an excellent way to get involved in a community other than your own. For example, if you've been considering international volunteering but aren't sure you have the time or finances to travel right now, online volunteering can provide an opportunity to assist an NGO or social movement with projects in another community.
- Virtual volunteering can even serve as a gateway establishing contacts and relationships for when you're someday able to volunteer abroad—or conversely, a way to stay in touch after returning home.
- Currently already living and working abroad? As pointed out on World Volunteer Web, online volunteering can be a dynamic way to stay connected to what's happening at home.
Resources to get started
So, ready to get started as an online or virtual volunteer? Check out our page on finding or creating your ideal volunteer opportunity for tips, tools, and suggestions. Interested in learning more about online volunteering? Consider visiting the following links:
- Ever Considered Online Volunteering? – World Volunteer Web
- On Volunteerism and Volunteer Management – Jayne Cravens, Coyote Communications (there are a number of great articles and resources here related to online volunteering)
- Skills For Change is a micro-volunteering and social networking site that allows 501(c)(3) nonprofits to post quick e-volunteering projects online, and for people anywhere to accept them as challenges.
- United Nations' Online Volunteering connects volunteers with organizations working for sustainable human development.