Virtual volunteering should not be looked at as a replacement for face-to-face volunteering; instead, it is an expansion of your volunteer resources, an augmentation of your organisation\’s activities, and another way for someone to help support your organisation and give back to the community. For some people, it will be a preferred avenue of volunteering, but for many people, it will be an additional avenue of volunteering.
Involving volunteers via the Internet comes naturally to some people; for others, there is a significant learning curve. Keep in mind that not all of this information may be applicable to your organisation or to every manager. Also remember that this is new territory for all of us! We\’re all still learning.
Setting Up and Managing a Virtual Volunteering Program
* First step: are you ready for this?
Based on our Project\’s own experience with online volunteers and the feedback from many other organisations, these suggestions will help you evaluate your staff members and volunteer program to see if you have the necessary systems and knowledge to involve volunteers online.
* Next Step: Laying the Groundwork
Once you\’ve determined that your organisation is ready for virtual volunteering, it\’s time for some internal groundwork: getting staff to buy-in and participation, developing an implementation plan, training staff and volunteers, etc.
* Identifying and Creating Assignments for Online Volunteers
Just as with offline volunteering, a first step in creating tasks for online volunteers is to look around and see what needs to be done in general for your organisation. However, when thinking of virtual volunteering tasks at your own organisation, also ask: how do your volunteers already work with staff and clients? Could you add an online component to one of your existing volunteer programs? These suggestions, created by the VV Project Team and citing various other resources, can help you identify tasks for online volunteers.
* Assigning Online Tasks
Once you have developed a system of orienting and evaluating volunteers who are going to work offsite via home or work computers and created online assignments, you are ready to place potential volunteers into this system and match them to assignments. This section also includes Sample Online Task Descriptions.
* Orienting and evaluating volunteers for virtual assignments
Virtual volunteering assignments vary widely: volunteers can simply surf the Internet and gather information for your agency, or they can actively participate in and supervise a chat room for your clients. These assignments require a varying degree of orienting and evaluating of the volunteer, as well as screening.
* Managing volunteers virtually
It\’s not vastly different from managing people onsite, and even comes naturally to some. Still, some adjustments in styles and approaches to volunteer management must be made to ensure success.
* Recognizing Online Volunteers and Using the Internet to Honor ALL Volunteers
Recognition of a volunteer is the act of acknowledging a person\’s contribution to your agency. Using feedback from online volunteers who have communicated their experiences to the VV Project, as well as feedback from collaborating organisations and our own experiences, we have developed these suggestions for both recognizing online volunteers AND using the Internet to honor ALL volunteers
* Safety in Online Volunteering Programs
Just as with face-to-face volunteering programs, a virtual volunteering program needs to have guidelines in place to protect everyone involved — volunteers, staff and clients alike — to ensure participants safety and privacy. This is information and links to resources to help your agency create general safety guidelines for all online volunteering programs, suggestions and examples for those managing programs involving youth as online volunteers, and suggestions for bringing together youth and adult online volunteers.
* Online Culture
Learning the different styles of “personalities” online, interpreting people\’s written communications and assisting volunteers and managers alike in being clear and effective online. Includes links to many other resources as well.
* Involving People With Disabilities in Virtual Volunteering Programs
A benefit of virtual volunteering is that it can allow for greater participation of people who might find on-site volunteering difficult or impossible because of a disability. This in turn allows organisations to benefit from the additional talent and resources of more volunteers.