There are few things more satisfying than volunteering and accepting our responsibility towards others and to our collective future. Investing our precious time and energy to helping those in need is both beneficial for those on the other end, as well as for our own career advancement. Unfortunately, however, many people simply don’t have enough extra time to offer. That’s exactly where online volunteering comes in, allowing people with all kinds of schedules and limitations to offer as much or as little as they can from home.
What is Virtual Volunteering?
Virtual volunteering or online volunteering means volunteering online from your computer. It means you don’t have to leave your home or change around your schedule. You don’t even have to be in the same country as the person or organization that you’re volunteering for, and it’s one of the most innovative and incredible modern concepts yet.
Career Benefits of Virtual Volunteering
By finding an online volunteering opportunity, you can advance your professional career as you help others on your own schedule. There are many opportunities out there that can fit both your interests and skills, giving you the chance to expand your network and have some incomparable experiences to add to your CV.
Employers will love to see that you are a self-motivated worker and are able to manage your time well, balancing a variety of responsibilities. Volunteering online also shows that you’ve got great communication skills since most of the work is done through emails.
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Online Volunteering Opportunities
If virtual volunteering sounds like an exciting thing for you, then you’ll be pleased to know that there are no shortage of opportunities available and people that would truly benefit from your help. There are websites such as AllForGood and VolunteerMatch that can help you find the best volunteering opportunities for you.
How it Works
Many of us wish we could volunteer but simply can’t find the time to get out there and do it. Perhaps you also haven’t found a cause close to your heart that’s within a realistic proximity. That’s exactly the beauty of virtual volunteering, which allows you to share your skills without being physically present.
In general, volunteering virtually is done through the computer or over the phone. There are many online volunteer opportunities that only require communication through the internet, such as website design, email marketing, social media management, and blogging, among many, many other fields.
Virtual Volunteering – The Beginning
You’re probably wondering how such a thing even began in the first place, right? Who was the genius behind this idea?
The term virtual volunteer was actually first used by the co-founder of Impact Online, Steve Glikbarg, back in 1995 as a way to refer to volunteers that had taken on less standard positions. Impact Online eventually transformed into VolunteerMatch, which is one of the largest online volunteer databases in existence.
Today, volunteering from home is a popular concept and our opportunities have become far more advanced.
Why is Online Volunteering Popular?
As we’re all well aware, our modern society has become much more digital. Nearly everything has become available online, which of course has its pros and cons. But when it comes to volunteering, the internet has allowed us to achieve unimaginable things, breaking geographical boundaries and limitations.
People today can volunteer for literally any cause they wish to, even if the organization is halfway across the world. Volunteering from home has also become increasingly popular because it allows people with busy schedules to fit it in at their comfort.
Some Online Volunteering Opportunities
If you are looking for some meaningful places to offer your services to, look no further. Here are some online volunteer opportunities from trusted organizations that have plenty of need for an extra hand. They are all online and can be done from the comfort of your own home.
The online volunteering program of the United Nations offers a wide variety of online volunteering opportunities including translation and teaching across the globe to achieve sustainable human development. Nearly 12,000 volunteers are connected through 187 countries.
This British organization aims to encourage people to get involved in short-term projects and make the most of their free time, offering a variety of online volunteering opportunities that can be completed in your PJs. 3,269 actions have already been completed.
VolunteerMatch is a very popular platform for finding volunteering opportunities online, from writing newsletters to website design, and is based on the belief that that everyone in the world would like to make a difference in any way that they can. 15.4 million volunteers have already been connected through VolunteerMatch.
Create The Good was founded in order to provide those that want to give back but can’t physically be present with the chance to do so virtually. The platform has something for every skill set ranging from legal advice to a crisis hotline. There are over 200,000 people who have already joined the Create The Good network.
Do-it is a national volunteering database that has more than a million meaningful opportunities both online and locally. They managed to get more than 200,000 volunteers in their first year back in 2012 and have only grown since then.
Catchafire sees itself as a community that promotes social change and aims to make volunteering as efficient as possible, matching up talented people who want to give back to organizations in need. Just tell the database what you’re good at it, and it will aim to find you the best fit.
The School in the Cloud is based off of the belief that knowledge can be gained with the right amount of resources to create a self-learning process. They have made it their mission to provide children across the globe with access to the internet. Their Granny Cloud has over 100 volunteers that Skype with children on a regular basis.
Missing Maps is the perfect online volunteering opportunity for any lover of cartography, offering them a chance to map areas which are currently uncharted. By mapping these vulnerable areas, they can help crisis teams help more efficiently to disasters. Since 2014, over 95,000 volunteers have contributed.
Anyone passionate about history, science, anthropology or just education in general would surely be interested in volunteering for the Smithsonian Institute. Their main volunteering projects are updating Wikipedia pages and transcribing historical documents.
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Virtual volunteers help the Red Cross monitor disasters through discussion, both sharing updates on social media, and finding those who are in need of help. The Red Cross has 500,000 volunteers annually.
Translators Without Borders in a non-profit organization that offers both translation and language help for a variety of humanitarian organizations. They also aim to raise awareness about translation barriers.
Amnesty Decoders is a global network of digital volunteers that help both research and expose human rights violations. Over 4,000 passionate people have already taken part.
Crisis Text Line is a 24/7 support line for those in crisis. They have already trained hundreds of cohorts of volunteers.
Zooniverse is a citizen site web portal which allows volunteers to take part in crowdsourced scientific research.
Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort that aims to digitize and archive a variety of cultural works. Thousands of volunteers have already taken part in digitizing 60,000 e-books.
Ark of Hope for Children aims to help care for as well as bring awareness to the reality of children who are subject to abuse, trafficking, and bullying.
What to Look for Before Volunteering
Volunteering from home is completely different than traditional volunteering where you come to a physical organization. The dynamic is very different, and that’s why it’s important to take note of a few points before taking such a thing upon yourself.
Make sure that you’ve done your homework before signing up and that you know exactly who they are and what they are about. You wouldn’t want to be doing something that isn’t what you had in mind or that goes against your values.
Unfortunately, there are many fraudulent organizations out there, but these can be checked through reading online reviews on websites such as Glassdoor.com or Great Nonprofits.
Be sure that the expectations on both sides are made clear and how your volunteer hours will be tracked, especially if your volunteering is required for school or work.
Sometimes, you even need special training for certain opportunities, which is another reason to be sure that you are clear on everything that the volunteering entails.
Share Your Personal Story
If volunteering in the traditional way, or even online volunteering doesn’t speak to you — that’s perfectly fine! It’s not for everyone, but there are plenty of other ways you can help others out, for example by sharing your personal story with certain organizations.
Whatever you may have overcome throughout your journey such as sickness, or even something you are simply passionate about such as saving stray dogs, share your personal experiences with someone that might really need it. You never know how your words will inspire them to pick themselves up or make a difference in this world.
Look for Local Opportunities
You also don’t always have to look on the other side of the ocean for a meaningful cause. Sometimes, the people that need the most help are sitting right beside us.
Perhaps small organizations in your neighborhood don’t have formal projects set up, but it doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t benefit from an extra hand. Always refer to Idealist.org to see what kinds of volunteer opportunities are out there, but if nothing catches your eye, you can always approach a local organization directly to offer your skills.
Facts About Online Volunteering
There are many myths out there about online volunteering, and we’re here to bust them and give you the truth on what it really entails.
For starters, many people believe that online volunteering is for people that don’t have time to otherwise volunteer. This couldn’t be less true since it still requires a major time investment. What it does mean, however, is that in most cases, the volunteer can choose their own schedule and can also choose a cause regardless of being physically present.
In some online volunteering cases, people also actually do sometimes meet face-to-face with those they are helping at least once in awhile. It’s a myth that all virtual volunteers are located geographically far from the organization they are working with, although there are of course many that benefit from having such an option.
There is also a common belief that all those who take part in online volunteering are from wealthy western countries and that they are shy, introverted people. This also couldn’t be less true, as volunteers come from all kinds of socioeconomic backgrounds and have a wide variety of personalities. The main thing that these people share is a desire to give back to their communities and help those in need.