Resources for AGENCIES
Resources for VOLUNTEERS
About the Virtual Volunteering Project
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finding a virtual opportunity
This information was last updated on December 11, 2000
For many organizations, the idea of working with unseen volunteers can be an unsettling or even disturbing thought. Virtual volunteering, online mentoring, teletutoring, and other forms of cyber service are uncharted and unexplored arenas for the vast majority of agencies, even those who use the Internet frequently.
The focus of the Virtual Volunteering Project is on helping agencies create online opportunities and manage volunteers using the Internet, but we also offer resources for volunteers interested in or already engaged in virtual volunteering.
Here are ways to find or create a volunteer opportunity that you can complete via your home or work computer, and, at the same time, introduce the idea of virtual volunteering to other organizations:
- It's so easy to say yes to volunteering via the Internet that many people sign up to do so before really considering their expectations and schedule for an assignment. There's nothing virtual about the commitment you are making. The organization is counting on you to finish completely any projects you volunteer for, and to meet all pre-agreed obligations as a volunteer. Before you start looking for virtual volunteering opportunities of any kind, take this self evaluation to determine if you are ready.
- Remember - most of the organizations you contact have never heard of virtual volunteering, so you've got to sell them on the concept as well as promoting yourself as a volunteer. A good way to do that is to ask and answer these questions of yourself, and be prepared to communicate the answers to an organization you want to help:
- Why do you want to volunteer, in general?
- What do you hope to gain and give by volunteering?
- What kind of organization(s) or programs do you want to help?
- What sort of services and assistance would you like to provide -- building a web site for an organization, doing online research, mentoring a young person via the Internet, visiting virtually with someone who is home bound? (Check out our examples of ways an organization can involve volunteers via the Internet for ideas)
- What organizations have you volunteered with before, on or offline?
- What skills and experience would you like to bring to a volunteer assignment?
- What is your availability for the assignment (do you want to work during a set time of day? for a certain amount of days, weeks, or months?)
Some volunteers prepare a special resume or a letter of introduction that answers all of these questions. If your initial contact with the organization is via e-mail, include this information with that first e-mail. If you are going onsite to the organization, print out the information and take it with you. You may be required to answer these questions again on a volunteer application.
- Look for organizations that already do something offline that interests you. For instance, if you want to tutor a young person online or visit someone virtually who is home bound, look for an agency in your area that already does this in traditional, face-to-face, offline settings. Become a part of this offline program FIRST, and then ask if online tutoring or visiting could be introduced.
- Many organizations require potential volunteers to come onsite for a face-to-face volunteer orientation, even those who want offsite volunteer assignments. That's why it's usually best to look for virtual opportunities with organizations that are geographically near you. If transportation or a physical disability prevents you from coming onsite, be clear about this in your communications with the organization, so that alternatives may be sought.
- Contact your nearest volunteer center by phone or e-mail (where available) and ask for a list of volunteer opportunities. A complete list of volunteer centers all over the U.S. can be accessed via our Web site at http://www.serviceleader.org/vv/vonline2.html.
When you get a list of opportunities, review them and note which ones might be something you could do via a home or work computer. Then contact those organizations.
- Contact organizations in your area that you personally believe in; an environmental agency, a child-services agency, a tutoring program, etc. Your local United Way could provide you with leads. Impact Online's database of organizations is another good place to look for agencies working in areas that interest you. Approach these agencies, per the above guidelines, about volunteering virtually for them.
- More than 100 organizations that involve volunteers virtually are listed here on our Web site. Review the information about these organizations, visit their web sites, and contact those that you might like to assist.
- Interested specifically in online mentoring? Please see our web page dedicated to this subject, How can I be an online mentor or tutor?.
- VolunteerMatch, is the primary service of Impact Online, and lists virtual volunteering opportunities from a variety of nonprofit agencies.
The VV Project also provides the most comprehensive list available of online databases of volunteering opportunities in the U.S. and Canada, with notations for those databases that list online volunteering opportunities.
You can also see a list of organizations outside the U.S. that involve American volunteers; some of these organizations involve online volunteers as well.
Most of these online volunteering opportunities on these databases are for people with marketing, fund raising, software or web design expertise. Note also that you may have to e-mail several organizations before you actually end up in an online volunteering assignment (many organizations post their opportunities before putting in the systems to respond to and orient online volunteers).
- If you work at a large corporation that has a human resources department, contact a representative and ask if your company has an employee volunteer program, and if your company is a partner with a particular school or nonprofit organization. If so, both the HR representatives and the partners will have additional resources to help you find a volunteer opportunity.
You may want to help start a new program for volunteers at your company, or expand an existing program, building on the goals of the company's school or nonprofit partners! The Virtual Volunteering Project has resources that can help you explore how to start an online mentoring or online tutoring program. But remember to get written permission from the HR department and your supervisor before trying to launch such a program!
- Review these additional tips for volunteers to help you find the right volunteer opportunity. These resources include information on family volunteering, group volunteering, youth volunteering, and career exploration and development through volunteering.