10 Reasons Why You Need to Recruit Online Volunteers

Online Volunteers
This article was taken as an excerpt from The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook: Fully Integrating Online Service into Volunteer Involvement, by Jayne Cravens and Susan J. Ellis, © 2014, Energize, Inc. Found in the Energize, Inc. Online Bookstore.   

There are many reasons why organizations or initiatives involve online volunteers, and they are pretty much the same reasons organizations involve onsite volunteers. Here are but 10 reasons for an organization to engage in virtual volunteering:

1. Extend Your Resources

Online volunteers, just as those volunteers who work onsite, extend the resources of an organization. The additional help augments core staff efforts and allows an organization to do even more. They and other volunteers are not, however, replacements for employees.

2. Expand Your Reach

An organization that embraces virtual volunteering gives volunteers new ways of supporting causes they feel passionate about. This can lead both to expanding the involvement of onsite volunteers and to involving new volunteers altogether.

3. Volunteering Anytime Anywhere

Virtual volunteering can remove some time and physical barriers for both current and new volunteers. While the time required for volunteering online is real, not virtual, volunteers can provide a service, ask questions, or provide feedback at whatever time is convenient for them, outside of a few required live meetings with staff or other volunteers.

4.  Stay Ahead of the Curve

An organization that uses the Internet to support and involve volunteers is sending a message to its supporters that it is modern and efficient, that it wants to provide convenience to its volunteers, and that it understands the realities of the 21st-century workplace. As the competition for press coverage and funding becomes more intense, it has never been more important for nonprofits, NGOs, government agencies, and others to exude such an image.

5. Accommodate any Lifestyle

Virtual volunteering allows for the participation of people who might find onsite volunteering difficult or impossible because of a disability, mobility issue, home obligation, or work schedule. This, in turn, allows agencies to benefit from the additional talent and resources of more volunteers and allows the organization to demonstrate its commitment to being an accessible organization.

6. A New Way to Find Volunteers

Potential volunteers not reached by traditional means may be reached online. The Internet makes it easy to reach particular audiences quickly, such as people with a specific skill or representing a specific demographic. This does not mean the Internet will totally replace other forms of volunteer recruitment, such as a booth at a community event or registering with your local volunteer center (which these days is likely to put local information online as well). It simply means you have an additional avenue to use to recruit volunteers. As it is quite challenging to recognize the best talent pool for your organization from the thousand applicants, volunteers, ATS recruiting software can play a significant role in helping find volunteers. Right from posting jobs online to on-boarding new recruits, it can help automate the entire recruitment process.

7. Reach a Younger Generation

The Internet offers a proven tool for recruiting younger volunteers, a difficulty many organizations face. We have noted earlier that online volunteers may represent a variety of populations. While it is certainly true that people under the age of 30 are more prone to use online technologies than any other age group, even people in their 40s have used the Web for most of their professional lives.

8. Increase Your Capabilities

Some or most of your organization’s mission may be best served by online volunteers, especially if your organization’s membership is dispersed across a region or a country, or even around the world. Three examples of entirely virtual organizations are: Project Gutenberg, mentioned earlier in this chapter; LibriVox, a nonprofit that coordinates volunteers making freely-available online recordings of public-domain books; and the Aid Workers Network, an online resource for people working in aid, relief, and development. These entirely virtual organizations could not exist if they only or primarily involved onsite volunteers.

9. Save the Environment

Online volunteers can be environmentally friendly. Online volunteers create no car exhaust, do not require a parking space, and do not need the organization to provide them with a desk or chair. And people are not buying new, additional technology just to volunteer online; they are using technology for a variety of other tasks. Even so, you may want to encourage your online volunteers to dispose of electronic waste in an ecologically friendly manner.

        Moreover, volunteer resources managers (VRMs) who work online have no restrictive limits on giving and sharing information with volunteers. For instance, instead of printed volunteer policies, which must be copied for onsite distribution and quickly go out of date, managers can share the most current policies online, in a public or private area, for any volunteer to access at any time. Instead of giving a volunteer mounds of printed material that are not environmentally friendly, the manager can point to online resources for the volunteer to read from home. And the volunteer can read as much as he or she needs to for an assignment (and, beyond that, what he or she wants to).

10. Better Record Keeping

Managing volunteers virtually can create automatic, extensive records of both volunteer activities and interactions with volunteers—records that can be used to generate statistics, provide quotes for an upcoming grant proposal, or evaluate the overall volunteering initiative. An organization that manages virtually gains an archive of e-mails, instant messages, chats, online forum messages, photos, and audio and video recordings relating to volunteer discussions and activities.

Permission is granted for organizations to reprint this excerpt. Reprints must provide full acknowledgment of the source, as cited here: Excerpted from The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook: Fully Integrating Online Service into Volunteer Involvement, by Jayne Cravens and Susan J. Ellis, © 2014, Energize, Inc. Found in the Energize, Inc. Online Bookstore.


Jayne Cravens is an internationally recognized trainer, researcher, and consultant in communications, volunteer involvement, community engagement, and management of nonprofits, NGOs, and government initiatives. She is recognized as a pioneer in the research, promotion, and practice of virtual volunteering, virtual teams, micro-volunteering and crowdsourcing. Active online since 1993, Jayne‘s Website, was one of the first to help nonprofits use online tools and is frequently cited in reports and articles. She is a popular speaker at conferences and universities around the world.

authorSusanJEllisSusan J. Ellis is president of Energize, Inc., an international training, consulting, and publishing firm that specializes in volunteerism. Since 1977, she has assisted clients throughout the world to create or strengthen their volunteer corps, always advocating for the importance of strategic volunteer involvement. Her fourteen books include The Volunteer Recruitment Book and From the Top Down: The Executive Role in Successful Volunteer Involvement. As consultant to the Virtual Volunteering Project in the 1990s, Susan was the lead author on the original edition of The Virtual Volunteering Guidebook.

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