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Are Virtual and Micro-volunteering the New Normal?

Lori Halley 11 April 2014 4 comments

Since it is National Volunteer Week, many of us are thinking about celebrating with our volunteers and recognizing their contributions. But what about the volunteers you never see – those who work diligently for non-profits or membership organizations as virtual volunteers? Or those who contribute through micro-volunteering efforts?

Tobi Johnson (Tobi Johnson & Associates) suggests: 

In the midst of the tech revolution, nonprofits have adapted, offering new ways to engage, neatly categorizing volunteers into “virtual telecommuters” and “on-site supporters.”  It’s become clear that these classifications don’t really capture the whole picture.  In today’s world, MOST volunteers (even those that volunteer in-person) are BOTH virtual AND mobile -- accessing online information, communicating, and collaborating whenever and from wherever they like, both while in the office and outside it.

So if we agree with Johnson, that “the future of volunteerism is Virtual AND mobile” – is your organization prepared to support this new type of volunteer? 

Understanding and Working With Virtual and Mobile Volunteers 

We’ve just added a new article to our Membership Knowledge HubUnderstanding and Working With Virtual and Mobile Volunteersthat describes the “changing volunteer workplace”; offering statistics that confirm the move to telecommuting, virtual and mobile work. 

This article, by Tobi Johnson, outlines the “new opportunities for volunteer programs” as well as looking at what “these tectonic shifts in the nature of work mean to our own core volunteer leadership competencies”.

In addition, the article helps us understand the impact of virtual distance and “what can be done to lead remote volunteers and reduce the effects of Affinity Distance”, and offers a list of tips, resources and technology to help you lead and support your virtual volunteers.

You can read the full article in our Membership Knowledge Hub here:  

Understanding and Working With Virtual and Mobile Volunteers. 

Has your organization put processes in place for supporting your virtual or micro-volunteers?  Share your ideas in the comments below

Image source:  Man holding photo with virtual volunteer - courtesy of BigStockPhoto.com

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Friday, 11 April 2014 at 9:30 AM


  • Jayne Cravens said:

    Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 2:46 PM
    The practice of virtual volunteering is more than 30 years old. There are many thousands of organizations and volunteers engaged in the practice. There are no "virtual volunteers" - all volunteers are REAL.

    A good place to start in learning about this very well-established practice of engaging volunteers is via this list of myths about virtual volunteering:

    For organizations interested in expanding their involvement of online volunteers, or in expanding their use of the Internet to support volunteers no matter were service is performed, check out The LAST Virtual Volunteering Guidebook: http://www.energizeinc.com/store/1-222-E-1

    Ongoing discussions by organizations involving online volunteers can be found at this LinkedIn group:
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Sunday, 13 April 2014 at 4:08 PM
    Jayne: Your point is well taken - all volunteers are "real"! Thanks for sharing the additional resources.
  • Megan Keane said:

    Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 2:36 PM
    Thanks for this virtual volunteering resource! As Jayne pointed out, virtual volunteering has been around for a long time, but with new technology tools it is becoming increasingly easier to manage and work with volunteers at least from a technical perspective. Video tools are particularly helpful for getting closer to that in-person connection to keep volunteers engaged and excited about their work.
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 23 April 2014 at 2:53 PM
    Megan: Glad you like the resource and yes video tools can be very effective.
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