Volunteering Alternatives : Virtual Volunteers

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Virtual volunteers can use their time and efforts volunteering whenever it’s convenient for them, yet still in a meaningful way.

A few weeks ago, I took a look at the difference between working for small and large nonprofit organizations. Today I will look at another aspect of volunteering—virtual and offsite volunteers.

With the social media explosion has come virtual and offsite nonprofit volunteers. Virtual volunteers? How can they be helpful from thousands of miles away. The answer is actually very helpful, sometimes more than those volunteers who show up to an organization weekly to help, especially if they’re managed correctly.

Clarifying team goals and individual goals and highlighting the skills of each individual team member is a great way to engage volunteers and keep them efficient and productive. Just like physical volunteers, each virtual and offsite volunteer comes with their own unique knowledge and skill set. By highlighting these skill sets, volunteers are more likely to be motivated and productive.

Virtually volunteers are often people who would volunteer physically, but due to time constraints cannot. What can these volunteers do for you? The typical virtual volunteer develops planned giving programs, organizes fundraisers, solicits local businesses for financial support and volunteers, researches potential funding sources, identifies donated items on the Internet, attracts new donors, maintains existing ones, and nurtures current donors into giving more. These are just a few ways virtual volunteers can be utilized. Depending on the organization, some volunteers can be utilized very specifically.

Lesley Cunningham served as a virtual volunteer for six months now. She volunteers for the West Virginia Human Resource Development Foundation as a mentor for at-risk youth between 16-21 years of age.

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Lesley Cunningham has been a virtual volunteer for six months. She says with her busy schedule, virtual volunteering is a great option. Photo courtesy of Lesley Cunningham.

“I worked at WV HRDF for three and a half years after I graduated college,” explained Cunningham. “I left the agency to work in training and human resources. I love my career, but I missed the feeling of always giving back and working in the Charleston community. When I was approached with the chance to be a mentor for the program, I jumped at the chance. “

Cunningham says her duties are very specific and communications has never been an issue.

“My duties as a mentor is to stay in communication with the youth through texting, phone calls, email and internet,” explained Cunningham. “I am there to provide them support and guidance on any issues that my arise in their life. I am also there if they just need someone to talk to. I also work to help keep them focused on obtaining their GED. I help have job readiness activities such as mock job interviews, helping with resumes as well as talking about their future goals and developing plans to help them reach those goals.”

Cunningham says that being a virtual volunteer has really meshed with her lifestyle and her career.

“I really enjoy being a virtual volunteer,” said Cunningham. “Virtual volunteering allows more flexibility than being a regular volunteer. I love to volunteer, but with my current career it makes it very hard sometimes to find the time that is needed to dedicate to an organization. Through being a virtual volunteer, I am able to give back to my community even though I may be in another state for work.”

Cunningham says being a virtual volunteer is ideal for anyone with a busier lifestyle who wants to give back to their community.

“I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to volunteer but doesn’t think they have the time needed,” said Cunningham. “It is a fantastic way to give back to your community.”

Unsure of how to become a virtual volunteer? In addition to many opportunities through local organizations, there are many search engines that can help you find virtual volunteer opportunities. Many organizations say that virtual volunteering can be important to building your resume and your career. Additionally, it’s a great way to give back to your community when and where it’s convenient for you.

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