Are you ready to volunteer virtually?
Used by permission from www.serviceleader.org
Volunteering from a home or work computer is different from working on-site
with an organization for many obvious reasons: there's usually more flexibility
in the use of your time, a greater degree of independence, you interact very
little (if at all) with various staff members, etc. For some, these differences
make virtual volunteering ideal; these same reasons can make it difficult for
Setting your own schedule is one of the chief joys of virtual volunteering.
However, there's nothing virtual about the commitment you are making, nor the
deadlines you are assigned to complete the volunteer work. The organization is
counting on you to finish any projects you volunteer for. When you agree to a
virtual volunteering assignment, you are agreeing to completing the assignment
It's so easy to say yes to volunteering via the Internet that many
individuals sign up to do so before really considering their expectations and
schedule for an assignment.
Before you volunteer to help an organization via the Internet, consider the
following to determine if you are ready:
If you answered no to any of the above questions, or had difficulty answering
some of the questions, perhaps you are not ready for volunteering virtually.
If you still feel you might be ready to be a virtual volunteer, check out some
of the Online Resources offered by www.serviceleader.org/vv/forvols.html
- Do you have regular, ongoing access to the Internet?
If you only have access at college, and the semester is about to end; or, if
you are about to switch Internet providers or computers, now is probably not
a good time to volunteer to complete a project virtually. Online
volunteering assignments usually last around three months; make sure you
will have ongoing access to the Internet during that time.
- Do you know how to communicate well via the written word?
Most, if not all, of your communication during a virtual assignment will be
via e-mail. Good writing skills and excellent attention to detail are
important in any virtual volunteering project. Even if you want to provide a
highly technical service, such as creating a database, you have to be able
to clearly communicate what you are doing to your contact at the
- Do you stick to deadlines? Do you see a project through to its finish?
Organizations are counting on you to complete the assignment you've
volunteered for; there's nothing virtual about your commitment.
- Are you comfortable working on your own, without direct supervision?
That doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for guidance when you need it. However,
virtual assignments are best for those people who enjoy working on their
own, with just occasional supervision.
- Are you self-motivated?
Some organizations involving remote volunteers are good at creating ways to
inspire those individuals during their assignments -- they may call you just
to say, "Good job" or to check in. The executive director may send
out a personal email thanking a volunteer for his or her contribution. But
many organizations aren't this savvy with online volunteers yet. When you
work at home, the inspiration to work on a virtual assignment has to come
- Do you pace yourself well? Do you avoid over committing for projects?
Most volunteers who do not complete their online assignments say that they
thought they could do the work when they signed up, but as the deadline for
the assignment approached, they realized that other things must take
priority: school activities, home duties, work projects, etc. The
organization is left with an unfinished assignment and an unmet need. Think
about your work style and your other commitments before volunteering
- Do you have a set time of day when you will work on virtual
Don't just assume that you will get to that three-hour virtual assignment
some time before the deadline two weeks from now; schedule a time, however
approximate, to complete the project you've committed to do.
- Will your work area be void of distractions while you are working on a
Any virtual assignments is going to take a certain level of concentration
and intensity. Make sure your environment is going to allow you to devote
the proper energies to your assignment.
- Is this the right time for you to take on a volunteering project?
If you are feeling overwhelmed by other responsibilities, now is probably
not a good time to volunteer, on or offline. Volunteer managers try to be
very understanding about your job and family commitments -- but they are
also counting on you to finish assignments you commit to.
- Do you answer your e-mails quickly (no more than 48 hours/two business
days after receipt)?
The organization may need to contact you with a critical issue before you
complete the assignment. If you are interacting one-on-one with someone as
part of the virtual assignment, responsiveness is crucial to the success of
your online relationship.
- What benefits do you expect out of volunteering virtually? What results
should the organization expect because of your volunteering?
Answering these questions for yourself will help you better identify the
virtual assignments right for you.