The following is a guest post from David Ohta, a Stanford University student passionate about online volunteering and service. It has been gently edited for the RW blog. Enjoy!
With 2016 now in full swing, we are once again seeing innovative new technology take the world by storm. This year is set to be full of technological advancements, like virtual reality becoming more accessible to the public and the inevitable release of the iPhone 7. As technology continues to evolve, it provides new ways for us to connect with one another and better ways to work together. When it comes to volunteerism, advancements in technology have played a big role in bringing people together to create social impact. Virtual volunteering has been around since the early 90s, but has recently seen an acceleration in adoption amongst nonprofits, volunteers, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) teams.
Virtual volunteering programs provide flexible, accessible community service opportunities for corporations across the globe. Whether it’s a CEO, an intern, or a remote employee, virtual volunteerism has its own set of unique benefits, providing a viable and advantageous alternative to traditional volunteerism.
By David Ohta
So … what exactly is virtual volunteering?
Virtual volunteering is any volunteering activity that takes place online. Websites like Wikipedia and DoSomething or social services like CrisisTextLine exist as a result of people volunteering their expertise and skills online.
- Engagement: high levels of engagement for first-time volunteers.
- Flexibility: volunteers can contribute according to their schedules.
- Ease of access: with no physical barriers, getting started can be as simple as a few clicks from the comfort of your home or office.
But being engaging, flexible, and accessible aren’t the only things virtual volunteerism provides ….
The “virtual” aspect of virtual volunteering makes any program highly scalable, making it possible to recruit hundreds of volunteers with little to no complications. The internet’s capacity is, for all intents and purposes, infinite. As a result, the prospect of hundreds of thousands of volunteers acting within a single company in unison to support a single cause is a reasonable expectation. Manpower is a must in working to address any social issue, and such large-scale participation is nearly impossible to manage or officiate in other forms of volunteerism.
The successes of employee volunteer programs can be easily and promptly tracked, allowing for participants to set, achieve, and celebrate the completion of goals with measurable data.
The transparency of impact is another attractive benefit when it comes to virtual volunteering. Imagine finishing up a week of work at the office after you’ve given 15 minutes of advice online at the end of each work day to find a report in your inbox highlighting just how many student lives you impacted during your week. Now, imagine the emotional boost volunteers will experience as a result of seeing such positive consequences. The successes of employee volunteer programs can be easily and promptly tracked, allowing participants to set, achieve, and celebrate the completion of goals with measurable data.
Like volunteering at a soup kitchen or helping to build a home for the homeless, virtual volunteering targets a need in society and puts “people power” behind the solution. CareerVillage leverages virtual volunteering to address a societal need, namely the nationwide opportunity gap in mentorship education, and works to crowdsource career advice for disadvantaged students (full disclosure: I’m currently an intern with CareerVillage working to provide high school students nationwide with access to mentorship advice and college planning info). By asking professionals from all sectors to volunteer their expertise, knowledge, and experience, CareerVillage is able to provide students with the opportunity to access excellent career advice. If you’re interested in seeing the impact in action, check it out!
Virtual Volunteerism in the Future
With businesses, nonprofit organizations, and workplaces of all varieties quickly adopting virtual volunteering as a viable form of CSR with clear logistical advantages, it is safe to assume that virtual volunteering is here to stay as the future of service initiatives nationwide.
Want to mentor a student? Go to CareerVillage.
If you’re a CSR professional looking to incorporate virtual volunteering into your own company’s service initiatives, make virtual volunteering a priority for 2016. Track your progress, and let us know what you think about its potential impact.
If you’re a CSR professional interested in piloting a virtual volunteering program with CareerVillage.org, shoot them an email at email@example.com.
Or maybe you’ve already tried virtual volunteering? I’d love to hear about your experience! And even if virtual volunteering is a new idea, I’d like to hear your thoughts on the implementation of virtual service initiatives in the corporate world.
Realized Worth designs and implements corporate volunteer programs for companies around the world. Want to discuss your program with us? We’ll be happy to hear from you! Find us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.