Society’s outlook on ‘Virtual Volunteering’.
The civilized world has acknowledged that computers and the World Wide Web is a corner stone of our society’s structure. Thus, we have acknowledged that ‘Virtual Volunteering’ is the next step in volunteering and the step into the future. Sites like DoSomething, just to name one of thousands, have emerged and are presenting people with a chance to make a difference in the lives of others and enrich their own lives. This particular site alone shows 119 ‘Virtual Volunteering’ opportunities which are available. Visit MacDonald Youth Services to see how you can volunteer online.
The following information is based on studies, feedback, direct working observations, and online surveys conducted by Agencies and People Engaged in Virtual Volunteering located at: ServiceLeader.
- The age of most virtual volunteers is between 18 and 50 years old.
This is not surprising because the internet is fairly new and there is still quite a bit of separation between older generations and computers and the internet. It is also not surprising that few volunteers are under the age of 18 because children are often in school until 18 and less interested in volunteer work as something to occupy their free time.
Although, in the future I would suspect that more people over 50 years old will participate in virtual volunteering. As people in generations that are growing up with and becoming acclimated to interacting virtually with people they will continue to be active (possibly more active) in virtual volunteering as they retire or have additional time to volunteer.
- Most are Anglo/European ~60%, Asians consist of ~10%, less than 5% were Hispanic or African American and 0% were Native American.
The surveys have shown that the majority of virtual volunteer activity originates in large, densely populated metropolitan areas. With this observation it is easy to see that where computers are decides who is able to participate in online volunteer work.
The future of online volunteer work will become more even between cultures as other countries and areas become more developed and involved in the virtual world.
- Gender is equal ~50:50 (Female:Male).
It may have been thought that more males would be involved in virtual volunteer work because of their tendency to be more technologically inclined. This is not the case and it is what I expect in the future of virtual volunteering. It shows that the online world welcomes everyone.
- Most people who volunteer online also participate at on-site volunteer work.
This shows how people who volunteer are involved to help wherever they are able to help. When volunteering people are given a sense of accomplishment and are inspired to do more whenever and wherever they are needed. Online volunteer work gives them the opportunity to volunteer anywhere.
- Virtual volunteer work provides a convenient alternative to face-to-face volunteer work.
Flexibility is also a benefit. Many people are looking for convenience and being able to volunteer on their own schedules. As we all know, time does not grow on trees. There are many opportunities for people to donate a half hour a week to virtual volunteer work which is enough to make a difference. Convenience and the ability to find work that fits your schedule and what you like is a big reason for why people like to do virtual volunteer work as opposed to on site volunteer work.
- Many choose to do volunteer work because of a disability or health issue. It gives them the opportunity to stay busy and contribute.
There are stories of people who can’t leave their bed for long periods of time because of injury or disability, though because of virtual volunteer work they are able to give their time to support an organization. This gives the people something to occupy their time as well as gives them a sense of accomplishment. They are also given the opportunity to meet people and make friendships and work with people. This may help their’ morale while recovering.
- Only 2 out of more than 100 agencies using virtual volunteers said lack of volunteers was keeping them from meeting goals.
This statistic is amazing when you think about it. There is an amazing resource for nonprofit organizations and communities that need volunteers and there are plenty of volunteers to fulfill their needs. The only obstacle is to get volunteers to actively participate and organize and facilitate tasks and objectives.
In the future there the amount of virtual volunteers will only grow as more people use the internet daily.
- Most problems occurred when supervisors and managers were unable to be responsive to volunteers and a lack of organization or sufficient systems in order to give assignments and post completed assignments.
This obstacle is difficult to solve and it is the main reason many virtual volunteers do not have a good experience with virtual volunteer work. In my experience working with the Gutenburg Project the facilitators were very prompt with answering questions and providing aid. The systems in place were very easy to manage and navigate through in order to complete the tasks at hand. It was easy to complete the task and move on to new tasks. It is very important that virtual volunteer work is easy to complete and efficiently organized.
The future of virtual volunteer work is only going to be easier and more efficient with new software and programs that are going to be utilized in order to organize and complete online tasks. There are a lot of open source software available that can help non profits and community organizations to organize their information and volunteer work. As new software becomes available it will become easier to use and manage large amounts of information and projects.
- Volunteer work serves as a large resource that many non-profits and organizations that need help.
Many organizations are dependent on volunteer workers in order to continue to provide the services that communities rely on. Without this resource they would not survive.
- It is often a problem to find sufficient time to volunteer which is a reason many people do not get involved in volunteer programs.
Many people do not volunteer because of time restraints. If they had enough time they would participate. Virtual volunteer work solves this problem. You are able to volunteer your time whenever you can and for however long you can. This flexibility is a large part of why virtual volunteer work is so popular.
From this information we conclude that society believes virtual volunteer work to be more convenient than its counterpart, face-to-face volunteer work. It is obvious that volunteers are important for the success of many good initiatives that provide services and goods to others. Virtual volunteer work will gain momentum going into the future because of a larger amount of people being involved in the virtual world. Virtual volunteer opportunities also give the volunteer the opportunity to gain work experience, meet people, and make friends while doing something productive with their time and feeling a sense of accomplishment with their work.
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