Virtual volunteering for nonprofits: How to engage volunteers online and expand your support network

Virtual volunteering is any volunteering activity that takes place online or through another digital medium and in today's digital era, it has emerged as a transformative force for nonprofits. With the ability to engage volunteers from anywhere in the world, virtual volunteering breaks down geographical barriers and opens up new opportunities for organizations to increase their visibility, drive donations, and maximize their impact. 

In this blog post, we will explore the benefits of virtual volunteering for nonprofits and help you understand the distinction between remote and virtual activities, so you can make informed decisions about the type of volunteering that best suits your needs.

Virtual volunteering

●    Virtual volunteering always takes place through a digital medium. Whether online or by phone, participants can join regardless of their location.
●    Individuals or groups of volunteers can connect with your nonprofit and contribute their time, skills, and knowledge to support your mission from anywhere in the world.

Remote volunteering

●    Remote volunteering does not necessarily need a digital element. It simply requires that volunteers do the volunteering task from a distance. 
●    This could be meeting up with other volunteers in a separate location from the nonprofit, or completing the activity individually and connecting afterward.

Over the last two decades, online volunteer opportunities have become increasingly popular, but it was the COVID-19 pandemic that significantly boosted its rapid rise in popularity. When many countries went into lockdown and public spaces were declared off-limits, virtual volunteering was widely used as an alternative to traditional in-person volunteering. Even now that restrictions have mostly been lifted, virtual volunteering remains a great way to connect volunteers from all over the world in a way that is accessible to everyone.

Now that you’ve been introduced to virtual volunteering, let’s take a look at the types of activities that you could do to get your nonprofit started with engaging volunteers online.

Types of virtual volunteering activities


There are many activities that can be done online from any given location. Below are ten examples that will give you an idea of the type of online volunteering opportunities available and help your nonprofit identify your needs.

1.    Job interview/CV coaching: Help your beneficiaries prepare for their professional interviews by asking volunteers to slip into the role of managers and do mock interviews with them, or lend a hand to tailoring and improving their CVs.
2.    Awareness workshops: Do you want to introduce and promote your cause to new potential supporters? Organizing an online awareness workshop can be a great way to attract more curious minds to support your nonprofit.  
3.    Pro-bono counsel: Whenever you might need some advice for a specific issue, planning an online meeting with skilled volunteers, during which they give you pro-bono counsel can help you gain access to the knowledge you need.
4.    Marketing or social media: Take your marketing or social media strategies to the next level by getting help from experienced marketers with tasks such as creating a strategy, writing content, etc. 
5.    Fundraising assistance: Is your nonprofit hosting a fundraiser? Clearing up any doubts you may have about event planning, entertainment, or logistics with an experienced volunteer can help you achieve better results from your fundraising efforts.
6.    Content translation: Translations can be costly and time-consuming, but not when done through a virtual session with multi-lingual volunteers. Get your content translated in a short amount of time with skilled translators. 
7.    Mentoring or tutoring: Recruit knowledgeable volunteers to mentor or tutor your beneficiaries in their specific areas of interest and unlock their potential.
8.    Professional skills training: Gain professional training in professional skills such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) by qualified volunteers through online consultations or calls. Absorb all their wisdom, tips, and tricks, and you’ll be well on your way to implementing those skills at your nonprofit. 
9.    Moderating online discussion groups: Whether you’re holding an online event or a focus group with beneficiaries, volunteers can assist you in moderating virtual discussions and making sure conversations keep flowing. 
10.   Content creation: Host a content creation session to update content on your website, blogs, or social media posts. With skilled volunteers, you'll get weeks' worth of work done in a few hours and build closer relationships with people who care about your cause.

Benefits of virtual volunteering for nonprofits


Although virtual volunteering may seem like a new concept due to its recent burst in interest, it actually started in the late 1990s with an initiative to promote the practice in the US to nonprofits. Nowadays, people are increasingly seeing the value in it, due to benefits such as the flexibility for both nonprofits and volunteers. No matter your location, background, or budget, you can engage in acts of goodness even from the comfort of your own home. Here are some of the key benefits of virtual volunteering for your nonprofit:

1. Expand your reach globally

Organizing an online volunteer opportunity can be a fantastic way to reach and engage more potential supporters around the world. Online communication methods, particularly videoconferences, are very scalable. It’s easier to host larger groups of people in virtual meetings and relatively simpler to manage too. Virtual volunteering gives your nonprofit the chance to unite people from different locations all in one virtual space, and truly amplify your impact. 

2. Benefit from Word-of-Mouth

Word-of-Mouth (WOM), to this day, remains the most effective method of marketing; one which your nonprofit could also benefit from. WOM plays a big role in decision-making since 92% of consumers trust recommendations from their friends, and brands that create an emotional connection with their audience generate 3x more WOM. How are these statistics relevant to nonprofits? Although you may not be selling a product or service, you are selling an experience and sense of purpose through virtual volunteering. 

Volunteering can be a very personal activity as people tend to support causes they are passionate about. No matter your cause, people will remember the emotion of making a positive impact with you. There is a high potential for you to generate good WOM about your nonprofit, which can help to increase people’s awareness of your nonprofit on a wider scale.

And ultimately, it would also attract new supporters for your cause and mission. You can discover the positive impacts Word-of-Mouth can have on a nonprofit by reading our testimonial with the LA Regional Food Bank.

3. Make volunteering inclusive


Have you ever thought about how in-person volunteering can often be exclusive to able-bodied individuals? Many opportunities involve physical activities such as painting walls or setting up event decorations and most people with disabilities wouldn’t be able to do them. Indeed, up to 1 in 4 (27%) adults in the United States have some type of disability, meaning that in-person volunteering may limit the number of people who are able to participate and make a positive impact. Digital volunteering opportunities level the playing field and make the world of volunteering much more inclusive. 

4. Save costs for your nonprofit

Given that this type of volunteering simply requires access to a technological device and a stable internet connection, you end up saving costs in many different areas. By organizing virtual volunteer opportunities your nonprofit can save on consulting fees and industry salary rates which would be otherwise needed to hire a professional for the project. 

Even though members of your organization’s team may be on-site during a virtual volunteering session, no extraordinary expenses would be incurred on your part to host additional volunteers. Indeed, all expenses surrounding infrastructure, equipment, transport, and staff are reduced. 

Understanding how online volunteering helps cut costs is crucial to then establishing how your organization can optimize for future budgets and minimize expenses overall. You can refer to this ebook to learn more about saving costs for your nonprofit. 

5. Gain access to volunteers anywhere

Get into contact with experts from anywhere in the world willing to apply their skills and knowledge to further your cause. The flexibility of virtual volunteering allows professionals to adjust volunteering hours around their busy schedules. Online volunteer opportunities also make it easier for individuals looking to volunteer with your nonprofit organization especially since they require no traveling.

This is very beneficial to nonprofits since it gives you the possibility to access experienced individuals in their field. Through them, you could get advice during an online Q&A session, or reach translators around the world to get content translated into any desired language and also expand your international reach.

Virtual volunteering at Benevity


Why Benevity

Doing good can happen anywhere and from anywhere. Benevity is a corporate-purpose platform, which enables nonprofits like yours to connect with volunteers who are interested in supporting causes. With 900 companies actively using Benevity, you’ll have access to a wide network of highly-skilled corporate volunteers, who can help you achieve your mission quickly and efficiently by responding to the virtual volunteering activities you create. 

Create your virtual volunteering opportunity now 

All you need to do is specify the details of the project including the hours volunteers can expect to invest in the project per week, what tasks they will be working on, what skills and knowledge are needed, and finally, the total duration of the commitment you expect. In this way, you can find a volunteer who is qualified and willing to help you achieve the desired results.

Benevity also enables nonprofits to connect with volunteers in-person. Other types of activities you can request help with through our platform include:

●    Field-volunteering: Find volunteers who are willing to help out with on-site tasks such as farm work, cleanups, and helping out at animal shelters.
●    Skills-based volunteering: Find volunteers who have the skills necessary to help you out with things such as organizing fundraising events, social media marketing, and web design free of charge.
●    Goods donations: Receive donations of a variety of items your organization needs, such as books, hygiene products, and clothes.
●    Monetary donations: Receive donations from businesses across the world that can help you set up more programs dedicated to helping your cause, as well as funding existing programs, which are already making an impact.

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