Steps for setting up and managing a Virtual Volunteering Programme

Virtual volunteering should not be looked at as a replacement for face-to-face volunteering; instead, it is an expansion of your volunteer resources, an augmentation of your organisation’s activities, and another way for someone to help support your organisation and give back to the community. For some people, it will be a preferred avenue of volunteering, but for many people, it will be an additional avenue of volunteering.

Involving volunteers online comes naturally to some people; for others, there is a significant learning curve. Keep in mind that not all of this information may be applicable to your organisation or to every manager. Also, remember that this is new territory for all of us! We’re all still learning.

Setting Up and Managing a Virtual Volunteering Program

Laying the groundwork
Once you’ve determined that your organisation is ready for virtual volunteering, it’s time for some internal groundwork: getting staff buy-in and participation, developing an implementation plan, training staff and volunteers, etc.  Further food for thought – download this resource, a guide on three ways to engage volunteers from home

Identifying and creating roles for Online Volunteers
Just as with offline volunteering, a first step in creating tasks for online volunteers is to look around and see what needs to be done in general for your organisation. However, when thinking of virtual volunteering tasks at your own organisation, also ask: how do your volunteers already work with staff and clients? Could you add an online component to one of your existing volunteer programs? Should you recruit new volunteers or redeploy your current volunteers? Are you adapting existing roles or creating totally new ones. How can you utilise this new way of working to benefit your organisation and create meaningful volunteer experiences for your volunteers.  Download our guide to Developing-Roles-for-Volunteers-at-Home

Assigning Online Tasks
Once you have developed a system of training and evaluating volunteers who are going to work offsite via home or work computers and created online roles, you are ready to place potential volunteers into this system and match them to roles.

Training, communicating and evaluating Virtual Volunteers
Virtual volunteering roles vary widely: volunteers can simply surf the Internet and gather information for your organisation, or they can actively participate in and supervise a chat room for your service users. These roles require a varying degree of training and evaluating of the volunteer, as well as screening. Once you have volunteers recruited to volunteer from home they will need to be trained and supported. Now more than ever, with everyone working and volunteering from home, good communication will be key to the success of your volunteer programme.  Download our guide to Training-and-Communication-for-Volunteers-at-Home

 Managing volunteers virtually
It’s not vastly different from managing people on site, and even comes naturally to some. Still, some adjustments in styles and approaches to volunteer management must be made to ensure success.  Learning the different styles of “personalities” online, interpreting people’s written communications and assisting volunteers and managers alike in being clear and effective online.

Safety in Online Volunteering Programs
Just as with face-to-face volunteering programs, a virtual volunteering program needs to have guidelines in place to protect everyone involved — volunteers, staff and clients alike — to ensure participant’s safety and privacy.

Involving People With Disabilities in Virtual Volunteering Programs
A benefit of virtual volunteering is that it can allow for greater participation of people who might find on-site volunteering difficult or impossible because of a disability. This in turn allows organisations to benefit from the additional talent and resources of more volunteers.

In this short video we are looking at Virtual Volunteering.  While virtual volunteering has been around long before COVID-19, the current constraints under which we are living has made it something that many volunteer-involving organisations are now considering for the first time to help them address the issue of closed volunteer programmes.  This 10 minute video will bring you through some of the essentials you need to consider in relation to virtual volunteering.