Person uses laptop for nonprofit virtual volunteerism

Virtual Volunteerism: What Is It? Plus 3 Ways Your Nonprofit Benefits From It

Not every supporter of your nonprofit wants to donate money. Some would prefer to contribute to your cause by donating their time. 

Often, nonprofits take on volunteers for their organizations because they operate on strict budgets. In fact, for many organizations, volunteers are the lifeblood behind the daily operations! 

But the world of volunteering is changing as the world moves to a digital space. And virtual volunteerism is on the rise! 


Person uses laptop for virtual volunteerism


What is Virtual Volunteerism? 

Virtual volunteerism is similar to “regular” volunteering. The only difference is it takes place online rather than in person. 

Plenty of skills from volunteers don’t require a person to be onsite clocking hours. As the world becomes more technologically savvy, so do job opportunities! 

And similar to hiring remote-working staff, nonprofits can opt to onboard online volunteers. 


How Has Virtual Volunteerism Evolved? 

Online volunteering started practically when the internet was first available to the public. Back in 1995, Steve Glikbarg, who co-founded Impact Online, coined the term “virtual volunteer.” 

Since then, the term (and the opportunities) have evolved to better fit our digital world. 

And when the pandemic hit, nonprofits across the globe realized they’d need some kind of work-from-home solution to keep their organizations afloat. 

Now, nonprofits can still scoop up the benefits of finding online volunteers! 


How is Virtual Volunteering Beneficial for Nonprofits? 

Are there any benefits to opening up online volunteering opportunities? How are those benefits any different than offering in-person, on-site opportunities? 

Virtual volunteerism comes with its own set of benefits apart from the ones nonprofits get from in-person volunteering. 

Here are 3 of our favorites: 


1. Opens the Door for New Sets of Volunteers

With virtual volunteerism, your nonprofit isn’t restricted to time zones, locations, and the like. Now, your nonprofit can open the door to brand new talent from all over the world, if you’d like. 

Maybe the best website designer for your nonprofit isn’t located anywhere near where your organization is set. Maybe they’re across the country! 

You can snag more qualified volunteers who are willing to donate their time and skills to get the job done for your nonprofit. 


2. Keep Track of Important Data

As we know, nonprofits need data to make the best decisions to continue expanding their organization. 

And through virtual volunteerism, you can keep better track of important data that boosts your nonprofit. 

When you have in-person volunteers, not every single thing they do is online. So it’s harder to track their activity and engagement. It’s harder to track who they speak to regarding questions, information, and concerns about the nonprofit. And it’s harder to keep track of task and operation progress. 

When you opt for online volunteering, you’ll need to work with volunteer management software (more on that in a minute). 

Using these kinds of tools comes with inherent data collection! Because these tools can track when volunteers log their time. It can keep track of engagement and activity levels. And it can keep track of progress on certain tasks. 

So you can get a better understanding of how volunteers are helping your nonprofit! 


3. Save Money and Work with Smaller Budgets

As is the case with in-person volunteering, you’re able to save money and work with smaller nonprofit budgets by offering online volunteering. 

But with virtual volunteering, you’re able to save even more money on your nonprofit budget. For example, say you needed someone to handle email marketing for your organization. 

In your area, no one fits your needs. So if you were to stay with bringing someone on-site, you’d have to look at hiring a staff member and eating into that nonprofit budget. 

But, by offering online volunteer opportunities, you can find someone qualified to handle it for you. And you can find someone who’s willing to donate their time because they understand the need your mission has! 


What Virtual Volunteer Opportunities Can You Offer? 

Anything you think of that a remote staff member could do? Is something you can potentially outsource to a virtual volunteer. 

And thanks to our rapidly growing digital world, more nonprofit operations are moving online every day. 

So, if you’re looking for ways to incorporate virtual volunteer opportunities into your nonprofit, consider these: 


How to Prepare Your Nonprofit for Virtual Volunteers

The main takeaway with virtual volunteers is that they aren’t very different from your regular, in-person volunteers.

So they’re going to need the same things that most in-person volunteers need. 

For example, your online volunteers are going to need to go through training to better understand how your nonprofit works. Plus, they may need specialized training on the tasks you’re having them conduct. 

Fortunately, there are great nonprofit technology systems you can use to help you prepare your online volunteers! 

We recommend investing in volunteer management software, especially if you already recruit in-person volunteers. 

A great volunteer management software will help you with both virtual volunteers and ones who are on-site. Here are a few key things to look for as you research these awesome tools: 

  • Make sure you can communicate easily. Whether your volunteers are virtual or in-person, your nonprofit staff and volunteers are going to need to communicate with one another. It’s an awesome idea to use volunteer management software that either has built-in email and text capabilities, or that integrates with communication tools. Some volunteer management software can integrate with internal communication tools like Slack or G-Suite! 

  • Have virtual time logs. Usually, nonprofits require volunteers to track their time. Your online volunteers are no different. They’re going to need to clock in and out, keep up with hours logged, and possibly request shifts off. A great volunteer management system will have time logs and check-in kiosks built in! 

  • Look for built-in training capabilities. For most online volunteer opportunities, a certain level of training needs to be done. But depending on where volunteers are located, they may not be able to get on-site to do their training. Having virtual training opportunities built into a volunteer portal is a great way to make sure they’re prepared for the job. 


If your nonprofit hasn’t already started looking into offering virtual volunteer opportunities, consider this your sign! 

There are plenty of benefits, including the 3 we’ve shared with you here. 

And if you’re ready to recruit and manage your virtual volunteers, then check out this training from CharityHowTo —

Get the Training on How to Recruit Virtual Volunteers at CharityHowTo


Happy volunteering! 

-Your Friends at Nonprofit Library

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