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Virtual volunteering is a term describing a volunteer who completes tasks, in whole or in part, offsite from the organization being assisted, using the Internet and a home, school, telecenter or work computer or other Internet-connected device. Virtual volunteering is also known as online volunteering, cyber service, telementoring, and teletutoring, and various other names. Virtual volunteering is similar to telecommuting, except that, instead of online employees who are paid, these are online volunteers who are not paid, and they are working to benefit a nonprofit organization, school, government program or other not-for-profit entity, as opposed to a for-profit business.

Contents

In practice

People engaged in virtual volunteering undertake a variety of activities from locations remote to the organization or people they are assisting, via a computer or other Internet-connected device, such as:

  • translating documents
  • researching subjects
  • creating web pages
  • editing or writing proposals, press releases, newsletter articles, etc.
  • developing material for a curriculum
  • designing a database
  • designing graphics
  • providing legal, business, medical, agricultural or any other expertise
  • counseling people
  • tutoring or mentoring students
  • moderating online discussion groups
  • writing songs
  • creating a podcast
  • editing a video
  • monitoring the news
  • answering questions
  • tagging photos and files
  • managing other online volunteers[1][2][3]

Early history of the practice

The practice of virtual volunteering to benefit nonprofit initiatives dates back to at least the early 1970s, when Project Gutenberg began involving online volunteers to provide electronic versions of works in the public domain.[4]

In 1995, a new nonprofit organization called Impact Online (now called VolunteerMatch), based in Palo Alto, California, began promoting the idea of "virtual volunteers".[5] In 1996, Impact Online received a grant from the James Irvine Foundation to launch an initiative to research the practice of virtual volunteering and to promote the practice to nonprofit organizations in the USA. This new initiative was dubbed the Virtual Volunteering Project, and the web site was launched in early 1997.[6] After one year of operations, the Virtual Volunteering Project moved to the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2002, the Virtual Volunteering Project moved within the university to the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

The first two years of the Virtual Volunteer Project were spent reviewing and adapting telecommuting manuals[7] and existing volunteer management guidelines with regarding to virtual volunteering, as well as identifying organizations that were involving online volunteers. By April 1999, almost 100 organizations had been identified by the Virtual Volunteering Project as involving online volunteers and were listed on the web site.[8]

Due to the growing numbers of nonprofit organizations, schools, government programs and other not-for-profit entities involving online volunteers, the Virtual Volunteering Project stopped listing every such organization involving online volunteers on its web site in 2000, and focused its efforts on promoting the practice, profiling organizations with large or unique online volunteering programs, and creating guidelines for the involvement of online volunteers.

Until January 2001, the Virtual Volunteering Project listed all telementoring and teletutoring programs in the USA (programs where online volunteers mentor or tutor others, through a nonprofit organization or school). At that time, 40 were identified.[9]

Current state of the practice

Virtual volunteering has been adopted by at least a few thousand nonprofit thousand organizations and initiatives.[10] There is no organization currently tracking best practices in online volunteering in the USA or worldwide, how many people are engaged in online volunteering, or how many organizations are involving online volunteers, and studies regarding volunteering, such as reports on volunteering trends in the USA, rarely include information about online volunteering (for instance, a search of the term virtual volunteering on the Corporation for National Service's "Volunteering in America" yields no results.[11]

The United Nations runs an online volunteering service, formerly a part of NetAid, that allows organizations working in or for the developing world to recruit online volunteers, and does have statistics available regarding numbers of online volunteers and organizations involving such through its service. Several other matching services, such as VolunteerMatch and Idealist, also offer virtual volunteering positions with nonprofit organizations in addition to traditional, onsite volunteering opportunities. A search for opportunities at VolunteerMatch that are identified by organizations as "Virtual Volunteer" opportunities yielded more than 3,300 such opportunities in November, 2009. Idealist has not yet released statistics relating to online volunteering through their services.

Wikipedia and other Wikimedia endeavors are examples of online volunteering, in the form of crowdsourcing; the majority of Wikipedia contributing volunteers aren't required to undergo any screening or training by the nonprofit for their role as researchers, writers or editors, and do not have to make a specific time commitment to the organization in order to contribute service.

Micro-volunteering is also an example of virtual volunteering and crowd-sourcing, where volunteers undertake assignments via their PDAs or smartphones. These volunteers aren't required to undergo any screening or training by the nonprofit for such tasks, and do not have to make any other commitment once a micro-task is completed.[12] [13]

See also

References

  1. ^ "What are examples of virtual volunteering?". AIDSvolunteers.ca. http://www.aidsvolunteers.ca/vvfacts/general.html#examples. Retrieved 05 October 2009. 
  2. ^ "examples of virtual volunteering". University of Texas at Austin. http://www.serviceleader.org/old/vv/examples.html. Retrieved 05 October 2009. 
  3. ^ "Make a Difference From Home: Be a Virtual Volunteer". theextraordinaries.org. http://www.theextraordinaries.org/2008/11/make-a-difference-from-home-be-a-virtual-volunteer.html. Retrieved 05 October 2009. 
  4. ^ Cravens, Jayne (Spring 2007). "Online Volunteering Enters Middle Age - And Changes Management Paradigms". Nonprofit Quarterly (Nonprofit Quarterly). 
  5. ^ Green, Marc (Fall, 1995). "Fundraising in Cyberspace: Direct E-Mail Campaigns, Virtual Volunteers, Annual Fund Drives Online. Does the Information Superhighway lead to new horizons or a dead end?". The Grantsmanship Center Magazine (The Grantsmanship Center). 
  6. ^ Cravens, Jayne (February 2001). "who funds the virtual volunteering project?". The Virtual Volunteering Project (University of Texas at Austin). 
  7. ^ Cravens, Jayne (April 2001). "related resources". The Virtual Volunteering Project (University of Texas at Austin). 
  8. ^ Cravens, Jayne (February 2001). "Virtual Volunteering Project". The Virtual Volunteering Project (University of Texas at Austin). 
  9. ^ Cravens, Jayne (February 2001). "[http://www.serviceleader.org/old/vv/orgs/mentor.html agencies and initiatives that involve online volunteers as mentors or tutors]". The Virtual Volunteering Project (University of Texas at Austin). 
  10. ^ Cravens, Jayne (Spring 2007). "Online Volunteering Enters Middle Age - And Changes Management Paradigms". Nonprofit Quarterly (Nonprofit Quarterly). 
  11. ^ [http://www.volunteeringinamerica.gov/ volunteeringinamerica.gov. Retrieved 09/24/2009.
  12. ^ http://urbantastic.com/about.html
  13. ^ http://nonprofit.about.com/od/volunteers/a/microvol.htm

External links

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Virtual volunteering is a term describing a volunteer who completes tasks, in whole or in part, offsite from the organization being assisted, using the Internet and a home, school, telecenter or work computer or other Internet-connected device. Virtual volunteering is also known as online volunteering, cyber service, telementoring, and teletutoring, and various other names. Virtual volunteering is similar to telecommuting, except that, instead of online employees who are paid, these are online volunteers who are not paid, and they are working to benefit a nonprofit organization, school, government program or other not-for-profit entity, as opposed to a for-profit business.

Contents

In practice

People engaged in virtual volunteering undertake a variety of activities from locations remote to the organization or people they are assisting, via a computer or other Internet-connected device, such as:

  • translating documents
  • researching subjects
  • creating web pages
  • editing or writing proposals, press releases, newsletter articles, etc.
  • developing material for a curriculum
  • designing a database
  • designing graphics
  • providing legal, business, medical, agricultural or any other expertise
  • counseling people
  • tutoring or mentoring students
  • moderating online discussion groups
  • writing songs
  • creating a podcast
  • editing a video
  • monitoring the news
  • answering questions
  • tagging photos and files
  • managing other online volunteers[1][2][3]

Early history of the practice

The practice of virtual volunteering to benefit nonprofit initiatives dates back to at least the early 1970s, when Project Gutenberg began involving online volunteers to provide electronic versions of works in the public domain.[4]

In 1995, a new nonprofit organization called Impact Online (now called VolunteerMatch), based in Palo Alto, California, began promoting the idea of "virtual volunteers".[5] In 1996, Impact Online received a grant from the James Irvine Foundation to launch an initiative to research the practice of virtual volunteering and to promote the practice to nonprofit organizations in the USA. This new initiative was dubbed the Virtual Volunteering Project, and the web site was launched in early 1997.[6] After one year of operations, the Virtual Volunteering Project moved to the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin. In 2002, the Virtual Volunteering Project moved within the university to the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

The first two years of the Virtual Volunteer Project were spent reviewing and adapting telecommuting manuals[7] and existing volunteer management guidelines with regarding to virtual volunteering, as well as identifying organizations that were involving online volunteers. By April 1999, almost 100 organizations had been identified by the Virtual Volunteering Project as involving online volunteers and were listed on the web site.[8]

Due to the growing numbers of nonprofit organizations, schools, government programs and other not-for-profit entities involving online volunteers, the Virtual Volunteering Project stopped listing every such organization involving online volunteers on its web site in 2000, and focused its efforts on promoting the practice, profiling organizations with large or unique online volunteering programs, and creating guidelines for the involvement of online volunteers.

Until January 2001, the Virtual Volunteering Project listed all telementoring and teletutoring programs in the USA (programs where online volunteers mentor or tutor others, through a nonprofit organization or school). At that time, 40 were identified.[9]

Current state of the practice

Virtual volunteering has been adopted by at least a few thousand nonprofit thousand organizations and initiatives.[10] There is no organization currently tracking best practices in online volunteering in the USA or worldwide, how many people are engaged in online volunteering, or how many organizations are involving online volunteers, and studies regarding volunteering, such as reports on volunteering trends in the USA, rarely include information about online volunteering (for instance, a search of the term virtual volunteering on the Corporation for National Service's "Volunteering in America" yields no results.[11])

The United Nations runs an online volunteering service, formerly a part of NetAid, that allows organizations working in or for the developing world to recruit online volunteers, and does have statistics available regarding numbers of online volunteers and organizations involving such through its service. Several other matching services, such as VolunteerMatch and Idealist, also offer virtual volunteering positions with nonprofit organizations in addition to traditional, onsite volunteering opportunities. VolunteerMatch currently reports that around 5 percent of its active volunteer listings are virtual in nature. As of June 2010, its directory included more than 2,770 such listings including roles in interactive marketing, fundraising, accounting, social media, and business mentoring. The percentage of virtual listings has dropped since 2006, when it peaked at close to 8 percent of overall volunteer opportunities in the VolunteerMatch system.

Wikipedia and other Wikimedia endeavors are examples of online volunteering, in the form of crowdsourcing; the majority of Wikipedia contributing volunteers aren't required to undergo any screening or training by the nonprofit for their role as researchers, writers or editors, and do not have to make a specific time commitment to the organization in order to contribute service.

Micro-volunteering is also an example of virtual volunteering and crowd-sourcing, where volunteers undertake assignments via their PDAs or smartphones. These volunteers aren't required to undergo any screening or training by the nonprofit for such tasks, and do not have to make any other commitment once a micro-task is completed.[12] Micro-volunteering was invented by a San Francisco-based social enterprise called The Extraordinaries in 2008.[13][14][15]

See also

References

  1. ^ "What are examples of virtual volunteering?". AIDSvolunteers.ca. http://www.aidsvolunteers.ca/vvfacts/general.html#examples. Retrieved 5 October 2009. 
  2. ^ "examples of virtual volunteering". University of Texas at Austin. http://www.serviceleader.org/old/vv/examples.html. Retrieved 5 October 2009. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Make a Difference From Home: Be a Virtual Volunteer". theextraordinaries.org. http://www.theextraordinaries.org/2008/11/make-a-difference-from-home-be-a-virtual-volunteer.html. Retrieved 5 October 2009. 
  4. ^ Cravens, Jayne (Spring 2007). "Online Volunteering Enters Middle Age - And Changes Management Paradigms". Nonprofit Quarterly (Nonprofit Quarterly). 
  5. ^ Green, Marc (Fall, 1995). "Fundraising in Cyberspace: Direct E-Mail Campaigns, Virtual Volunteers, Annual Fund Drives Online. Does the Information Superhighway lead to new horizons or a dead end?". The Grantsmanship Center Magazine (The Grantsmanship Center). 
  6. ^ Cravens, Jayne (February 2001). "who funds the virtual volunteering project?". The Virtual Volunteering Project (University of Texas at Austin). 
  7. ^ Cravens, Jayne (April 2001). "related resources". The Virtual Volunteering Project (University of Texas at Austin). 
  8. ^ Cravens, Jayne (February 2001). "Virtual Volunteering Project". The Virtual Volunteering Project (University of Texas at Austin). 
  9. ^ Cravens, Jayne (February 2001). "agencies and initiatives that involve online volunteers as mentors or tutors". The Virtual Volunteering Project (University of Texas at Austin). 
  10. ^ Cravens, Jayne (Spring 2007). "Online Volunteering Enters Middle Age - And Changes Management Paradigms". Nonprofit Quarterly (Nonprofit Quarterly). 
  11. ^ volunteeringinamerica.gov. Retrieved 09/24/2009.
  12. ^ http://nonprofit.about.com/od/volunteers/a/microvol.htm
  13. ^ http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=106118736
  14. ^ http://www.csmonitor.com/Innovation/Responsible-Tech/2009/0804/smart-phone-app-lets-you-do-good-deeds-in-your-spare-time
  15. ^ http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/assignment_7&id=7162300

External links


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