If you have some time, a desire to make a difference, and access to a computer then you can become a virtual volunteer. Many organizations need individuals to share their time and talents to complete a wide variety of assignments via the Internet. According to some of the sites I visited, volunteers are needed in researching topics, editing documents, developing web sites, writing proposals, creating curriculum, tutoring students, designing graphics, and editing video just to name a few possibilities. In addition, organizations need online volunteers with legal, financial, environmental, information technology, and project management expertise. If you have skills in any of these areas, you might consider getting involved.
In one story I read, a team of virtual volunteers from seven different countries translated all the resources on the Shine a Light web site, two virtual books, and five DVD courses into multiple languages including Spanish and Portuguese. Shine a Light is a network of over 200 non-profit organizations in Latin America that serve homeless children. This project increased the knowledge sharing between the members of Shine a Light which boosted their overall effectiveness.
In another story, a virtual volunteer created a web site for Freedom from Hunger, a non-profit that brings innovative, self-help solutions to several countries around the world in the fight against chronic hunger and poverty. The volunteer worked closely with the organization to optimize the site for low-bandwidth and to get the site ranked on popular search engines which helps them reach more people with their message. He also created a maintenance tool so the organization can avoid paying technical support fees to update the site. This is a great story of how just one person can make a great impact.
Virtual volunteering seems like a neat idea. I have volunteered in various ways around my community through my employer and my church, but online volunteering opens up many more unique opportunities. It also provides a way to reach out to people and organizations in other countries. Having done a little traveling, I have seen just how tough it can be in some of these countries and they certainly do not have a social system like we have in America to turn to. It seems painless enough and based on the examples above I think it is possible to make a difference.
Here are some links to sites where you can find out more about virtual volunteering and research opportunities to get involved.
- UN Volunteers – Here you can find volunteer assignments posted by organizations working through the United Nations to aid people in countries around the world. The first example above won an online volunteering service award from the U.N. in 2007.
- VolunteerMatch – This site is a database full of opportunities to volunteer online or otherwise. It also has some great stories about how volunteers are making a difference. If you are specifically looking for virtual opportunities, then scroll down and click the Search Virtual Opportunities link.
- ServiceLeader.org Virtual Volunteering – ServiceLeader.org is a community service project through the School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. This site is packed with information about virtual volunteering. If you work for a non-profit, it has a lot of good information on how to get started using virtual volunteers.
These are good places to start and should provide you with all the information you need to find a volunteer assignment that fits your skill set. I assure you that no matter what it is that you do, you have what it takes to help one or more of these organizations. Volunteering is a super way to help others and make yourself feel better along the way. Virtual volunteering breaks the geographic barriers and makes all kinds of new and exciting assignments available to all of us that frequent the Internet. Happy volunteering!
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