Research regarding Virtual Volunteering

A compilation of research and evaluation reports regarding online volunteering / virtual volunteering, including studies on the various different activities that are a part of online volunteering such as online activism, online civic engagement, online mentoring, microvolunteering, or crowd-sourcing, etc. (these are not opinion or PR pieces - these provide hard data, case studies, etc.). These mostly go in reverse publishing or research date order. And if you are interested in researching virtual volunteering, this blog can give you guidance before you get started:

Form to submit research papers or studies to this wiki page.

  • Involvement and Perception of Microvolunteering: published in July 2016. 238 people responded to a survey by Help From Home over 13 months, through June 2016. The majority of respondents were female. ‘It was easy’, ‘quick’, and ‘on demand’ all scored highly as answers for the question regarding motivation to volunteer for microtasks. 13% of respondents stated they had stopped microvolunteering because they ‘couldn’t find time to do it’, which confirms that even this form of virtual volunteering takes real time, not virtual time. Previous research regarding online micro volunteering can be found below, and at this Help From Home page.

  • Julia Bear of Stony Brook University’s College of Business and Benjamin Collier of Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar published "Where are the Women in Wikipedia? Understanding the Different Psychological Experiences of Men and Women in Wikipedia" in the journal Sex Roles January 2016. "We proposed that masculine norms for behavior in Wikipedia, which may be further exacerbated by the disinhibiting nature of an online, anonymous environment, lead to different psychological experiences for women and men, which, in turn, explain gender differences in contribution behavior. We hypothesized that, among a sample of individuals who occasionally contribute to Wikipedia, women would report less confidence in their expertise, more discomfort with editing others’ work, and more negative responses to critical feedback compared to men, all of which are crucial aspects of contributing to Wikipedia. We also hypothesized that gender differences in these psychological experiences would explain women’s lower contribution rate compared to men in this sample... Significant gender differences were found in confidence in expertise, discomfort with editing, and response to critical feedback. Women reported less confidence in their expertise, expressed greater discomfort with editing (which typically involves conflict) and reported more negative responses to critical feedback compared to men. Mediation analyses revealed that confidence in expertise and discomfort with editing partially mediated the gender difference in number of articles edited, the standard measure for contribution to Wikipedia. Implications for the gender gap in Wikipedia and in organizations more generally are discussed." Their study was summarized in this 02 June 2016 article Why Do So Few Women Edit Wikipedia?. Note: Those that edit Wikipedia are called Wikipedians, and they are online volunteers. But relatively few of them are women. The most recent survey of users, in 2011, found just 9% of worldwide contributors to the site were women; in the U.S., it was 15%. In 2015, Jimmy Wales, the founder of the Wikimedia Foundation, which runs the site, said that the organization failed to meet its goal of increasing women’s participation to 25% by 2015, despite launching several initiatives.

  • Two journal articles look at "serial activists", who are independent online volunteers using their social media channels to support protest movements in other countries: “Serial Activists: Political Twitter Beyond Influentials and the Twittertariat, published in May 2015, and Being a Serial Activist, published in January 2016, are both by Marco T Bastos of Duke University, USA and Dan Mercea of City University London, UK. In the papers, researchers said they found that these activists don't have huge followers, but that they "bridge disparate language communities and facilitate collective action by virtue of their dedication to multiple causes." The researchers also note that how serial activists differ from "influentials" or traditional grassroots activists. The papers also review the motivations of these volunteers and how they balance their substantial time online with work and family.

  • VolEx Research Project: Volunteer Experience in the Digital Age. This is an interdisciplinary research project involving researchers from three UK universities: the School of Management at Royal Holloway University of London, Department of Sociology and the Digital World Research Centre at the University of Surrey, and the Department of People and Organisations at The Open University. "There is a need for both academic and practitioner knowledge in understanding how volunteers are integrating new technologies into their volunteer activities, how third sector organizations are utilising digital tools to support and enhance the practice of volunteering, and what challenges and opportunities are arising as a result. As a consequence, our research seeks to address the issue: How is the practice of volunteering being reconfigured in the digital age?"

  • Gauging Receptiveness to Social Microvolunteering. This white paper by Erin Brady, Meredith Ringel Morris, and Jeffrey P. Bigham, for Microsoft Research and submitted to the Association for Computing Machinery’s Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI 2015), defines the term social microvolunteering as "a type of intermediated friendsourcing in which a person can provide access to their friends as potential workers for microtasks supporting causes that they care about. We explore this idea by creating Visual Answers, an exemplar social microvolunteering application for Facebook that posts visual questions from people who are blind. We present results of a survey of 350 participants on the concept of social microvolunteering, and a deployment of the Visual Answers application with 91 participants, which collected 618 high-quality answers to questions asked over 12 days, illustrating the feasibility of the approach." Also "Facebook users responded positively to the suggested application in a survey, and many went on to install the application. Overall, the questions posted to volunteer’s Facebook accounts were answered correctly and quickly, and volunteers reported positive attitudes toward the application after the pilot period was complete, demonstrating the real-world feasibility of our approach."

  • Designing a Micro-Volunteering Platform for Situated Crowdsourcing. By Yi-Ching Huang, Graduate Institute of Networking and Multimedia, Taipei City, Taiwan Roc. March 2015. Dissertation research paper presented at the 2015 Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing conference (CSCW). Investigates "whether micro-volunteering can be applied successfully to a situated crowdsourcing platform for contributing problem-solving efforts with high-quality results."

  • "The media festival volunteer: Connecting online and on-ground fan labor" by Robert Moses Peaslee, Jessica El-Khoury, and Ashley Liles. Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas, United States. Published in 2014 in Transformative Works and Cultures (TWC), ISSN 1941-2258. "Online fan labor occurs via interactive media devoted to objects of fan esteem, while on-ground fan labor is best illustrated by the act of volunteering at a media-related festival or event, for example a film festival, a comic con, or a technology expo..." The paper considers fan labor as volunteers because contributors are unpaid, and uses qualitative research data gathered at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas, in September 2012 for the paper. "Our data suggest that paying attention to volunteerism—much like paying attention to fan fiction—is crucial for understanding fandom in the context of an increasingly decentralized and user-powered, though not user-owned, media industry, and that consideration of the media festival or fan convention environment is crucial for understanding relationships between the volunteer impulse, social and cultural capital, and power. We conclude that volunteering at Fantastic Fest, and by extension at other media-related festivals, is an ambivalent activity: while it promotes the building of social capital and thus aids a kind of civic engagement, it often simultaneously encourages those communities to provide unpaid, on-ground labor to the industries of which volunteers one day hope to be a part."

  • Two researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany, Ann Barcomb and Dirk Riehle, are working on a project to understand the concepts, processes, and tools that make open collaborative communities work. A particular goal is the creation of a best practices handbook for managing such communities. "Open source projects, wiki communities, and Wikipedia all share something in common: They are open collaborative communities steeped in technology with typically no single person in charge; in this they are very different from more traditional projects. Our prior analysis showed that these communities follow three core principles: They are egalitarian (everyone may join, no apriori barriers to entry exist), meritocratic (decisions are based on the merits of an argument, not on status), and self-organizing (communities choose their own processes rather than get them dictated)."

  • Carmit-Noa Shpigelman (2014). Electronic mentoring and media. In D. L. DuBois & M. J. Karcher (Eds.), Handbook of youth mentoring (2nd ed., pp. 259-272). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

  • The Virtual Volunteering Wiki and The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook by Jayne Cravens and Susan Ellis. The book was published January 2014, the wiki is continually updated. The book is the result of several years of research and experience by the authors regarding nonprofit organizations, schools, government agencies and other mission-based organizations using the Internet to support and involve volunteers. It is a practical guide to help organizations start, improve or expand virtual volunteering activities, including micro volunteering, online mentoring and other Internet-mediated volunteering. Whereas the book provides details on suggested practices regarding introducing virtual volunteering to an organization, recruiting online volunteers, screening and training online volunteers, working with online volunteers, evaluating virtual volunteering efforts, creating policies, etc., and includes short case studies to illustrate suggestions in practice, the wiki is a dynamic online resource that is focused on showcasing research on subjects related to virtual volunteering (the page you are reading now) and tech tools that are used or can be used to engage with or support volunteers.

  • The ICT4EMPL Future Work project , which included research on Internet-mediated volunteering (virtual volunteering, microvolunteering, etc.) with regards to how it is practised in Europe, how widespread it is in Europe, and any role it does or could play with regard to employability (career exploration, skills development, job connections, job promotion, etc.) and to social inclusion. Its wiki is a knowledge base of resources used to create the final report. This research was undertaken by Jayne Cravens from April - August 2013, for the overall ICT4EMPL Future Work project by: European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technological Studies, Information Society Unit,

  • “Welcome !” Social and Psychological Predictors of Volunteer Socializers in Online Communities. CSCW’13, February 23–27, 2013, San Antonio, Texas, USA. 2013 ACM 978-1-4503-1331-5/13/02. by Gary Hsieh, Youyang Hou and Ian Chen, Communication Arts and Sciences, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University and Khai N. Truong, Department of Computer Science, University of Toronto. Abstract: Volunteer socializers are members of a community who voluntarily help newcomers become familiar with the popular practices and attitudes of the community. In this paper, we explore the social and psychological predictors of volunteer socializers on reddit, an online social newssharing community. Through a survey of over 1000 reddit users, we found that social identity, prosocial-orientation and generalized reciprocity are all predictors of socializers in the community. Interestingly, a user’s tenure with the online community has a quadratic effect on volunteer socialization behaviors—new and long-time members are both more likely to help newcomers than those in between. We conclude with design implications for motivating users to help newcomers.

  • Micro-volunteering: doing some good through smartphones? Johnathan Paylor (2012 June). Institute for Volunteering Research. A report on a survey of people who used the smartphone app Do Some Good, available through the telecommunications company Orange, conducted from June 2011 until December 2011. 3,598 people completed the survey. Participants were largely from the U.K.. 56% were female, and 78% between 16 and 34. However, the survey did not explore what motivated volunteers to choose tasks or organisations to support (only their motivation for using the app and being interested in microvolunteering) and the report does not note what kinds of tasks volunteers undertook. Also, the survey did not explore the perspectives of the organisations that recruited online volunteers using the app, and this restricts what can be said about the impact of the volunteers’ actions beyond benefits for themselves.

  • Virtual Volunteering and Digital Engagement: A Qualitative Investigation. Volunteering Queensland (Australia) "conducted in-depth interviews with five diverse organisations, took a close look at the practice of three organisations in the form of case studies, and undertook a crowdsourcing experiment on Twitter." The findings are presented, followed by "a discussion of their significance for policy and practice." This research was authored by James Schier, Erin Gregor and Sarah McAtamney and supervised by Mark Creyton. January 2012.

  • "Social Capital, Social Networks, and the Social Web; The Case of Virtual Volunteering," by Dhrubodhi Mukherjee, Southern Illinois University, USA, from the book Virtual Communities: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications., published in 2011. Abstract: Social interaction technologies create communicative possibilities that go beyond dyadic interactions and across physical boundaries, bringing a qualitative shift in the functioning of the Internet. The present chapter employs social capital and social networks perspectives to identify the social determinants of virtual volunteering in the age of Web 2.0, explores the social motivation of volunteers who perform tasks using the Social Web in the context of online volunteering, and addresses the dynamic interplay of social capital, social networks, and the Social Web with implications for virtual volunteering. The argument furthered is that active participation in social networks generates social capital and facilitates the development of the Social Web.

  • "Participation of Older Adults in Virtual Volunteering: A Qualitative Analysis." by Dhrubodhi Mukherjee. 2011. Published in Ageing International. "This study takes the initiative to generate new knowledge on how the Internet can play an active role in facilitating volunteerism among older people. It explores the demographic characteristics, motivation, and types of tasks performed by older adults while volunteering in a virtual environment. Given the emerging support infrastructure to facilitate virtual volunteering among older adults, this study sought to better comprehend the profiles and motivations of older virtual volunteers. In particular, the study wishes to understand if parallels could be drawn between on-site volunteering and online volunteering among older adults. Correspondingly, the study also explores whether participation in virtual volunteering by older adults increased their sense of belonging."

  • "Is virtual volunteering beneficial or challenging to an organisation and its volunteers?" by Mohammed A Abdullahi, Masters thesis for Coventry University, UK. 2011. Abstract: Volunteering research has continued to grasp the attention of many researchers in recent years (Wilson and Musick 1997; Harris 2000; Starnes 2004). This is due to the importance of volunteering to the lives of people and the society’s at large (Little 1999; Primavera 1999; McClintock 2002; Susan et al 2011). However, virtual volunteering which is an emerging aspect of volunteering has significantly been under researched (Pena-Lopez 2007), despite the existence of this type of volunteering for over a decade (Cravens 2006). The researches that exist on virtual volunteering are based on assumptions or borrow from the literature of home working, telecommuting or virtual organisation (Adveco 2005, Sauder 2011). There is a clear lack of scholarly research into virtual volunteering (Pena-Lopez 2007). Thus, this study is one of the few studies on virtual volunteering which has conducted empirical primary research in the UK. In this study, the benefits and challenges of virtual volunteering were explored, using a dual perspective (organisational and virtual volunteers perspectives). Virtual volunteering, was identified to have benefits such as greater coverage of volunteers, fits into volunteers personal commitments (due to its flexibilities), and encourages the development of social capital and employability skills amongst other benefits. Virtual volunteering was identified to have challenges such as volunteer management, volunteer isolation, miscommunication between the virtual volunteers and their organisation amongst other challenges. The study compared and contrasted the views of the virtual volunteers and their organisation as to the benefits and challenges of virtual volunteering.

  • Wikipedia Survey – Overview of Results, by Ruediger Glott, Philipp Schmidt and Rishab Ghosh. Published in March 2010. In a survey of contributors to all Wikipedia sites (22 language editions in 231 countries) by UNU-MERIT, a joint research and training centre of United Nations University (UNU) and Maastricht University, in cooperation with the Wikimedia Foundation, the largest share of responses was provided by users who accessed the survey via the Russian or English Wikipedia sites, followed by users of the German and Spanish versions. Contributors were split into four approximately equal age-groups: those under 18, those between 18 and 22, those from 22 to 30 and the remainder between 30 and 85. About 23% of contributors had completed degree-level education, 26% were undergraduates and 45% had secondary education or less. 87% of respondents were men and 13% were women. Download from

  • "An exploratory study of older adults' engagement with virtual volunteerism." Dhrubodhi Mukherjee. 2010. Published in Journal of Technology in Human Services. Interviews done with volunteers through SeniorNet. "Implications of this study include reconceptualization of virtual volunteering as a strategic tool to recruit older adults and greater usage of information communication technologies to promote civic engagement among older people and, thus, positively influence their health and well-being."

  • "Volunteered Geographic Information and Crowdsourcing Disaster Relief: A Case Study of the Haitian Earthquake," by Matthew Zook, University of Kentucky, Mark Graham, University of Oxford, Taylor Shelton, University of Kentucky, Sean Gorman, FortiusOne. From World Medical & Health Policy, Vol. 2: Iss. 2, Article 2, published in 2010. Abstract: This paper outlines the ways in which information technologies (ITs) were used in the Haiti relief effort, especially with respect to web-based mapping services. Although there were numerous ways in which this took place, this paper focuses on four in particular: CrisisCamp Haiti, OpenStreetMap, Ushahidi, and GeoCommons. This analysis demonstrates that ITs were a key means through which individuals could make a tangible difference in the work of relief and aid agencies without actually being physically present in Haiti. While not without problems, this effort nevertheless represents a remarkable example of the power and crowdsourced online mapping and the potential for new avenues of interaction between physically distant places that vary tremendously.

  • America Online volunteers : Lessons from an early co-production community , by Hector Postigo, in the International Journal of Cultural Studies 2009. This article continues previous work that analysed the case of America Online (AOL) volunteers from critical perspectives of immaterial and free labor, and incorporates newly acquired documents and interviews by the United States Department of Labor (DOL) with volunteers. Specifically, this article puts forth the AOL volunteers’ case as an instance of co-production that eventually met its demise when organizational changes resulted in the rise of a labor consciousness among some volunteers that made the ongoing relationship impossible. This article shows the types of co-productive labor that took place during the height of the AOL/volunteer relationship and the structures put in place to help AOL harness the power of a free distributed workforce. The research posits that the success of the co-productive relationship was a function of a balance between a numbers of elements: (1) the perceived reasonable compensation on the part of volunteers, (2) social factors and attitudes towards work such as a sense of community, creativity, and (3) a sense of accomplishment.

  • E-Mentoring for All, by Carmit-Noa Shpigelman, Patrice L. (Tamar) Weiss, Shunit Reiter. Department of Special Education, Faculty of Education, University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel and Department of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Social Welfare & Health Sciences, University of Haifa, Israel. This paper presents the results of a study that evaluated an electronic mentoring intervention program designed to provide social and emotional support for protégés with disabilities by mentors who also have disabilities. Using a primarily qualitative research design, the study characterized the electronic mentoring process and its contributions to this population. The findings provided support for the potential of electronic mentoring for personal development and empowerment of youth with special needs. Furthermore, the findings supported the usability and utility of the e-mentoring intervention based on a conceptual framework that characterized an electronic support process for people with special needs. Implications for implementing feasible electronic mentoring programs are discussed. Computers in Human Behavior. 01/2009

  • Carmit-Noa Shpigelman, Reiter, S., & Weiss, P. L. (2009a). A conceptual framework for electronic socio-emotional support for people with special needs. International Journal of Rehabilitation Research, 32, 301-308. doi: 10.1097/MRR.0b013e32831e4519

  • Quando a ajuda chega por mail: o voluntariado online como oportunidade e realidade by Alcides A. Monteiro, Doutor em Sociologia, Universidade da Beira Interior (UBI). "Escassamente (re)conhecido em Portugal, o voluntariado online (ou voluntariado virtual) é hoje uma opção já seguida por muitas organizações da sociedade civil, encarado não só como forma de cooptar novos voluntários (jovens, reformados, profissionais e pais de família), mas também de satisfazer necessidades emergentes no seio dessas organizações (nos domínios da tradução, da assessoria, do desenho de projectos ou do e-learning). Distingue-se num tal panorama, não só pela credibilidade da organização mas também pela sua abrangência, a iniciativa de voluntariado online desenvolvida pelas Nações Unidas e a partir da qual se estabelece uma definição 'oficial' para esta nova dimensão do voluntariado: 'tarefas completadas, no seu todo ou em parte, via Internet a partir de casa, do trabalho, da universidade, de um cibercafé ou telecentro'. À luz das experiências já desenvolvidas um pouco por todo o mundo e documentadas online, o presente texto visa enunciar as condições de adopção de projectos de idêntica natureza por parte das organizações do Terceiro Sector em Portugal, a partir das oportunidades e constrangimentos que rodeiam o voluntariado online." Vi Congresso Português de Sociologia. Mudons Socias: Saberes e Prácticas. Universidade Nova de Lisboa. Faculdade de Ciências Socias E Humanas. 25 - 28 June 2008.

  • "Potential and promise of online volunteering" by Yair Amichai-Hamburger, Bezeq International Research Center for Internet Psychology, Sammy Ofer School of Communications, Interdisciplinary Center, Israel. 2008. Published in Computers in Human Behavior 24(2). "Advocates a model to explain the potential and promise of online volunteerism from the perspective of the volunteer." Primarily anecdotal information and hypothesis.

  • Why Do People Write Free Documentation? Results of a Survey , published in June 2007, by Andy Oram. "A unique survey ran on O'Reilly's web site during the first three months of 2007, aimed at people who contribute free documentation to online mailing lists, web sites, and other forums. The survey garnered 354 responses, which in itself indicates the thriving state of free documentation and the dedication of the people who write it… Thousands edit wikis, answer questions on forums, and blog about experiments with technology--mostly for free. Their contributions may go on sites that are advertising-supported, but they rarely share in the revenue. Some receive fees elsewhere for articles and books, but the writing done gratis often comes up in search engines at rankings equal to or higher than official corporate sites such as Sun Microsystems' Java documentation."

  • "Online Volunteers: Knowledge Managers in Nonprofits," by Ismael Peña-López. Published in The Journal of Information Technology in Social Change, Spring Edition - April 2007. Analyzed 17 web sites devoted to fostering volunteering to find out (a) if there was a broadly accepted definition of the concept of online volunteering and (b) if there was a list of tasks thus designed as the core or ideal competencies of online volunteers.

  • "Voluntary Engagement in an Open web-based Encyclopedia : Wikipedians, and Why They Do It" by Joachim Schroer, Guido Hertel, University of Würzburg, 8 January 2007. Available from texte intégral en ligne

  • "What Motivates Wikipedians?" by Oded Nov. Printed in the Communications of the ACM in November 2007. Association for Computing Machinery. Available from This study focused on online volunteers who contribute information to the English version of Wikipedia on an ongoing basis: people who had created a user page on the site, in addition to contributing information to other pages, were asked to complete a web-based survey. 151 people responded. On average, respondents have been contributing content to Wikipedia 2.3 years, and the average level of contribution was 8.27 hours per week. Overall, the top motivations for their continued volunteering online for Wikipedia were "fun" (volunteering as an opportunity to undertake an enjoyable activity) and "ideology" (a passion for the mission of the organization). Motivations related to meeting and engaging with friends online or related to career exploration or skills development were not found to be strong motivations for contribution.

  • "Online mentoring: the promise and challenges of an emerging approach to youth development." by Rhodes JE1, Spencer R, Saito RN, Sipe CL. Lead by MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership with America Online, People magazine, PowerUP and the Waitt Family Foundation, this online mentoring program, the Digital Heroes Campaign (DHC), brought together 242 youth with online mentors over a two-year period, beginning in 2000. Survey, focus group, and interview data, in addition to analyses of the e-mails that pairs exchanged, were examined in order to assess the nature, types, and quality of the relationships that were formed. Despite youths' generally positive self-reports, deep connections between mentors and mentees appeared to be relatively rare. The findings suggest that online mentoring programs face significant challenges and that further research is needed to determine under what conditions online mentoring is likely to be most effective. The Journal of Primary Prevention. 2006 Sep;27(5):497-513. Available for purchase from Springer, or through a university or library access from a database such as through ProQuest.

  • "Virtual Volunteering: Current Status and Future Prospects", by Yvonne Harrison and Vic Murray, published in Emerging Areas of Volunteering by ARNOVA in 2005. Other articles by these authors include a chapter, "Bridging the Effectiveness Divide: The Case of Online Recruitment in Canada," in the book Nonprofits and Technology: Emerging Research for Usable Knowledge , edited by Cortes and Rafter, 2007; a summary of the research carried out by Harrison, Murray and Jim MacGregor on the impact of information and communications technology on the management of Canadian volunteer programs, featured in The Canadian Journal of Volunteer Resources Management Vol. 12, No. 2, 2004; "Information and Communications Technology: Navigating Technological Change and Changing Relationships in Volunteer Administration," the lead article in the Journal of Volunteer Administration, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2004; "The Use and Effectiveness of Information and Communications Technology in the Management of Volunteer Programs", (2004); "The Impact of ICT on the Management of Canadian Volunteer Programs: Information and Communications Technology: Beyond Anecdotes, (2004); "Virtual Volunteering in Canada Fact Sheet 2002"; "The Impact of Information and Communications Technology on Volunteer Management" (2002); and "Virtual Volunteering: Current Status and Future Prospects", regarding online volunteering in Canada (2002).

  • Power to the Edges: Trends and Opportunities in Online Civic Engagement- Final Edition 1.0 - May 6, 2005, by Jillaine Smith, Martin Kearns and Allison Fine. This paper explores trends and strategies related to the current (as of May 2005) and future state of online activism, fundraising, and democracy. It draws on a review of articles, studies, online discussions, and interviews with 19 leaders in the fields of online technologies, nonprofit capacity building, citizen engagement and social networks. By civic engagement, the authors mean "activities by which people participate in civic, community and political life and by doing so express their commitment to community." The authors stress that "online engagement does not preclude, exclude or even dilute the need for "on land" (or offline) engagement such as house parties and door-to-door canvassing. Rather...traditional forms of engaging citizens remain the most effective for connecting and organizing. The relationship between online and offline citizen engagement requires a constant flow back and forth that balances the need for scale with the need for the intensity and personal connection that comes from in-person gatherings and activities." Authors also note that: "New models of civic engagement require a different set of benchmarks, skills and training. In fact, the changes have very little to do with technology or the Internet and everything to do with building entirely new organizational cultures." The report concludes with a series of findings and recommendations of the ways that organizations, individuals, and philanthropic groups can help build such cultures. This 43-page paper was commissioned by the USA-based Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE).

  • Leading and motivating virtual teams in volunteer organizations, by Andrew Wong. 2004. In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Management Graduate Management Program The Center for Creative Change Antioch University Seattle. This paper is an inquiry into the challenges associated with leading and motivating virtual teams in volunteer organizations: challenges in communication due to distance, time, and cultural diversity, and challenges in technology due to technical abilities, equipment costs, and meeting base technology requirements. Following a review of how these challenges should be considered, the author concludes that the traditional approach in leadership when combined with the special considerations that are required to lead virtual teams will produce effective virtual teams that can maintain their effectiveness through to the end of their purpose.

  • Free/Libre and Open Source Software: Survey and Study FLOSS, Deliverable D18: FINAL REPORT Part IV: Survey of Developers. By Rishab Aiyer Ghosh, Ruediger Glott, Bernhard Krieger, Gregorio Robles, Published in June 2002 by the International Institute of Infonomics, University of Maastricht and Berlecon Research GmbH, The Netherlands. The survey and study included several questions about the motivations of unpaid contributors to contribute to FLOSS projects. According to the study, more than 78% of 2,784 FLOSS survey respondents indicated that the reason why they volunteered for FLOSS projects was to “learn and develop new skills”. The second most popular reason was to “share my knowledge and skills” (49.8%), followed by the motivation to “participate in a new form of cooperation” (34.5%). In answer to the question about why they continue to be involved in FS/OS development, the percentage of respondents who cited the desire to “share my knowledge and skills” increased to 67.2%. The motive to “learn and develop new skills” was still the most prevalent (70.5%), followed by the desire to “improve FS/OS products of other developers” (39.8%) and “participate in a new form of cooperation” (37.2%). Available from

  • "Social Movement Participation in the Digital Age: Predicting Offline and Online Collective Action," by Suzanne Brunsting and Tom Postmes. Published in Small Group Research, vol. 33, issue 5, October 2002 "Motives to participate in online versus offline collective action were investigated among environmental activists in the Netherlands... This research gives an empirical insight in the influence of Internet on motives for collective action and on the participation of peripheral members."

  • Handheld computer technologies in community service/volunteering/advocacy: This was a pioneering article, published in October 2001 and researched and written by Jayne Cravens. It provides early examples of volunteers/citizens/grass roots advocates using handheld computers, then called personal digital assistants (PDAs), or cell phones (pre- smart phones) as part of community service/volunteering/advocacy, or examples that could be applied to volunteer settings. It was part of the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITeS) online knowledge base.

  • Technology-Assisted Delivery of School Based Mental Health Services: Defining School Social Work for the 21st Century, which was co-published simultaneously as the Journal of Technology in Human Services, Volume 21, Numbers 1/2 2003, by The Haworth Press, featured a paper by Jayne Cravens, Online Mentoring: Programs and Suggested Practices as of February 2001.

  • Human Services Online: A New Arena for Service Delivery, which was co-published simultaneously as the Journal of Technology in Human Services, Volume 17, Numbers 1 and 2/3 2000, by The Haworth Press, featured a paper by Jayne Cravens, "Virtual Volunteering: Online Volunteers Providing Assistance to Human Service Agencies."

  • The Virtual Volunteering Guidebook, by Susan Ellis and Jayne Cravens. Published in 2000, based on the Virtual Volunteering Project (see above). Also translated into Spanish (see below).

  • How Open Source Software Works: "Free" User-to-User Assistance?, Eric von Hippel, Karim Lakhani, MIT, Sloan School of Management, Sloan Working Paper 4117-00, eBusiness@MIT Working Paper 132, May 2000. Unpaid contributors to open source projects are rarely called volunteers - this is usually called distributed engagement. Yet, they have much in common with what we think of traditionally as online volunteers, and the way these unpaid contributors are constantly motivated and continually involved across development levels is definitely something from which nonprofits could learn.

  • Why telecollaborative projects sometimes fail (PDF). A short case study by Dr. Judi Harris, then of the University of Texas at Austin, regarding the pioneering Electronic Emissary initiative, a curriculum-based online tutoring program for high school students. From Learning & Leading with Technology, Volume 27 Number 5, 2000, International Society for Technology in Education.

If you know of a study, research project or evaluation report regarding online volunteering, online activists, online civic engagement, online mentoring, microvolunteering, crowd-sourcing, or unpaid people contributing to open source projects -- even at just one organization -- please contact Jayne with the name of the study or evaluation and a link for more information (even if the entire report is not freely available online). This can include informal evaluations of individual programs.

If you are a university-based student or faculty member researching any aspect of virtual volunteering, or you are researching some aspect of virtual volunteering for an academic or professional journal, please contact Jayne with information about your research project.

Also the academic articles that have cited Jayne or Susan's work regarding virtual volunteering are listed at (here is|Jayne's account at] and Jayne's Google scholar account

Jayne and Susan also welcome information about research using other terms, in addition to the ones already named, that are used to talk about people doing work away from a work site, using networked technologies, as employees, consultants or volunteers, formally and informally, short-term or long-term. These concepts may influence virtual volunteering practices. These terms include:
  • crowd computing
  • crowdcasting
  • distributed computing
  • distributed development
  • distributed thinking
  • hive mind
  • microtasking
  • smart mob
  • virtual community of practice
  • virtual management
  • virtual teams
  • virtual workforce
  • wisdom of the crowd

If you are interested in researching virtual volunteering, this blog can provide guidance.