Examples of Online Microvolunteering Activities

People engaged in virtual volunteering undertake a variety of activities, from long-term, high-responsibility activities to and short-term, or micro volunteering (and everything in between).

Online micro volunteering / virtual volunteering micro tasks:
  • do not take long to complete (a few hours over one day, or just a few days, maybe even two weeks, but no more).
  • do not involve high security or handling of proprietary data.
  • do not require much supervision.
  • are important, as all volunteering activities should be, but not immediately or highly critical (as in, if volunteers do not get these tasks done within the next two weeks, it will not bring your organization to a screeching halt, it will not cause a huge problem at the organization, etc.).
  • can be done by a person on his or her own, rather than requiring an organized team with different members relying on the work of others in order to complete their part of the assignment.

Micro volunteering is no different than offline episodic volunteering; just as volunteers who come to a beach cleanup or participate in a Habitat for Humanity work day don't undergo a criminal background check, don't receive a lengthy pre-service orientation, don't fill out a lengthy volunteer application form and may never volunteer with the organization again, online volunteers that participate in a micro volunteering may get started on their assignment just a few minutes after expressing interest, if your organization has the right, tried-and-true volunteer management standards in place.

Examples of micro volunteering tasks or a byte-sized assignments:
  • Translating just a few paragraphs into another language (as opposed to an entire web page, or entire brochure).
  • Gathering online information on one very specific topic (identifying nonprofit organizations in a large city focused on children, finding conferences in the next six months focused on human resources management, finding samples of volunteer policies online, finding samples of company social networking policies online, etc.).
  • Editing a press release, newsletter, or new Web page.
  • Posting a request by a nonprofit to the volunteer's various networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), to see if anyone could answer or help ("We need a free meeting space for 30 of our volunteers to do a this Saturday, from noon to 3 p.m." or "We need a meeting table that could accommodate at least 10 people. Does anyone know of an organization that is looking to get rid of such? or "We have a survey for teenagers on our web site regarding what program activities they would be interested in. Please help us get the word out!").
  • Providing feedback on a graphic or event theme.
  • Providing feedback on a short strategy or proposal.
  • Setting up an account on an online social networking site for an organization, such as FaceBook, Twitter or Change.org
  • Analyzing information on a short spreadsheet or looking at a bit of data and offering a short narrative on what the data might mean.
  • Doing a Web search to seek out resources and activities that are needed for clients in a specific geographic location: summer camps, vocational training, child care, government programs to help a particular group of people, etc.
  • Checking grant proposal submission guidelines on the Web sites of various potential funders, such as foundations or corporations (although this often requires a greater commitment than just a few minutes).
  • Creating a new Web page on an existing site (putting up a newsletter article as a new Web page, for instance).
  • Web site testing to make sure the site works on a variety of computers and Web browsers, and identifying any problems so that IT staff can take action to make a site more accessible.
  • Compiling a list of online communities relating to a particular field of expertise, a specific topic, a specific geographic area, etc.
  • Compiling a list of blogs relating to a specific topic.
  • Compiling a list of Twitter accounts of people or organizations that tweet regularly on a particular topic.
  • Compiling a list of Facebook pages of people or organizations that post information regularly regularly on a particular topic.
  • Researching which Web sites link to your organization's Web site, and researching which Web sites should link to your organization's Web site but do not currently.
  • Identifying which groups on Flickr or another photo-sharing web site your organization might want to sometimes post photos to, in order to get the word about your work and events.
  • Adding new tags to photos already uploaded on a photo-sharing web site, such as Flickr, to ensure they will come up on a search of certain keywords.
  • Reviewing the work of other volunteers engaged in microvolunteering.
  • Crowdsourcing - when a task or question is offered up online to anyone who would like to take it on, without that person having to sign up to participate as a volunteer. It can be as simple as writing, "How would you handle the following situation..." to an online community of volunteer resources managers. Or asking "How could we improve the our online volunteer orientation" to your online community of volunteers. Or asking on an online community for HR managers, "Would anyone be willing to share their company's dress code? We're looking for ideas." Or writing all of your current volunteers and saying, "What do you think of our new logo?" It is also called "distributed problem-solving."

The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook has complete, detailed information on how to create and manage all kinds of online volunteers, including those engaged in micro tasks. The Last Virtual Volunteering Guidebook is available for purchase as a paperback and an ebook from Energize, Inc.

This wiki is a collaborative space for sharing resources regarding virtual volunteering. Jayne and Susan would like to maintain this wiki in partnership with a nonprofit or university.