A trend in volunteerism over the last ten years has been the rise of microvolunteerism. Definitions vary on the specifics of microvolunteering, but all center around a few key aspects:

  • A short time commitment
  • Quick projects
  • Primarily done on one’s own (contributing pieces to a larger project)

What makes microvolunteering innovative is the time commitment. Community organizations know that people are busy; these opportunities hope to capitalize on the limited free time that someone has. There is no cap on the number of hours in a microvolunteering opportunity, but it is suggested that projects not exceed 1-2 hours a day.

Since microvolunteering centers around the short time commitment of an individual, opportunities tend to require a specific action which can be completed quickly. Many microvolunteering platforms engage prospective volunteers with a questionnaire, where they self identify their skills and receive relevant projects.

Both community organizations and volunteers benefit from microvolunteering.  The process to recruit, train and retain a volunteer is time consuming and if the volunteer is not a good fit with the organization, both sides may feel it was a misuse of time. With microvolunteering there is no screening process or training, activities are easily accessible and there is no ongoing commitment. If a volunteer does not see a project as a good fit, they can select another project with the same organization or different one.  If an organization does not like the completed work from a volunteer, there is often a pool of applicants for them to draw from. 

Many microvolunteers find it rewarding to see the immediate, tangible impact of their work. For example, the application Charity Miles immediately shows funds raised for community organizations following exercise.  For other community organizations, once a project is complete, a certificate or thank you note is usually sent to the project participant. Occasionally there is a project thermometer displaying overall completion.

There are many opportunities to get involved in microvolunteer. Have you tried any of these or know of others?

Canadian microvolunteering opportunities 

  • Flash mob: Bring awareness to an activity, event or issue various
  • Signing a petition: Share on social media to encourage your network to participate  
  • Blankets for Canada: Create blankets for Canadians in need
  • Project Feeder Watch: Count the species and numbers of birds at their feeders, then submit your observation
  • Volunteer West Island: This Montreal volunteer center has added to their corporate volunteer program with microvolunteering requests from their community partners. Some examples they suggest: 
    • Proofreading 
    • Reformatting Word documents  
    • Occasional (limited) graphic support and suggestions
    • Other technological advice
  • Neighbordoo.com: Platform to match people who need help with odd jobs to those who can do them

International Microvolunteering Opportunities 

  • Amnesty International Canada: Write letters of action for Human Rights around the globe. You can be prompted by a monthly newsletter.
  • Be my eyes: “Be the eyes” of someone who is visually impaired via video chat
  • CareerVillage.org: Youth enquire about possible careers and professionals with experience in those careers answer them 
  • Charity Miles: An incentive to be active.  Charities listed in the app are sponsored by companies. Choose to walk, run or bike, and the charity will receive funds.   
  • Galaxy Zoo: Volunteer classifiers view photos and split galaxies into categories based on their appearance  
  • MicroMentor: Volunteer business mentors aid entrepreneurs with questions they have in starting/growing their business  
  • Missing Maps: Using satellite imagery, help map areas where humanitarian organisations are trying to meet the needs of vulnerable people.
  • RUMIE: Search the database for a region or project you are passionate about and gather digital, educational resources for students.
  • Skillsforchange: Create a profile identifying your skills and answer questions and challenges from non-profits around the world    
  • Tinbox: A fundraising app where you give $1 a day to a charity and another $1 is matched by a company
  • TutorMate: Help teach first grade students to read with 30 minutes a week
  • UN Volunteers: A database of microvolunteer requests from organizations   
  • Zooniverse: Assist researchers, such as by monitoring wildlife cameras or ranscribing historical diaries   
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