Virtual Volunteering For Employee Volunteers

Virtual Volunteering For Employee Volunteers

Offering a variety of volunteer opportunities ensures a broader range of employees is engaged. Volunteering activities commonly supported by employees include “hands-on” group volunteering activities (like tree planting or building kits for shelters), mentoring programs and skills-based volunteering opportunities (like teaching social media skills to seniors or non-profit financial modelling). With changes to work arrangements over the past number of years, companies are also incorporating virtual activities for remote staff and those whose work arrangements or physical abilities make it difficult to volunteer away from the office.

What is virtual volunteering?

It is volunteering done online, via computers, tablets, or smartphones, off-site from the non-profit organization being supported. More and more, non-profits offering opportunities for people to contribute their skills and time online.

Benefits of virtual volunteering

Flexibility

Virtual volunteering is flexible, often allowing the volunteer to complete a task or project around their own schedule or work arrangement. It is also not limited by geography or physical ability. Individuals can choose to volunteer for an organization in their local community, across the country or across the globe all done from home, the library, a remote office, anywhere with an Internet connection.

Time commitment

Virtual volunteers can complete one-time, short-term or ongoing tasks and projects. They may choose to volunteer once to write a blog, over a few months to design a website or on an ongoing basis as a tutor supporting a student for one hour per week over a school year.  

Sharing and learning skills

Virtual volunteering is another opportunity for employees to develop or apply a skill set. Statistically half of us want to share our professional skills when volunteering and half would rather share talents not related to our profession. Some employees may wish to learn a new skill or build work experience through virtual volunteering. Companies can also offer services for which they are usually paid Pro Bono to a charity through employees (e.g. legal advice from a legal firm, branding expertise for a communications firm).

Examples of virtual volunteering activities

Individuals engaged in virtual volunteering can take on a variety of activities and projects from one-time to long term and everything in between. Some opportunities require specific expertise and screening, others don’t need any. Here are some examples.

  • social media strategy development
  • technology assessments 
  • employee handbook development
  • business or marketing plan creation
  • project proposal writing  
  • financial analysis
  • translation, editing or proofreading of documents
  • social media posting and blogs
  • project management plan for new program or service  
  • mentoring or tutoring
  • telephone assurance for seniors or youth
  • graphic design
  • creating a podcast
  • citizen science activities like tracking weather patterns

Finding virtual volunteer opportunities

Many local volunteer centres across the country have volunteer matching platforms where individuals can find and apply to volunteer opportunities online. Connect here to get started.

If there is a specific organization of interest, check their website for a listing of virtual volunteer opportunities.

Applying for virtual volunteering opportunity

As with any volunteer opportunity, there are steps to ensure a good match and a safe experience for both the volunteer and the non-profit organization. Depending on the position or task, this will include some or all of the following:

  • Completing an online application form
  • Sending your resume and references
  • Meeting/connecting for an interview (by phone or online)
  • Getting a Police Record Check, or a Vulnerable Sector Check*
  • Completing an online orientation
  • Participating in position-specific training

*terminology and requirements will vary by province/territory.

Implications for employee volunteering policies and procedures

Before introducing a new element to your program, it is important to examine any implications for employee policies and procedures. While most of the employee volunteering policies and procedures will still apply, some might need to be adapted or developed for virtual volunteering.

Use of company issued devices: Is the use of company issued devices permitted? If so, ensure guidelines for use are in place. Confirm the precautions to safeguard company information and for virus protection.

Time for volunteering: Confirm whether volunteering is permitted during or only after work hours, on site or remotely. If during work hours, what arrangements are required with the employee’s supervisor?

Tracking virtual opportunities and accomplishments: How do volunteers track and record their time, accomplishments and any use of employer support (i.e. laptop). Ensure all company/employee grant or matching programs include virtual volunteering.

Promoting to employees: Ensure all employees understand what virtual volunteering is, applicable company policies and procedures, and how it fits into the overall employee volunteer program.

Sourcing virtual volunteering opportunities: Ensure employees know where to look for virtual opportunities. Start with current company non-profit partner organizations. Ideally any volunteer matching database has a filter for virtual/remote/work from home opportunities. Some employees may already be involved in virtual volunteering and could possibly share new opportunities with colleagues.

Networking for remote volunteers: While virtual volunteering offers opportunities for employees working remotely to participate in corporate community engagement, these volunteers may not feel the camaraderie experienced in other types of employee volunteering activities, like group volunteering. Consider developing a network for remote volunteers, a virtual space where they can connect on a regular basis as a group to share experiences or ask questions. It can also provide a platform for volunteer orientation, training, feedback or recognition.

Volunteer Recognition: Ensure that company recognition strategies include those volunteering remotely.

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