Volunteering is experiencing a digital evolution. This evolution has been accelerated by the events of the past year. The constraints of lockdown and their introduction of more remote working has caused many people to rethink the way they use their time, including their availability to volunteer. If we can’t meet or run activities in person then we have to find new ways to connect.
Necessity often breeds innovation and this was the case in 2020. As a result, new digital trends have emerged in the volunteering sector. The pandemic has shed light on where volunteering organisations can leverage technology and has encouraged people to think differently about their own contributions.
As more people work and volunteer from home the importance of digital tools and dedicated software is clear. Let’s have a look at some of the different ways in which volunteering is evolving as the world embraces a new level of digital life.
The acceleration of digital within volunteering has seen not-for-profits promptly readdress their online strategies and find new ways to reach donors, volunteers and new supporters.
Micro volunteering has continued to rise in 2020. The idea behind micro volunteering being that lots of people take small actions to create a big impact. It’s about a collective effort. It is a great way to make a contribution even if you don’t have a lot of time or access to resources. “The result is a living volunteer body that ebbs and flows but is always producing results for the larger organisation”(GuideStar).
There are several benefits to this kind of volunteering. There’s an argument that you might have a lower volunteer turnover because each individual has less pressure on them to make large contributions with regard to time and commitment. You may also have a larger pool of volunteers which will help you build diverse teams and expand your reach.
Before embarking on this route, it’s only right to carefully consider if a micro volunteering approach is right for your organisation? How will I remain connected to my volunteers? Am I using the right tools to convey my message? How will I measure the impact? Ultimately, will it help the cause?
Each charitable organisation will be different, however, we have seen in 2020 that more and more charities are being encouraged by the impact of micro volunteering.
People have been stuck at home, furloughed or unable to go about their usual business, what’s more, charities haven’t been able to mobilise as they may have done previously. In the past year, charities have welcomed a range of mirco-volunteering actions, such as “liking”, “sharing” or “subscribing” on social media, signing petitions, taking photographs and distributing leaflets. Other “micro-actions, including citizen science, letter writing, proofreading, photo-tagging, surveys” have become attainable methods of volunteering during the pandemic (BBC).
Never underestimate the value of small acts of volunteering. Now with the extended reach that online platforms enable, small digital contributions can have an even larger impact. Digital transformation enables you to take your cause to the next level.
In some cases, the pandemic has pushed people to become more technologically savvy. Previously, a huge variety of volunteering roles existed without much need for a computer, especially those that required a physical presence, such as shop work, social work or fundraising events. Sadly, the pandemic has massively impeded these positions – which has inevitably driven people to retrain or upskill. This is particularly true for volunteer workers in older generations who might otherwise have avoided engaging with digital tools.
“If the COVID-19 pandemic has made us all realise something – it is the power of digital technology. With the help of technology, employees are working from home, having online meetings with colleagues via Zoom or Teams, keeping themselves entertained watching Netflix, doing shopping online for food and medicines and keeping in touch with loved ones who are isolating through online mutual aid groups”(Ageing Better.org).
It is vital that volunteers aren’t lost just because they lack the skills or facilities to work from home. “In 2018/19, 65–74 year olds [were] the age group most likely to volunteer formally on a regular basis: More than one quarter (28%) volunteered at least once a month while more than a third (39%) volunteered at least once a year” (NCVO).
The ease with which you can now learn new skills online is helping to keep volunteers from these age groups engaged. Upskilling means improving your ability to serve. It is one of the most significant digital trends we have seen in 2020 and it looks likely to continue in the years to come.
For those looking for a completely online approach, virtual volunteering has been the solution. Virtual volunteering is exactly what it sounds like – utilising the digital tools to complete volunteering tasks and campaigns.
“Online” or “virtual volunteering” allows people to help nonprofits in a variety of ways, from web design and social media strategy, to translation, accounting, research, data entry and a host of other needs. This kind of skills-based volunteering allows virtual volunteers to contribute as much or as little time as they can, all from the convenience of their computers or smartphones”(Forbes).
The infrastructure for virtual volunteering has grown in the past few years and has been thrown into the spotlight during the pandemic. As people look to do more from home, virtual volunteering initiatives have become an even more valuable tool for change. Many charities are connecting to others virtually via ‘befriending’ programmes in order to combat loneliness, support the elderly and vulnerable and reach out to those who might be suffering with their mental wellbeing.
Virtual volunteering is a trend that won’t be going away anytime soon. The expansive and prevalent nature of the digital world means that finding opportunities is easier than it was before. These can range from micro volunteering work to more substantial online campaigns. It is a great way for people of all ages to stay active and engaged in volunteering without leaving the house.
For more information about virtual volunteering check out this blog from Young Citizens on How to Get started with Virtual Volunteering.
Social media has been an incredible tool for raising awareness and money. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have increased our capacity to champion causes and promote volunteering.
A social media presence is vital whether you are a local, national or global organisation. Often it’s the place where people are first introduced to your cause or campaign. Nowadays, 48% of young people first discover nonprofit organisations via social media.
Social media can be used as a great entry point but in many ways you can get substantive work done as well. In recent years more volunteering organisations have been taking advantage of this relatively costless and direct access.
Organisations that may have been isolated or vulnerable are now able to develop their reach by utilising social media. And if you want to succeed online it is important to take your time to craft a potent social media message. It can be tough to stand out on people’s timelines but you have the opportunity to be a relief from doom scrolling and inaction.
The pandemic has forced more and more people online. People who may have had no use for social media a couple years ago are now plugged in. And this has allowed charitable organisations to reach more potential volunteers and contributors by honing their social media brand. Social media is a digital trend in volunteering that will continue to grow.
Volunteer Management Software
Volunteer management software has advanced leaps and bounds over the last few years and Assemble is proud to be part of a movement that is helping not-for-profit organisations succeed in a digital world.
Volunteer management software like Assemble supports the volunteer journey end-to-end. Assemble is an intuitive software-as-a-service (SaaS) designed to help organisations with volunteers to connect, recruit, manage, retain and measure impact. It provides software to some of the UK’s largest not-for-profit’s as well as volunteer management software for local authorities and NHS Trusts.
With just one software application, you can equip yourself with the digital tools to simplify volunteer management.
The acceleration of digital within volunteering has seen not-for-profits promptly readdress their online strategies and find new ways to reach donors, volunteers and new supporters. In many cases, this rapid progress forced us to utilise all the digital tools available, resulting in progressive change almost overnight.
The options to raise awareness, funds and distribute key messaging – whilst largely limited to digital right now – has forced change and creativity in these campaigns.