Volunteering without being physically present at an organisation’s offices is not new. For years, volunteer drivers, visitors, mentors, book keepers, fundraisers and the like have volunteered off-site and they have used occasional face-to- face meetings, the telephone, fax and postal mail to communicate with ‘HQ’. However, the recent revolution in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has opened up many new possibilities for volunteering.
Virtual volunteering is voluntary work completed, in whole or in part, over the internet. It is sometimes known as online volunteering or cyber service. It is not a replacement for face- to-face volunteering, neither for the organisations, nor for
the volunteers themselves, and a combination of on-site and on-line volunteering usually works best for everyone. It does, however, allow an organisation to involve more volunteers and thus achieve more of its aims.
The list of possible projects virtual volunteers can undertake is endless, but can be divided into two types of work, each requiring a different approach to volunteer management:
Examples of each are found below:
|Technical assistance||Direct client contact|
|Website design/maintenance||Electronically ‘visiting’ someone who is house bound|
|Desktop publishing / graphic design||Sending emails to users of support groups|
|Research and policy work||Online mentoring|
|Media monitoring||Welcoming people about to go into hospital|
|Language translation||Distance learning|
|Writing / copy-editing||Language teaching|
|Data entry / database management||Moderating a chat room, listserv or newsgroup|