This is an archived version of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site from January 2001.
The materials on the web site were written or compiled by Jayne Cravens.
The Virtual Volunteering Project has been discontinued.
The Virtual Volunteering Project web site IS NO LONGER UPDATED.
Email addresses associated with the Virtual Volunteering Project are no longer valid.
For any URL that no longer works, type the URL into archive.org
.
For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).
 
 
 
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identifying and creating assignments
for online volunteers

This information was last updated on July 31, 2000

Just as with offline volunteering, a first step in creating online tasks for volunteers is to look around and see what needs to be done! (See encouraging & delegating tasks and responsibilities for more information).

However, when thinking of virtual volunteering tasks at your own organization, we add this advice: how do your volunteers already work with staff and clients? Could you add an online component to one of your existing volunteer programs?

Before identifying assignments that could involve volunteers virtually, your organization must first have a clear understanding of the various objectives and tasks of all staff members and current volunteers. Then you can determine if there are components of these tasks that could be completed offsite by a volunteer working via a home or work computer and the Internet. Your staff should also look into activities that your staff may not be doing but that would be in support of your organization's overall goals.

 
The Basics

Successful Management in the Virtual Office, by Bernie Kelly and Bruce McGraw, identifies these tasks as appropriate for telecommuting jobs, and they are also appropriate for virtual volunteering:

  • Administrative
  • Analysis
  • Calculating
  • Data analysis
  • Data entry
  • Data manipulation
  • Data processing
  • Data programming
  • Maintaining databases
  • Meeting with clients
  • Planning
  • Project-oriented work/management
  • Reading
  • Recordkeeping
  • Research
  • Sending/receiving electronic mail
  • Spreadsheet analysis
  • Support activities
  • Thinking
  • Typing
  • Using a computer
  • Word processing
  • Writing

 
The (Help) I-Don't-Have-Enough-Time Guide to Volunteer Management by Katherine Noyes Campbell and Susan Ellis, offers exercises to help staff determine what tasks could be performed by volunteers in onsite settings, and these exercises are applicable when looking for virtual assignments as well. Consider the following questions for each function and task:

    Is this currently being done by someone else in the organization? Is this working well, or do adjustments / additions need to be made?

    Is this something I like to do? Would it be hard for me to turn this over to someone else, or would I just as soon have someone else do it?

    Can I do it well? Do I have the necessary skills, or would it be done better (or faster) by someone with greater expertise than I?

    How does this task fit with my current work schedule? Does it have to be done at a specific time of day? How does this fit with the requirements of my other job responsibilities?

    How frequently does this have to be done? Continuously? Weekly? Monthly? Annually?

    Is this task something I am required to do, given agency policies, regulations or law?

    Should this task be done by one individual, or could it be done by several people, or a group?

The answers to these questions will help you begin to identify tasks that might be the easiest and most logical to delegate to a volunteer. A tool developed in The (Help) I-Don't-Have-Enough-Time Guide to Volunteer Management is the "Delegation Potential Sheet", which has been recreated with permission here on our Web site to help you with this process.

 
Other advice for creating virtual assignments comes from telecommuting manuals, which suggest identifying:

  • tasks that can be evaluated primarily by qualitative rather than quantitative results.

  • tasks that do not involve high security or handling of proprietary data.

  • information-handling jobs that require computers (e.g. accountants, programmers, data entry, designers).

  • individual contributor jobs not dependent on a team environment to accomplish tasks.

 
Even Greater Horizons

The aforementioned questions can help you identify technical assistance volunteer opportunities -- where volunteers are working with staff and other volunteers, not with clients. But virtual volunteering can bring together volunteers and clients in meaningful, productive scenarios, as many organizations have already discovered.

For instance, if you have

  • a phone support network or hotline, matching clients with volunteers around a certain issue via phone
  • a volunteer mentoring or tutoring program
  • a home-visitors program, where volunteers visit people who are home-bound
  • etc.

Why not give these volunteers and clients in these exisiting programs the option of also conversing via e-mail? It's a gradual introduction to virtual volunteering without even saying the words!

The Virtual Volunteering Project cites numerous examples of online tasks for volunteers throughout its web site:

  • Examples of Virtual Volunteering
    20 key areas and examples of ways online volunteers can assist an organization's staff, other volunteers or clients.

  • The VV Project's Own Volunteers
    See a list of more than 100 volunteers and the various online tasks they've completed for the Virtual Volunteering Project

  • Agencies Involving Online Volunteers
    The Virtual Volunteering Project profiles more than 100 agencies involving online volunteers. You can view them by the kinds of virtual volunteering programs they have (telementoring, technology-advice, involving youth, etc.), in addition to viewing them by region or alphabetically.

  • Examples of Experiences Involving Online Volunteers and Youth With Disabilities
    A few real-life examples of how volunteers and youth with disabilities are interacting with others via Cyberspace.

  • Other Examples
    A list of organizations about whom our knowledge is limited to the information they've shared in a newspaper article or on their own Web site.

One of the most important things in writing task descriptions is to avoid creating unreasonable expectations. Don't assume that a particular volunteer has many hours to spend every day on a project, or will be volunteering with your organization forever -- even if they say they are. Keeping expectations realistic means the volunteer won't be overwhelmed, your agency will get the work it needs, and no one is set up for failure.

See our sample online task descriptions for more information.

 

For even more information:

 
If you use this material to help your organization, please e-mail us and let us know!


 
Information for those who wish to
quote from, copy and/or distribute the information on this Web site

 
If you find this or any other Virtual Volunteering Project information helpful, or would like to add information based on your own experience, please contact us.

If you do use Virtual Volunteering Project materials in your own workshop or trainings, or republish materials in your own publications, please let us know, so that we can track how this information is disseminated.  

Copyright © 1999 - 2000 The University of Texas at Austin
All Rights Reserved.


 
This is an archived version of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site from January 2001.
The materials on the web site were written or compiled by Jayne Cravens.
The Virtual Volunteering Project has been discontinued.
The Virtual Volunteering Project web site IS NO LONGER UPDATED.
Email addresses associated with the Virtual Volunteering Project are no longer valid.
For any URL that no longer works, type the URL into archive.org
.
For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).
 

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