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Microvolunteering – Keeping pulse of the latest trends in non-profit volunteering January 11th, 2014

Written by Banu Raghuraman

The opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Endeavour.

How are non-profits responding to the ever changing landscape of technology and of volunteer needs? Some organizations are turning to the internet as a way to interface and source contributions from time-starved volunteers. This article will define and demonstrate the new concepts of microvolunteering and crowdsourcing and how both fit into volunteer recruitment and retention.

The concept of microvolunteering was brought to Canada in October 2011 when Koodo introduced its Koodonation initiative. After 18 months in the works, the initiative was rolled out to a social media savvy generation. The versatility of this type of volunteering is the key attractive feature when 90% of the target base (19 to 34 year old Canadians) use internet1 and would like to give back to their community by volunteering at their leisure.

The concept itself dates back to 2008 when Microvoluntarious developed a system for non-profits to post tasks that would only take 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Similar practices were adopted by others and now, UN volunteers’ report, states that microvolunteering is one of three fastest growing trends in the non-profit arena2. In addition to North America, it is gaining popularity in Europe and is soon to catch on in the other continents as well..

As the ethereal quote of “a drop in the ocean”, microvolunteering tasks are “designed to take a short period of time, typically 15 minutes to two hours, but help not-for-profit organizations to very quickly and easily crowd-source solutions through a range of high-impact challenges and questions”1. It truly reflects the concept of every penny counting towards the greater good.

The technological improvements in connectivity, life ‘on-the-go’ and expanding online community are perfect catalysts for microvolunteering to grow and be around for a long time to come. The choice and flexibility it offers participants will engage even those who may not have previously been attracted to volunteering.This is a big benefit of microvolunteering, says Jonathan Paylor, a writer with the Guardian3.With microvolunteering, the perception is it can be more self-serving- about what one can give and when they can give it, whereas the traditional sense of volunteering has been about an altruistic need to give..

The Guardian article3 also touched upon the volunteer management side of things. As in Endeavour’s interview with Professor Meinhard, Advisor to Endeavour Volunteer Consulting for Non-Profits, volunteer retention is a challenge for most non-profits and if organizations choose to build a base with microvolunteering, there will have to be a different style of management, with a different set of volunteer retention challenges. Since the activity is individual centric, obtaining the sense of satisfaction by giving is not easy to achieve, neither is the sense of belonging to a group, since most of the work is done remotely. And most importantly, the topic of support for these individuals is still being determined.

However limited research and information may be on this subject, there is no doubt that it is a welcome trend for the tech-savvy audience. With every contribution, there is much more change that the volunteer community can bring about for a better tomorrow. For more articles on this subject, please visit this link.


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