Microvolunteering On the Rise
5 March 2014 at 2:44 pm
Demand for microvolunteering actions is increasing around the world, according to new UK research which urges Not for Profits to use this development to their advantage.
The UK based Institute of Volunteering Research's latest study into microvolunteering found that clarifying the relationship between micro-volunteering and other forms of volunteering can help organisations to think strategically about their volunteering offer and how it can be enhanced.
“Rather than opposing forms of volunteering, however, our research suggests that it can be more useful to look at the purpose they serve at a particular moment in time for the organisation and the individual,” the report said.
Microvolunteering can be described as easy, no commitment, on-demand actions that typically take less than 30 minutes to complete. It can be participated in either online or offline, and by its very nature will fit in even into the busiest of lifestyles.
The research looked at diverse microvolunteering examples from signing an online petition, graphic design for a charity logo to cake baking for a community event and even knitting a beanie for premature babies.
“The main factors and trends driving this growth are peoples’ increasingly busy and unpredictable lifestyles; changing perceptions and expectations of participation; and technological developments,” the report said.
“Although there is some evidence that the supply of micro-volunteering opportunities is also growing, it is difficult to assess the extent to which this has changed because of the contested nature of the term ‘micro-volunteering’; lack of definitional agreement has to date prevented quantitative analysis of trends.
“However, it appears that more organisations are considering micro-volunteering opportunities as a distinct part of their volunteering offer and communicating about them more explicitly, for example, by having a separate section of their website dedicated to these activities.
“We found that micro-volunteering opportunities are currently being provided by a wide range of sources: local community initiatives; large national charities; national or local infrastructure bodies and other second tier organisations; universities; local authorities; and corporates. In addition, brokers (such as local volunteer centres and online platforms) act as intermediaries and are sometimes a gateway to third party micro-volunteering opportunities.”
The report found that micro-volunteering is often understood by considering it in relation to other forms of volunteering:
It is often conflated with “online volunteering” or “virtual volunteering”, probably because much of the recent development of micro-volunteering opportunities has been based on internet-based and mobile technologies.
Commonly, it is likened to episodic and short-term volunteering. While it is the case that both episodic volunteering and short-term volunteering are limited in time like micro-volunteering, they do not necessarily share all the other defining features of micro-volunteering, such as being quick to start and low formality.
Micro-volunteering is often contrasted with long-term, regular volunteering – what some might call “traditional” volunteering. While there are differences between the two, the boundaries are blurred – for example, micro-volunteering actions can be repeated over a long period of time.
“Whilst the concept of microvolunteering has been around for ages, it was only in 2008 when it began to feature on the voluntary sector's radar,” Help From Home Founder Mike Bright said.
“Nowadays there are just under 30 dedicated microvolunteering platforms dotted around the world, all encouraging individuals to make the spare moments in their life more impactful.
“The aim of Microvolunteering Day is to engage individuals in micro-actions, to inspire Not for Profits to embrace the idea, and to stimulate discussion on the concept.
“Help From Home runs a free community service to promote and encourage participation in easy, no commitment micro-volunteering opportunities across the globe where a few minutes is all that is needed to help out worthy causes.”
For more information on Microvolunteering Day, click here.