Opportunities in Virtual Volunteering

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Because of time constraints and hectic schedules, many individuals are opting for virtual volunteering, in which they provide technical assistance to an organization or offer mentoring and instruction through direct online contact with clients or other service recipients.

Individuals involved in online volunteering perform a variety of tasks from telecenters or home, work, or school computers. They may volunteer for a nonprofit organization or an environmental, community, or school initiative, and create web pages or a podcast, research subjects, counsel people, or design graphics or a database. They may also edit videos, moderate online discussion groups, proofread drafts of online publications, translate documents, and edit or write articles, proposals, or press releases for a campaign.

Several thousand initiatives and organizations offer virtual volunteering. Idealist and VolunteerMatch provide users with in-person volunteer opportunities in addition to online positions, and the United Nations offers an online volunteering service as well.

Such opportunities include volunteering with the website RedCross.org, writing articles for the VolunteerNews section or, if you have a background in the financial industry, providing ongoing case management and financial and budget counseling to disaster victims online and over the phone through Operation Hope.

The American Association of Retired Persons offers a listing of opportunities for virtual volunteers, including positions with icouldbe.org. According to the AARP magazine:
Volunteers mentor underprivileged teens online and help them with educational and career planning. The goal is to steer mentees toward careers they never imagined by linking them with mentors in a wide range of fields. Teen participate through their schools or after-school programs and select mentors that match their interests. Mentors and mentees communicate throughout the academic year via online discussions and activities on the icouldbe.org website. Mentors work with mentees on activities that help them define their goals—for example, writing a mission statement and autobiography, defining their top three priorities in life, etc. Volunteer mentors commit to participating for at least one hour a week.
Additionally, the Elder Wisdom Circle provides an online opportunity for individuals age 60 and over to share their wisdom and advice with others on the website asking questions on topics that range from relationships to careers to family life. The website offers opportunities for individuals who are disabled or homebound to spend at least three hours a week answering questions.

''I started the site because I realized that there weren’t a lot of opportunities for folks who can’t get around as well to stay engaged and share their knowledge with other people,'' says Doug Meckelson, founder of Elder Wisdom Circle.

In addition, there are other at-home volunteering opportunities besides computer-based ones. Individuals may work with telephone reassurance programs, in which they make regularly scheduled, usually daily, calls to elderly and/or disabled people in their community to check on their welfare, provide company for them, and call their relatives and friends if necessary.

Virtual volunteering may be preferable to individuals who find in-person volunteering difficult because of home obligations, disabilities, or work schedules, and it is also environmentally friendly in that there is less paper waste and gasoline used transporting the volunteer. It may be beneficial to employers because the volunteers do not take up space in the agency’s office using a desk, phone, or parking space, and the online volunteers may have more advanced computer software at their homes than the organization would be able to provide them with on-site, expanding the reach and resources of the organization.
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 AARP  careers  mission statements  schools  educators  teens

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