Volunteering in the Digital Age: Engage Employees in Virtual Volunteering

Does your organization employ remote employees? Does your organization employ individuals with schedules jam-packed with meetings and personal obligations?

Chances are yes, and chances are you may not be engaging these employees as much as you would like.  

We recently hosted a webinar on how to engage employees – specifically around virtual volunteerism. This is what we discovered…

Remote employees are typically disconnected from their employers’ EVP. They work in a location geographically far from their corporation’s headquarters or closest office location, and they miss the opportunity to participate in company-wide volunteer events.

Furthermore, millennials, an active generation on social media, are not as social as other generations; therefore, group volunteering creates anxiety or stress. Finally, all of us can relate to the struggles of balancing our personal and professional lives. Virtual volunteering offers us the opportunity to volunteer whenever, wherever.

Virtual Volunteerism Good Done Great

Virtual volunteerism isn’t that new. It first began in the 1990s. One of the first companies to engage in virtual volunteerism was HP who conducted an online mentoring program.

This type of volunteerism is defined as “any volunteerism that occurs online” either via a laptop or smartphone. It can be conducted alone or in a team for a short or long period of time. These volunteers may have volunteered with the organization in the past, or this may be their first interaction with the organization. Regardless, virtual volunteerism provides a flexible alternative to traditional volunteering.

38% of our webinar registrants noted that “finding virtual volunteer activities” was the #1 challenge they faced in managing virtual volunteerism projects. However, a  multitude of virtual projects exist from skills-based assignments such as web page design to telementoring, translation services, research, grant-writing, blogging, and providing assistance on a crisis hotline.

In addition to the numerous volunteer tasks, several benefits exist for engaging in virtual volunteerism:

(1) Engagement of a New Employee Segment

With virtual volunteering, you can engage a brand new segment of employees that may have never participated in a corporate volunteer event.

(2) Increased Flexibility

According to the 2011 Deloitte Volunteer Impact Survey, “71% of employees say they don’t participate in corporate volunteering because they are squeezed for time.” Virtual volunteerism offers employees the flexibility to perform their volunteer tasks whenever, wherever.

(3) Ease of Access

Individuals with disabilities or social anxiety can participate in virtual volunteerism and engage with causes in a comfortable environment.

(4) Opportunity to Scale Globally

Virtual volunteerism is scalable. Components can be added to a project or eliminated based upon the non-profit’s needs and the volunteer’s capabilities. Furthermore, volunteers can collaborate with international NGOs on virtual projects without the travel expense.

(5) Cost Reduction for Non-profits

With virtual volunteerism, non-profits can save on expenses such as providing computers to volunteers.

Several corporations have noted the benefits of virtual volunteerism and have incorporated virtual volunteering programs:

(1) Dell

Dell conducted a virtual mentoring pilot with Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, their Strategic Charity Partner in South Africa. Employees from across the globe participated in this program which partnered with teachers to improve technology skills.

(2) Deloitte Australia

Deloitte started their virtual volunteerism program in 2014. Volunteers participate in individual or team-based assignments.

Deloitte Good Done Great Virtual Volunteering

(3) Kraft

Kraft piloted a virtual volunteerism program, and over 50 employees participated. Employees utilized their marketing, sales, and social media skills to assist 48 NGOs in 29 countries.

67% of the employees noted the ease of fitting the volunteering into their schedules. Furthermore, 92% said micro-volunteerism should be offered to all employees.

Virtual volunteerism is a scalable and accessible way to engage a new employee segment in volunteering. Your employees will appreciate the flexibility that virtual volunteerism offers, and you will notice increased participation and engagement.

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