Doing good in your underpants is no longer the prerogative of superheroes thanks to a new trend dubbed ‘micro volunteering’. Increasingly charities, non-profit organizations and social enterprises are utilizing social networks and online platforms to increase awareness of their causes and sign more people up to their campaigns. Micro volunteering takes this engagement to the next level by enabling them to complete real, and much-needed, tasks by volunteering remotely. In multiple studies, most people indicate a strong interest in performing some sort of community service. However most do not volunteer because they do not have the time. With the working week creeping up in hours and family life becoming more complex and it is hard to find the time and energy to volunteer. Micro-volunteering however, provides opportunities to commit to small amounts of voluntary work that can be done from home or on your phone.
The concept is simple — micro volunteering turns ‘down-time’ spent on the web into meaningful engagement with charitable organizations or social enterprises. Collectively we spend millions of hours on Facebook and billions of hours on YouTube every single day. Micro volunteering aims to convert some of that time into volunteering time. Organizations post up tasks or ‘challenges’, which anyone can sign up to and then complete remotely. Tasks typically can be done in ten minutes to half an hour. Volunteering challenges might range from tagging photos to translating a document to writing a letter to a sick child.
Currently there is a small, but significant, number of websites offering micro-volunteering opportunities. Help From Home is a British-based sight which encourages you to “change the world in just your pyjamas”. Volunteers can choose “actions” from three categories “do good”, “green” and “advocacy”. There is also a category for “random easy actions” broken down into timeslots of under a minute, under five minutes, under ten minutes, under twenty minutes and under thirty minutes. The Extraordinaires is an American micro-volunteering website that, although just out of its beta stage, has already completed over 300,000 tasks for more than 200 organizations and secured funding of over $1m. This social enterprise additionally provides software to charities and non-profits to help them make use of micro volunteering on their organisation’s own website. Even celebrities are getting involved with leveraging “the Crowd” for charitable efforts. In May this year Edward Norton, star of The Illusionist and Fight Club, launched Crowdrise, a social media sight for doing good. People can sign up and launch their own fundraising campaign or join other people’s “Project team” and help them raise funds. Crowdrise uniquely offers participants incentives in the form of points and prizes. They have the candidly straightforward motto of “If you don’t give back, no one will like you”.
The benefits of micro volunteering are multiform. Micro volunteering can be conducted anywhere at any time, providing the kind of flexibility that traditional volunteering cannot offer. Micro volunteering is a good way for those who are shy and uncomfortable with a group of strangers to get involved with voluntary work and perhaps give them the confidence to do other volunteering. There is huge diversity in the type of micro-actions that can be performed and so it is expansive in its scope. This means you’re not limited to local organizations and activities. People who are not otherwise able to engage in volunteer activities, such as those with disabilities or those who are housebound, can do micro volunteering. Consequently micro volunteering draws from a larger pool of people. Remote volunteering equals less management time by the staff of the organizations involved, making their working time more productive. The concept can also generate income as a social enterprise in itself through the selling of the software or advertising space. Micro volunteering, perhaps most importantly, fits in well with the younger generation who embrace the internet in all its forms. There is also much more of an emphasis on volunteering being enjoyable rather than some sort of chore. Crowdrise states that experience should be “at least as fun as French kissing someone for the first time”. That is pretty much enough for me. This is one stay at home superhero that will be checking in for duty!
This article originally appeared on Justmeans.com and is republished here with permission.