Micro-Volunteering is a New Trend in the Industry and It’s No Small Matter

“Micro-volunteering” is the new term for web-based volunteer tasks that can be accomplished in small increments of time. This year, with the launch of Sparked.com, new support from experts in the field, and new software for mobile devices, “micro” has gotten some “macro” buzz this year – making it one of the hottest trends in volunteerism.

While initial interest in micro has focused on how nonprofits/NGOs could take advantage of it to get more work done and engage new audiences, the corporate sector is starting to see the benefits as well.

So what should you keep in mind if you’re thinking about adding micro to your employee or consumer volunteer engagement mix? A lot, it turns out.

Mike Bright has examined the history and issues surrounding micro. Based in UK, Bright’s Help from Home has some of the most comprehensive listings of micro-volunteering opportunities on the Web.  Although corporate uses are not the main focus of his analysis, it’s a great overview of the positives — and negatives — of micro-volunteering.

Start By Educating Your Employees

Micro-volunteering is not exactly well known yet, so few people go looking for micro-actions. Thus organizations that want to benefit from people performing micro-actions have an uphill struggle to gather a pool of people to help them out, and companies may struggle getting a critical mass of employees involved. Spend time encouraging and directing your employees to micro-volunteer opportunities to see effective results.

Aim to Prevent Isolation

Micro-volunteering by nature can be an isolating act, companies that support  it in ways that combat isolation and aim to re-connect employees to the nonprofits and projects they are supporting may see greater retention rates.

Support Collaboration

Many micro-actions are small tasks which, when combined with other people’s actions, can produce huge results.  But volunteers can be divorced from seeing the whole picture and the ultimate outcome, which may be frustrating for results-oriented volunteers. Companies and NGOs can benefit from giving micro-volunteers more exposure to the end-result of their hard work.

Despite the challenges, micro has compelling options for nonprofits and companies. As Jacob Colker, founder of Sparked.com, says, “[It] makes it easy to post projects and get work done without the steps of applications, vetting, and training – freeing up time for the nonprofit to focus on other things.”

Spark of Innovation

Colker and partner Ben Rigby launched The Extraordinaries as a for-profit social enterprise two years ago to leverage technology for social good. Recently they’ve launched Sparked, the world’s first micro-volunteering network, to make it easier for nonprofits around the world to leverage the professional skills of industry experts – for free. It’s a great place for creative design, marketing, strategy and media relations-type work.

Exciting for administrators, Sparked offers employees discrete volunteer tasks that can be done remotely and require no resources from the company.

Micro-volunteering will continue to evolve through 2011, finding the appropriate fit for the corporate sector. With these tips and references, we hope your organization is able to test out micro and report back on your experiences. We look forward to hearing from you!

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3 thoughts on “Micro-Volunteering is a New Trend in the Industry and It’s No Small Matter

  1. This is such an important resource, and yet it does point to the challenges in orchestrating entrepreneurs and small business teams toward volunteering as a key CSR component. My area, Orange County, CA, has not shown great progress in organizational commitment to many aspects of sustainability, whether environmental or social. Resources such as sparked.com which help get people off of the starting line will be an important tool; however, I think many businesses still question the larger imperative. My hope is that my new start-up, Responsible Business Registry, can create some movement by raising awareness, providing support and offering a channel to trumpet success. Of course the public relations boost should never precipitate a genuine, ongoing commitment, but the help is still offered and it could provide a positive buzz that motivates others in the interest of both goodwill and competitiveness.

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