Editor’s Note: VolunteerMatch participates in Immaculate Conception Academy (ICA)’s Corporate Work Study Program. Kylie, one of our ICA volunteers, wrote the following post to help nonprofits improve their volunteer recruitment strategies using the VolunteerMatch network.
Virtual volunteer opportunities are a great way to engage volunteers who wouldn’t otherwise be able to volunteer with your organization due to busy schedules, mobility challenges and lack of reliable transportation, among other reasons.
Before you start recruiting virtual volunteers, it’s important to understand how to do so correctly on the VolunteerMatch network. During my time working here, I’ve noticed that many volunteer opportunities are incorrectly categorized as virtual when they should be local. That’s why I’ve created this guide to help you understand what’s a virtual volunteer opportunity, what’s not and how to display that correctly on VolunteerMatch!
What is a Virtual Volunteer Opportunity?
VolunteerMatch defines a virtual opportunity as one that can be completed remotely, typically with a computer and internet connection, phone or fax. Common examples include:
- Writing grants
- Creating digital art
- Editing videos
- Designing websites
- Making greeting cards
Here’s an easy way to check if your volunteer opportunity is actually virtual: ask yourself, “Can a volunteer be in Canada (or another country) and still complete the requirements of this opportunity?” If yes, it’s most likely a virtual volunteer opportunity!
Local opportunities, on the other hand, are volunteer opportunities that are location-based, either within a certain community (e.g., volunteers must live in a certain city) or at a specific destination (e.g., volunteers must come to your office). Examples include:
- Helping out at a shelter
- Cleaning up parks in a community
- Serving food at a soup kitchen
- Fostering kittens at your home
I’ve worked on vetting virtual volunteers opportunities on VolunteerMatch for a while now. I’ve found that roughly 30% of virtual volunteer opportunities should actually be marked as local. So I selected 50 of these non-virtual “virtual” opportunities to investigate why they weren’t actually virtual, so I could identify the most common issues and propose solutions.
Here’s what I found:
Read on to learn how to fix each mistake.
4% of the audited virtual opportunities required volunteers to leave their location and go to a specific destination. The solution to this problem is to mark this opportunity as local because it can only be completed in one place. Enter the street address of the location in the space provided.
Find specific instructions on setting the location and address for these types of opportunities here.
Another 4% of the vetted opportunities needed the volunteer work to be done in a specific region even if it didn’t take place at one specific location. The solution to this problem is to mark the opportunity as local and insert the city or region where the opportunity must be done in the Address 1 field instead of a specific street address. For example, enter “The San Francisco Metro Area” if volunteers must be located in that community. (By default, all local opportunities will show up within a 20-mile search radius from the ZIP code entered even if no street address is shared.)
More detailed information on regional/multi-location opportunities can be found here.
Finally, 92% of the opportunities I vetted required in-person meetings. Since virtual opportunities must be able to be completed in full remotely, there’s no face-to-face interaction. This is an easy problem to solve if you’re open to hosting virtual meetings. Consider using one of the following tech solutions:
- Skype: a software application that lets people interact with each other through their computer via free calls, SMS messaging and more.
- Google Hangout: a communications service that allows members to have a conversation through text, voice or video chats, either one-on-one or in a group.
- FaceTime: Apple’s version of communicating through video and voice audio.
- Slack: collaboration software that allows you to share messages, tools, files and more via channels divvied up by team, client, project, etc.
If virtual meetings don’t work for your organization, you should categorize the opportunity as local and follow the instructions listed in the previous section.
Why does it matter?
Virtual volunteer opportunities do not show up in VolunteerMatch’s local opportunity search, and vice versa. Therefore, correctly categorizing your volunteer opportunity’s location is crucial to ensure you’re recruiting qualified candidates for the role. If you select the wrong option, then you’ll connect with the wrong volunteers. You’ll also have to explain what happened to a bunch of confused volunteers, which is a waste of time and doesn’t make a good impression.
Luckily for you, the issues above are easily solved. Follow the basics outlined in this guide, and you’ll have an easy time recruiting the right volunteers.
For more information, check out our Help Center.
Author Bio: Kylie Chacón is a freshman at Immaculate Conception Academy. She loves guinea pigs and small pets. She is interested in biology and history and is looking forward to her following years in high school.