How to Be an Effective Virtual Volunteer

Updated on November 23, 2018
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Alexis Kenyatta has been a virtual volunteer for six years. Her goals are to become a teacher and give back to the community as an educator


To be an effective online volunteer, research and look at the skills you have and those skills you would like to acquire. If you are in high school or have just started college, or are even a college graduate, it is good to volunteer so that you can learn how to network with non-profits, gain work experience through volunteer work, gain self-confidence in your talents, and learn time management skills. Online volunteering also takes the pressure off always meeting face-to-face, especially if you are not able to physically travel to the work site. For people with disabilities, volunteering helps you find out what your strengths are in working with others, and lets you continue your education in a new environment without being held back by your disability. Many websites like Idealist and Volunteer Match allow users to search for the best online volunteer positions and opportunities that will suit them and their availability.

Brief History of Online Volunteering

Volunteering at home is not a new concept. According to Murray and Harrison (2005), “Volunteering without being physically present at the host organizations work site is not new. Telephone and mail have been used by home-based volunteers for many years to help with fundraising, bookkeeping, and other activities.” (Murray, Harrison, 2005, 2) The online volunteer today can utilize the internet, search engines, video, audio, chat, writing, and technical communications to jump start their career by finding positions that best meet their passions and fit into their schedule. Today, in addition to postal mail, volunteers can use email and their computer to reach others without having to leave home.

Types of Online Volunteering

There are many types of online volunteering offered to those who seek to help non-profit organizations and learn new skills. For example, as a general transcriptionist, volunteers can use their typing skills, attention to detail, patience, and accuracy to help organizations who need to post written text on their websites or within their businesses by supplying them the needed documents in a timely manner. Online tutors are another type of home-based volunteer. If you are a whiz in math, English, or science, or if you aced your SAT, there are websites that are available for tutors to become volunteers; some even offer online training. According to Murray and Harrison (2005), “Many of today’s volunteers are looking for more well-defined, time-limited volunteer opportunities that let them use existing skills and help them acquire new ones.” (Murray, Harrison, 2005, 3) The virtual world of the Internet is endless with opportunities. Many volunteers can also learn grant writing, become a mentor, or even work on social media projects.

Personal Benefits of Online Volunteering

The personal benefits of online volunteering include gaining self-confidence in your abilities. You get to network and meet new people. If you are not used to working, it offers a chance to feel employed (though unpaid) and to learn to work on a deadline. Online volunteering can also help you to look at your skills and what you are weakest in, like for instance math. Being trained to help with accounting spreadsheets, can strengthen marketability in a future paid position as a payroll clerk or accountant. Volunteering gives you a chance to show employers that you have the time, patience and character to be able to help an organization without pay in order to enhance your skills and boost your resume. According to Amichal-Hamburger (2008), “The Internet plays a major part in modern life. From its inception as an information technology, it has moved on to become a tool with the capacity to influence almost all aspects of human life. These aspects include the Internet as a tool, for persuasion, pro-social behavior, intergroup conflict, leadership, group discussion, and decision-making….The accessibility of the Internet as an information tool makes it a particularly significant device for people with special needs.” (Amichal-Hamburger, 2008, 2,6) The personal benefits of online volunteering include a chance to know who you are, to relate to others and work with others, and to experience meaningful work despite any shortcomings or handicaps you feel you have.

Online Volunteers Assets to Non-Profits

The online volunteer provides a unique service to the non-profit organization. The volunteer gives the non-profit their time, skills, and expertise, and the non-profit provides the volunteer training, constructive feedback, team work, and leadership training. Volunteering for a non-profit can help you in your search for meaningful work and help you learn how to attain a position you can stay in. In a regular paid position, the employer sometimes does not take the time to mold and shape the employee because of time constraints and probationary periods for training. But volunteering gives the volunteer a chance to get adjusted to working; this is the main asset nonprofits give to volunteers that help them with projects. According to Drucker (1989), “Nonprofits used to say, ‘we don’t pay volunteers so we cannot make demands upon them.’ Now they are more likely to say, ‘Volunteers must get far greater satisfaction from their accomplishments and make a greater contribution precisely because they do not get a paycheck.’ The steady transformation of the volunteer from well-meaning amateur to trained, professional, unpaid staff member is the most significant development in the nonprofit sector—as well as the one with the most far-reaching implications for tomorrow’s businesses.” (Drucker, 1989, 91) Becoming an online volunteer allows you to become a professional in your own right, and it gives you a sense of accomplishment because you are treating the position as your job. A job like your volunteer position can easily become your career and your life’s passion.


In conclusion, being an online volunteer can be a rewarding and wonderful experience because you are able to find your niche in the type of career that fits you. You can discover your purpose in life through volunteering online, You can also network, do research, write, and become a seasoned professional just by offering your time.


Amichal-Hamburger, Y. (2008). Potential and promise of online volunteering. Computers in Human Behavior 24 (2), 544-562

Drucker, P.F. (1989). What businesses can learn from nonprofits. Harvard Business Review, 67 (4), 88-93

Murray, V. & Harrison, Y. (2005). Virtual volunteering: Emerging areas of volunteering, 1, 31-48

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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    © 2018 Alexis Kenyatta Ellis


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