Wish you could do more to support a cause or a charity you care about? Do you have 30 minutes? Then you’re going to love microvolunteering.
The bite-sized benevolence trend is designed to let people do good in about the time it takes to watch an episode of “Chopped.”
“We describe it as volunteering in bite-sized chunks, on demand, on your own terms and online,” said Mike Bright, founder of Help From Home, a U.K.-based website where organizations across the globe post microvolunteer opportunities.
“I just felt there was a gap that needed to be filled between people who had a few minutes to spare and organizations that need volunteers,” he said. “Our tag line is, ‘Change the world in just your pajamas.’”
So how can you make a difference from the comfort of your home in just a few minutes? All you need is a little down time and a desire to do good. Here’s a sampling of microvolunteer opportunities:
GOT 5 MINUTES?
Become a citizen archivist. Make documents from the past more accessible for future generations to enjoy by tagging images and records or transcribing a scanned document for the U.S. National Archives.
GOT 10 MINUTES?
Become an observer of nature by using scientifically vetted guidelines to gather information on plants and animals to help with environmental research for the USA National Phenology Network.
GOT 30 MINUTES?
Help the homeless in Iowa City find affordable housing by searching the web for housing opportunities that meet the criteria of Shelter House.
GOT AN HOUR?
Offer to share your professional skills in a one-hour phone consultation with organizations that need expert advice on topics such as social media strategies or understanding financial statements.
Though it’s trendy, microvolunteering is not just a millennial phenomenon.
Our tag line is, ‘Change the world in just your pajamas.’
“Microvolunteering also opens up the idea of volunteering to people who, for whatever reason, can’t participate in a more traditional way,” said Bright. “We’ve seen more and more disabled people, for example, choosing to microvolunteer because they just don’t have the energy or the physical ability to partake in traditional volunteering activities. Seniors, too.”
Some corporations are also promoting microvolunteering among employees, according to Bright. “It takes a lot of time and effort to organize a traditional volunteering day that takes people away from the office, such as painting a building or fixing up a house,” he said. “With microvolunteering, there are a lot of opportunities that people can do from their desk at lunch time, for instance, and they can individually choose which charity they want to support.”
For charitable organizations, the challenge with microvolunteering is that they don’t have nearly as much control over — or direct contact with — people who volunteer remotely. So they need to take the time to identify volunteer tasks that can be done online or over the phone and that require little oversight.
While microvolunteering is more prevalent in Europe, Australia and Canada, it’s starting to gain traction in the U.S., according to Bright. But location doesn’t really matter: You can sit on your couch in New Jersey and volunteer for an organization in New Guinea.
Here are a few places to get your search started:
- The United Nations Online Volunteering Service offers a database of virtual volunteer opportunities — ranging from translation and research opportunities to graphic design and IT development. Some of these volunteer opportunities may require more than 30 minutes of time, but all can be done from a smartphone or computer.
- TechSoup is a San Francisco organization that encourages techies to “donate their brains” by answering technical questions posted online by non-profit organizations.
- Create the Good is an AARP website that posts opportunities for seniors to become virtual mentors, virtual writers and virtual disaster volunteers.