This is an archived version of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site from January 2001.
The materials on the web site were written or compiled by Jayne Cravens.
The Virtual Volunteering Project has been discontinued.
The Virtual Volunteering Project web site IS NO LONGER UPDATED.
Email addresses associated with the Virtual Volunteering Project are no longer valid.
For any URL that no longer works, type the URL into archive.org
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For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).
 
 
 
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assigning online tasks

This information was last updated on June 21, 1999

Once you have developed a system of orienting and evaluating volunteers who are going to work offsite via home or work computers, you can put potential volunteers into this system and match them to assignments. If you've asked the right questions in your orientation and evaluation process, and provided well-written descriptions of volunteer opportunities at your organization, matching volunteers to assignments should be easy!

 
Review Skills and Interests
If a volunteer came to you largely because he or she is enthusiastic about your mission, then an assignment that somehow relates to your mission would probably be of most interest to the volunteer -- gathering Web site addresses ("surf and gather") for similarly-focused organizations, for instance. If a volunteer wants to work with your agency mostly because he or she wants to develop a skill, such as .html design abilities, that person may find a "surf and gather" assignment boring or unsatisfying; still, you could structure an online research assignment for such a person and have that volunteer provide the work in .html format (which would give you the information you need in an easy-to-use format, and give the volunteer the .html experience desired.)

Volunteers will usually tell you exactly what they want to do online for your organization, particularly if you have provided well-written descriptions of potential opportunities at your organization. If you really can't match their skills or interest with what you have available, tell them -- and give an overview of what assignments you do have available. Often, the volunteer will still be enthusiastic help with one of these existing assignments.

Matching volunteers to assignments, on or offline, is a learned skill. The more you do it, the better you will become at matching people to tasks. Be patient, be supportive, and remember that not every volunteer job is right for every volunteer. The better your screening, orientation and supervising process, the less chance there is for misunderstandings or incomplete assignments.

 
Describing the Assignment
This is a volunteer manager's last chance to clearly define the role of the volunteer, and to make sure you both understand that role. It's more than just a name of an assignment and a deadline to complete it; how is this assignment in particular important to the organization? in what format should the work be turned in? (as an attachment? cut and pasted into an email?). May the volunteer contact organizations on behalf of your agency? If so, how should he or she represent his/her role with you?

View these sample online volunteer assignments for ideas on how to write your task descriptions (a listing of ongoing assignments is included in this index).

 
"Byte-Sized" Assignments
The Virtual Volunteer Project suggests new online volunteers start off with a simple assignment that can be completed in five hours or less, with a deadline of two weeks after the assignment is made. This gives the volunteer a generous amount of time to complete his or her first assignment, as well as a definite time boundary for working with you. If you both find the first experience satisfactory, the volunteer can take on another assignment. This also gives the volunteer a sense of what volunteering with your organization is like, as well as what it's like to volunteer virtually; and gives you the sense of how well this volunteer works virtually. It also creates a natural breaking point if either of you need to halt this volunteer's involvement.

Some possible assignments to try with a first-time online volunteer at your organization include:

  • Online research to find information to update certain Web pages on the Project site
  • Converting an email newsletter to .html for use on a Web site
  • Web site proofreeding with IBM/clone PC if the agency uses Macs, or vice versa
  • Web site proofreeding with a browser other than what your agency uses in-house
  • Researching how your agency is listed on various Internet search engines.
  • Registering your agency on various Internet search engines, as appropriate
  • Researching how your agency is linked from other Web sites (using Web Site Garage at http://www.websitegarage.com/).
  • Compiling a list or updating a list of Internet discussion groups relating to a particular topic
  • Compiling a list or updating a list of Web sites for organizations with a particular mission focus
  • Compiling a list or updating a list of publications with a particular focus
  • Compiling a list or updating a list of state and national conferences with a particular focus
  • Adding .html codes to make Web pages accessible for people using assistive technologies
  • Creating index .html pages of all the pages in a certain Web directory
  • Converting Web pages from English into another language
  • Creating a form and the .cgi/.pl file that makes the form work

 
Act Quickly!
The majority of people who express interest in a virtual opportunity are ready to start right away! A delay of a few days in putting a volunteer into your orientation process and getting him or her into a starter assignment can lead to frustration and bad feelings on the volunteer's part. He or she will often move on to another organization if they are not into action with your organization in some way within a week of their original correspondance.

Your application and orientation process will screen out most of those who might express interest in virtual volunteering with you before really considering the commitment required, but those potential volunteers who make it through this process are expecting to get going immediately on making a contribution with your organization!

 
Increasing Responsibility
Once the volunteer has completed an initial assignment, you may want to assign something longer, or make several short-term assignments at once. We suggest something that takes up to 10 hours to complete and has a deadline of four weeks after the assignment is made. This further eases the volunteer into the process of contributing virtually and gives you more of an indication of their strengths and interests. This also gives you both natural stopping points -- places where either the volunteer or you can terminate the relationship as necessary, or, where you can ask the volunteer to go through a more detailed screening process, such as submission of references, writing samples, etc., to move them into longer-term volunteer roles.

If the volunteer completes these short-term assignments and you both agree to proceed, give the volunteer a long-term assignment, or several short-term assignments at once. However, we suggest that long-term assignments be no more than three-six months at a time. Again, this gives both you and the volunteer natural stopping points for assessment of how things are going and, if necessary, further screening (background checks) or termination of the relationship.

 
Stopping Points
Tell the volunteer when the natural stopping points are in assignments, when you both can look at what the volunteer has completed, re-evaluate the volunteer's expectations and availability (these things DO change), and decide how best to proceed. Don't automatically assume that volunteers are going to be around for several months, particularly if you have never worked with them before.

 
Restrictions on Youth Volunteers
Federal Child Labor laws apply to youth volunteers as well! There are restrictions on what hours they can volunteer if they are under 15, and there is a maximum number of hours they can volunteer each day during the school year. Make sure that online assignments are given with these restrictions in mind -- give youth volunteers generous deadlines so that they can spread work out over several days, and remind youth volunteers to set limits on the amount of time each day and each week that they volunteer. For more information, see Involving Youth as Online Volunteers.

 

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This is an archived version of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site from January 2001.
The materials on the web site were written or compiled by Jayne Cravens.
The Virtual Volunteering Project has been discontinued.
The Virtual Volunteering Project web site IS NO LONGER UPDATED.
Email addresses associated with the Virtual Volunteering Project are no longer valid.
For any URL that no longer works, type the URL into archive.org
.
For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).
 

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