Resources for AGENCIES
Resources for VOLUNTEERS
About the Virtual Volunteering Project
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finding technical assistance volunteers|
to involve "virtually"
Often, organizations need volunteers with particular skills or expertise to assist staff or other volunteers. The Virtual Volunteering Project refers to these as technical assistiance volunteers.
Recruiting online volunteers with a specific expertise is best done by a combination of online and offline outreach.
However -- do not begin to recruit volunteers until you have well-defined opportunities they can join in as quickly as possible. It's like advertising a product you don't really have: it can cause hard feelings on the part of potential supporters.
Also, determine if you are ready for virtual volunteering before you try to institute such a program. The number one complaint we hear from volunteers is that agencies saying they needed online volunteers were not ready to put them to work or into an orientation immediately -- or never got back at all to people who e-mailed interest.
To find a volunteer to provide professional or technical assistance for your organization's staff:
- Send, by postal mail or e-mail, specific volunteer opportunity announcements to appropriate professional groups or online volunteer centers. For instance
- If you are looking for computer/technology help, try contacting local computer-user groups in your area. You can find nearby groups via the Association of PC User Groups at http://www.apcug.org/others/ or Society for Technical Communication http://stc.org, both of which have chapters all over the U.S.
Another good resource is CompuMentor (there is a small fee for agencies; this covers the costs of CompuMentor's screening and administration of the volunteers).
Another excellent resource for computer help are various organizations for senior volunteers, all of which have some kind of technology program.
- Accountants for the Public Interest, http://www.accountingnet.com/asso/api/, is a national nonprofit organization encouraging accountants to volunteer their time and expertise to nonprofits, small businesses and individuals who need, but cannot afford, professional accounting services. The national office may be able to help you find someone to work with you online (or offline, for that matter).
- Business Volunteers for the Arts (BVA), http://www.artswire.org/arts&business/bvahome.htm involves business professionals donating time to help arts groups strengthen business practices receive free management consulting assistance. There's also associations of volunteer lawyers & accountants for the arts all over the U.S.
- if you are looking for help with certain HR issues, send a volunteer opportunity announcement to the local chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management (the national site at http://www.shrm.org can help you find a local chapter).
- considering contacting an organization for professionals of a particular ethnicity (depending on the nature of your volunteer needs and program mission), such as the National Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers or Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA).
- use an online discussion group or online association that is focused on a particular profession to promote your volunteer opportunities (as appropriate). There are many Web sites and online discussion groups that can help you reach audiences of in a particular profession -- too many to name here. Good places to look for such groups, using the appropriate keywords, are:
- There are many organizations for senior volunteers, with a membership representing a variety of professional fields and expertise. From computer technology to marketing to human resources to legal affairs, these senior groups have volunteers throughout the United States ready to assist nonprofit organizations with a variety of issues.
- An excellent place to look for Web designers is the Microsoft Site Builder Network - VolunteerKiosk, http://nonprofit.guidestar.org/classifieds/ms_sbn.cfm is a joint project with GuideStar to connect nonprofit organizations with Web developer and designer volunteers. The Microsoft Site Builder Network is a membership program and online resource that supports Web designers and developers with tools, information, and support.
- TechVol is a nonprofit organization that matches volunteer web designers and web technology experts with nonprofit organizations that need them.
- No Wonder has volunteers ready to help anyone via email with computer and software questions.
- For people outside the U.S., there's R.E.CO(T.M.) Retired Executive Consultants International, which matches middle management volunteers, engineer volunteers and any other retired entrepreneurs to help effectively small and medium-sized enterprises.
- Another way to reach retired professionals is by sending an overview of volunteer opportunities to area senior citizens centers, university lifelong learning programs, and local chapters of Retired Senior Volunteers Program (RSVP). A good place to find local chapters of these groups (other than your phone book) is via http://www.yahoo.com/Society_and_Culture/Cultures_and_Groups/Seniors/Organizations/
- E-Corps, a project by the Beacon Project, http://www.beaconproject.org, works to match volunteers with expertise in not-for-profit and business management with organizations that need their expertise. The volunteers provide most of their assistance via the Internet.
- VolunteerMatch, at http://www.volunteermatch.org/ is the primary service of Impact Online, and will allow you to request online volunteers with a specific area of expertise. There are many, many other web sites to register online volunteering opportunities as well.
- Send, by postal mail or e-mail, specific volunteer opportunity announcements to the nearest volunteer center. Call your local United Way to see if they operate such a center, or visit our page of resources for volunteer managers, which provides links to lists of volunteer centers by state.
- People in college are often looking for unpaid internships as a way to get the experience they need for a career. College students are also probably the most wired population of all. Mail announcement regarding volunteer/unpaid internship opportunities to every college and university in your county. Mail these announcements to these departments and offices:
- career development office
- student volunteer center
- English department (because its one of the most often chosen majors, and such students usually have excellent writing skills and attention to detail)
- departments and offices that are related to your organization's mission or the volunteer opportunity
- If your organization has a Web site, there should be volunteer information on that site! Prepare a page of volunteer opportunities, or at least, directions on how to volunteer with your organization. Make sure that there are links to this page on other pages of the organization's World Wide Web site.
- The company's Web address should be included in all publications (business cards, letter head, newsletters, fax cover sheets, etc.) right next to your organization's "snail mail" address and phone number. In your newsletter, announce that there is information on volunteering on your Web site. On any newspaper announcements, press releases, PSAs, etc., as well as online announcements regarding volunteer opportunities at your organization, note that there is volunteer information on your World Wide Web site as well. Why do all this? Because most people in your target audiences who visit your Web site do so because of something they have read on paper or been told over the phone, not because they are looking for it via a Web search engine.
- Make sure everyone who answers your organization's main phone line, as well as your Executive Director, marketing staff and fund raising staff knows that there is volunteer information on the Web site (so they can make appropriate referrals). Also make sure they know how to say the Web address.
- Post volunteer opportunity announcements on appropriate Internet newsgroups and list servers; one of the best places is local groups, whose subscribers are located in or focused on your geographic area.
- Let your onsite volunteers know that you have online opportunities; some of them may prefer doing some of their support for your organization via their home or work computer.
Respond promptly to those who inquire about your organizations volunteer opportunities, both on and offline! The Virtual Volunteering Project has heard from a people who tried to contact an organization via an email address, but never got a answer, even an acknowledgement that the email was received. Such lack of response reflects poorly on an agency.
Based on our research and first-hand experiences, the Virtual Volunteering Project has also developed tips on how to manage technical assistance volunteers "virtually", as well as other volunteer-related resources.
Also see this TechSoup resource for recruiting and involving volunteers for computer/technology-related assistance (when you get to this link, click on the link to "volunteers").