This is an archived version of the Virtual Volunteering Project web site from January 2001.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The Virtual Volunteering Project web site IS NO LONGER UPDATED.
Email addresses associated with the Virtual Volunteering Project are no longer valid.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
For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).
  Virtual Volunteering Project Logo


Resources for AGENCIES

Resources for VOLUNTEERS

About the Virtual Volunteering Project

Subscribe to VIRTUAL VERVE

What's new

Site Index

Home Page

step by step:
setting up and managing a
virtual volunteering program

This information was last updated on March 6, 2000

The Virtual Volunteering Project's information is geared to agencies who already understand the basics of volunteer management, and how to work with volunteers effectively in traditional, face-to-face settings. The Project Web site does not have information to teach the fundamentals of volunteer management. Our list of Online Resources for Volunteer Managers has links to sites that provide information on the basics of volunteer management.

Virtual volunteering should not be looked at as a replacement for face-to-face volunteering; instead, it is an expansion of your volunteer resources, an augmentation of your organization's activities, and another way for someone to help support your organization and give back to the community. For some people, it will be a preferred avenue of volunteering, but for many people, it will be an additional avenue of volunteering.

Involving volunteers via the Internet comes naturally to some people; for others, there is a significant learning curve. Keep in mind that not all of this information may be applicable to your organization or to every manager. Also remember that this is new territory for all of us! We're all still learning.

Setting Up and Managing a
Virtual Volunteering Program

  • First step: are you ready for this?
    Based on our Project's own experience with online volunteers and the feedback from many other organizations, these suggestions will help you evaluate your staff members and volunteer program to see if you have the necessary systems and knowledge to involve volunteers online.

  • Next Step: Laying the Groundwork
    Once you've determined that your organization is ready for virtual volunteering, it's time for some internal groundwork: getting staff buy-in and participation, developing an implementation plan, training staff and volunteers, etc.

  • Implementing a Virtual Volunteering
    Pilot Program

    Includes tips on how to get staff buy-in and ways to become a champion of virtual volunteering within your agency.

  • Identifying and Creating Assignments for Online Volunteers
    Just as with offline volunteering, a first step in creating tasks for online volunteers is to look around and see what needs to be done in general for your organization. However, when thinking of virtual volunteering tasks at your own organization, also ask: how do your volunteers already work with staff and clients? Could you add an online component to one of your existing volunteer programs? These suggestions, created by the VV Project Team and citing various other resources, can help you identify tasks for online volunteers.

  • Assigning Online Tasks
    Once you have developed a system of orienting and evaluating volunteers who are going to work offsite via home or work computers and created online assignments, you are ready to place potential volunteers into this system and match them to assignments. This section also includes Sample Online Task Descriptions.

  • Orienting and evaluating volunteers for virtual assignments
    Virtual volunteering assignments vary widely: volunteers can simply surf the Internet and gather information for your agency, or they can actively participate in and supervise a chat room for your clients. These assignments require a varying degree of orienting and evaluating of the volunteer, as well as screening.

  • Managing volunteers virtually
    It's not vastly different from managing people onsite, and even comes naturally to some. Still, some adjustments in styles and approaches to volunteer management must be made to ensure success.

  • Recognizing Online Volunteers and
    Using the Internet to Honor ALL Volunteers

    Recognition of a volunteer is the act of acknowledging a person's contribution to your agency. Using feedback from online volunteers who have communicated their experiences to the VV Project, as well as feedback from collaborating organizations and our own experiences, we have developed these suggestions for both recognizing online volunteers AND using the Internet to honor ALL volunteers

  • Safety in Online Volunteering Programs
    Just as with face-to-face volunteering programs, a virtual volunteering program needs to have guidelines in place to protect everyone involved -- volunteers, staff and clients alike -- to ensure participants safety and privacy. This is information and links to resources to help your agency create general safety guidelines for all online volunteering programs, suggestions and examples for those managing programs involving youth as online volunteers, and suggestions for bringing together youth and adult online volunteers.

  • Online Culture
    Learning the different styles of "personalities" online, interpreting people's written communications and assisting volunteers and managers alike in being clear and effective online. Includes links to many other resources as well.

  • Implementing a virtual volunteering pilot project
    Most organizations who successfully involve volunteers virtually started one of two ways: volunteers working virtually to assist staff or other volunteers or by creating an online component of a phone or face-to-face support group.

  • How I involve online volunteers
    A first-hand account of how Jayne Cravens, Manager of the Virtual Volunteering Project, recruits, screens, assigns, manages and acknowledges her own online volunteers. See how the suggestions here on the Project's Web site are put into practice at our own organization.

  • Index of Organizations Involving Online Volunteers
    Offers a detailed profile of each affiliate and how they are involving volunteers virtually, the systems they use to recruit, evaluate and manage online volunteers, and visions for future virtual volunteering activities. Also provides summaries of programs at more than 100 other agencies.

  • Finding and managing technical assistance volunteers
    A technical assistance volunteer is a person who provides support to staff members (such as help with building a web site) rather than an organization's clients (such as mentoring young people). Volunteers that provide technical assistance are usually easier to manage than volunteers who work with clients on an organization's behalf, and involving such volunteers virtually is a good place to start expanding your virtual volunteering activities.

  • Involving People With Disabilities in Virtual Volunteering Programs
    A benefit of virtual volunteering is that it can allow for greater participation of people who might find on-site volunteering difficult or impossible because of a disability. This in turn allows organizations to benefit from the additional talent and resources of more volunteers. The Virtual Volunteering Project has received a special grant from Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation to research and document ways to accommodate and encourage people with disabilities in virtual volunteering programs, and to help agencies develop volunteering programs and systems flexible enough to meet the needs and preferences of the broadest range of users of computers and telecommunications equipment.

    In conjunction with this grant, the VV Project has created these resources to help agencies recruit and involve volunteers with disabilities in virtual volunteering programs:

    • Working via the Internet with volunteers who have disabilities
      Tips for outreach, accommodations, conversation, volunteer orientation and matching, evaluation and staff training.

    • Examples of Experiences Involving Online Volunteers and Youth With Disabilities
      A few real-life examples of how volunteers and youth with disabilities are interacting with others via Cyberspace, to give you an idea of the limitless possibilities and benefits of virtual volunteering.

    • First Person: Benefits of Virtual Volunteering
      for People With Disabilities

      We have received several testimonials via our online survey and online volunteer application from people with disabilities serving as online volunteers for various organizations around the United States. These are excerpts, to show first hand how virtual volunteering creates new opportunities for people with disabilities.

    • Making an agency virtually accessible to people with disabilities
      Our own suggestions for Web site design, as well as links to other organizations

    • Online information on disability-related issues in general
      For agencies seeking more information about the concerns of disabled population. Good resources to use in staff training.

  • Volunteers working with clients/students via the Internet
    Setting up this componant of a virtual volunteering program presents many special challenges. What would be an appropriate assignment for such a volunteer? How will you screen this volunteer? How will you evaluate this volunteer? How will you supervise this volunteer's interactions with clients? How will you protect confidentiality and prevent inappropriate interactions between volunteers and clients in virtual situations? What organizations are already engaged in telementoring and what systems do they use?

These materials on setting up a virtual volunteering program are the basis for the Virtual Volunteering Guidebook.


Based on our research and first-hand experiences, the Project has also developed these virtual volunteering-related resources:

resources for volunteers

If you use this material to help your organization, please contact us and let us know!

Does your organization already have
a Virtual Volunteering program?

Then We Want to Hear From You!

Information for those who wish to
quote from, copy and/or distribute the information on this Web site

If you find this or any other Virtual Volunteering Project information helpful, or would like to add information based on your own experience, please contact us.

If you do use Virtual Volunteering Project materials in your own workshop or trainings, or republish materials in your own publications, please let us know, so that we can track how this information is disseminated.


Copyright © 1999 - 2000 The University of Texas at Austin
All Rights Reserved.

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
For new materials regarding online volunteering, see
Jayne Cravens' web site (the section on volunteerism-related resources).

If you liked the content of this web page, subscribe to Jayne's blog so you can know when new information on this subject is available. Don't have an RSS reader to subscribe to blogs? Not sure what RSS is? Try this RSS tutorial.

about Jayne Cravens | contact Jayne Cravens