Volunteering abroad and online volunteering: questions and answers
Volunteer Work with or without own contribution and paying
Volunteer Work with or without own contribution?
- All projects and jobs in which you are not only contributing by your physical efforts but also pay all costs that are related to you. If you are able to get extra funding for the projects, the circumstances and the survival chance of the project can be improved, and then you might be delivering the best contribution you can.
- Within this type of volunteer work you have subdivision between short, mid-long and long-term projects:
- They can vary from a few weeks till for e.g. 9 months and also the costs can vary from a little compensation for the food and accommodation to a substantial contribution for the project.
- Expeditions or research like wildlife projects are meant for applicants with little time and experience. The contribution of the applicant is also usually the financing of the projects or expeditions.
Volunteer Work without Own Contribution
- Voluntary work consisting of projects and jobs without the need of making a contribution of your own. In some cases room and board is included. Sometimes there’s a room available for a small fee. This kind of work can be found under ‘Paid work’. In general the projects which can be found in this category are more of a ‘serious’ nature like assisting in a guesthouse, language course institute, travel agency etc. Please note that in some cases where you don’t have to make an own contribution but do need to pay for room and board, it will be more expensive than voluntary work with an own contribution.
Volunteer Work with Salary
- Do you have working experience which is needed abroad and are you available for a minimum of 1-3 years? In that case there are some possibilities with organizations that can arrange work abroad. Most possibilities are in forestry, technical and medical work. In most cases it will be (project) management related work in which you can put your knowledge into practice. In order to prevent disappointment you should be aware of the fact that the demand for these kinds of jobs easily exceed the available openings. As a result of this, the selection process is thorough, so you will need at least two years working experience in the field you are applying for. It is hard to state something about the salary. In some cases you will get a reasonable salary and all expenses paid. In other cases only some expenses will be paid and will you be required to do some fund raising yourself before you leave.
How to prepare for online volunteering?
Before applying for online volunteering opportunities, make sure you …
- Have basic IT tools at your disposal: do you have an email account and adequate access to the Internet? Both are crucial for maintaining regular communication with the organizations you support.
- Enjoy communicating online: collaboration with organizations and fellow volunteers will take place over the Internet. To engage successfully in online volunteering, you should feel comfortable working in an online environment.
- Consider your expectations: what is your motivation? What do you hope to gain by volunteering online? What skills and expertise can you offer an organization? Answering these questions will help you identify volunteer opportunities that are right for you.
- Are aware of cultural differences: online volunteering connects people of various backgrounds from around the world, making it a truly multicultural experience. Being aware of cultural differences, diverse working styles and the challenges that arise from communicating in different languages is crucial to successfully engaging in online volunteering.
- Assess your self-motivation: you will have a great degree of flexibility in terms of the time you will be spending on an assignment. Characteristically, supervision of online volunteering is irregular. It is therefore imperative that, as an online volunteer, you are able to organize your own schedule, be self-motivated and enjoy working independently.
- Set enough time aside: you should be confident that you can dedicate enough time for your online volunteering activities. Remember, once you have signed up for an assignment, you will have made a commitment to an organization – they will, therefore, be counting on you to complete the task for which you volunteered within a specified timeframe.
Collaborating with online volunteers remains a new experience for many organizations. The initial experience of volunteering online may leave room for improvement; every online collaboration should be viewed as a learning curve for both organizations and online volunteers.
How does online volunteering work for organizations?
- Organizations collaborate with online volunteers over the Internet to strengthen the impact of their development work.
- Thousands of volunteers are ready to provide their support: professionals, students, retirees and expatriates from across the globe volunteer their skills online to help organizations address development challenges.
- Online volunteers search on various platforms for opportunities that match their profiles and interests, and submit their applications directly to organizations offering these opportunities
- An organization selects the volunteers they would like to involve.
- They collaborate with the selected volunteers over the Internet.
- They submit feedback and issue a certificate of appreciation to volunteers upon completion of an assignment.
What difference can you make as an online volunteer?
- Enhance organizations’ resources: online volunteers provide organizations with additional skills and expertise that may not be available yet. Coming from various backgrounds and cultures, they bring new ideas and fresh perspectives.
- Develop organizations’ capacities: online volunteers can increase an organization’s institutional capacities by training staff, teaching new skills or providing guidance and advice.
- Extend organizations’ networks
- Online volunteers learn about the organizations with which they collaborate and the people it serves, and in turn share this information with their friends and colleagues - mobilizing additional support.
- Six online volunteers supported the Youth for Technology Foundation in establishing the Sironko Digital Village, a community technology and learning center in Uganda. They developed strategies for training courses and income generation. They created a webpage, developed marketing material, researched potential donors, managed a contacts database of supporters and conducted outreach campaigns. Finally, they made recommendations on networking equipment, Internet connection and providers, online facilities and electricity supply.
- Online volunteers have advised a youth focused NGO in Tanzania, the Tanzania Media and Youth Development Association, on lobbying and networking, and coached members of the NGO on how to negotiate with decision makers in government, community, and the private sector. Now they confidently engage with and receive strong support from leaders at all levels, the organization’s recommendations have been relayed to Parliament, and it successfully engaged in the coordination of a National Youth Employment Summit Campaign.
- The organization Teach a Man to Fish works towards transforming agricultural education in developing countries. After discussing the details of an assignment for designing an online game, which would help partners understand the organization’s educational model, an online volunteer realized that the project needed additional support. Through his private and professional networks, he put together a team of five engineers and artists and coordinated the team’s activities to help develop the game.
Why volunteer online?
The image of a volunteer that usually springs to mind is the person who is physically out in the community lending a hand: building a house, cleaning up a park, reading with a child. Yet all around the globe, at any given time, thousands (if not millions) of engaged citizens volunteer virtually — using their computers, the Internet, even cell phones.
Everyone can make a difference. Share your skills, knowledge and ideas – from a computer anywhere in the world. Online volunteering allows you to…
- Experience flexibility: By volunteering online you can directly assist development organizations, working from a computer anywhere in the world. Volunteering online gives you a great degree of flexibility, there is no travel involved and you can volunteer the hours that fit your schedule.
- Gain knowledge and develop skills: while putting your expertise and talents to good use, you will, for example, gain knowledge on a certain development issue or on a specific region. Volunteering online will allow you to develop your existing skills, to take on new roles and assume responsibilities that your professional life may not necessarily provide.
- Work in a multicultural environment: online volunteering is an opportunity to collaborate with people of different backgrounds from all over the world. Working in an international team will allow you to develop your knowledge of intercultural communication and understand the importance of cultural sensitivity.
- Expand your networks: you will be in contact with people who share the common goal of advancing human development. Relations may last beyond the initial assignment and sometimes even life-long friendships may develop.
Online volunteering provides organizations with new volunteers, new and additional talent and skills, and a more diverse volunteer base. It also helps promote organizations and their mission to a much broader audience.
How to choose the right online volunteer opportunity?
The key to success is to choose opportunities that match your skills, interests and availability. An opportunity description should contain all the information you need to decide whether or not the opportunity interests you, your skills and expertise match the requirements and your availability meets the organization’s needs. Reading the mission statement and visiting the organization’s website will help you decide whether or not you would like to support the organization and its activities.
In addition to carefully reading the opportunity description and other information provided by the organization, you can consider the following:
- Type of organization: would you like to support for example a community-based grassroots organization, a national or international NGO, a small or large profit or not-for-profit company, a local government? When making your choice, bear in mind that organizations’ needs, capacities, resources, communication styles and experience with online volunteer management are as diverse as organization types.
- Time commitment: how much time per week would you like to devote to volunteering online? Would you like to get involved in a long-term project, or would you rather commit to a short-term assignment with a fixed end date? The amount of time indicated in most opportunity descriptions serves as an estimate by the organization, and gives you an idea of the task’s anticipated time-frame.
- Task & Skills: what tasks do you enjoy undertaking? What skills would you like to share with an organization to support their work? You may opt to use your professional expertise to support, or you may prefer to engage in a task that differs from your everyday job. It is perfectly acceptable to search for an opportunity that will enhance your skills or allow you to gain experience, as long as you are confident that you are able to complete the assignment successfully.
What kind of online volunteer tasks can you work on?
If you've got access to a computer, thousands of different volunteer projects and roles are available to you — from your home, the library, a coffee shop, anywhere with an Internet connection.
Typical volunteer oportunity themes:
- Research and analysis
- Writing and editing
- Project development and management
- Training and coaching
- IT development
- Coordination and facilitation
- Develop, update, or manage the website for an organization or social, environmental, or political effort
- Mentor a young person
- Create a blog, podcast, video, or social networking profile for a nonprofit organization or grassroots movement
- Staff a crisis hotline for domestic violence, suicide, or other critical issue
- Review and provide feedback on an organization's strategic plan, marketing strategy, safety and security procedures, or website
- Write a grant, get the word out on fundraising, or send emails and make phone calls to current or potential donors
- And while it's often called online or virtual volunteering, getting involved remotely doesn't have to require an Internet connection. For example, you can use a cell phone to tag photos, text locations of community features like bicycle lanes or public parks, or even check in on and stay connected in an accessible way with a young person you're mentoring.
- Your skills could be a programming knowledge, good writing ability, experience in project management, knowledge of another language, expertise in law or education or another profession, or simply the time to offer expert advice or answer email for the host organization. Online volunteering is perfect if you have limited time or no transportation, and also opens up exciting opportunities for disabled volunteers.
- Online volunteers undertake a variety of assignments for organizations: translations, research, web design, data analysis, database construction, proposal writing, editing articles, online mentoring, publication design, moderating an online discussion group, or any other services that can be done through computer networks.
How can I make the most out of my online volunteer collaboration?
An organization has responded positively to your application to volunteer online.
What to do next:
- Clarify expectations and deadlines: make sure you have a clear understanding about what the organization expects you to do. Ask for details on how the collaboration will be organized, what support the organization will provide, and clarify schedules and deadlines.
- Gather all relevant information: do not hesitate to ask for further information on the project, the organization's mission, programmes or policies, if you feel that the organization’s website or profile page do not answer all your questions.
- Communicate clearly and regularly: respond to emails as quickly as possible. If you are not in a position to give a detailed response right away, confirm receipt of the message and let the organization know when you will get back to them. Regular progress updates and clear communication are imperative, particularly in an online environment.
- Address issues with honesty: be honest about your progress and about the problems you encounter. Regardless of the reason, if you cannot or do not wish to pursue the collaboration, you must inform the organization and explain why you are no longer interested. This will help the organization adjust to the situation or improve its online volunteer management.
- Consider working with other online volunteers: team work can be more effective as well as fun. If you realize that your work would benefit from additional support, do not hesitate to suggest to the organization to put you in contact with other online volunteers.
- Give feedback: after completing your assignment, sharing your comments on the online collaboration is very valuable to organizations. It allows them to evaluate their own performance and make any necessary changes for the future.