Virtual Volunteering

What is Virtual Volunteering?

The terms virtual volunteering or online volunteering describe a voluntary commitment that is entirely or predominantly achieved via the internet. It is often a kind of honorary office on the net. The market for these kinds of tasks is booming. Meanwhile, there are innumerable offers and options to with engage on the internet.


Possible Fields of Work

The production or processing of digital data is one of the virtual volunteers’ most common tasks. This includes translating foreign language texts or correcting existing texts. Another large field of tasks is advice via the internet. The internet provides the the perfect arena for a rapid online exchange of information and knowledge without any great effort. Furthermore, planning and organizing events is a common field of application for virtual volunteers.

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Why Virtual volunteering?

Some people may wonder why others do this kind of work. After all, why not do something they will be paid for? However, these people who do virtual volunteering often have many reasons to do the kind of work they do and not be remunerated for it.

  • Enjoyment
  • There are many people out there who love to help others or create online. The gift of giving and seeing their work come to life gives them great enjoyment.
  • Experience
  • Some people do virtual volunteering to get a job in a similar field. Students often do this so when they leave education they can show that they have some work experience already.
  • Charity
  • Many charities are often started by people who have been affected deeply by a certain cause, situation, or illness. These volunteers are happy to give their time for free to ensure that others are helped or informed.
  • Confidence
  • There are times when confidence or self-esteem needs a boost. Virtual volunteering can help with this. Being able to work on a project or bring skills to the table can make someone feel good about themselves.
  • Boredom
  • Finally, some people just want something to do. There are people out there unable to work or earn so they will turn to virtual volunteering. This can include retirees, disabled people, and parents with only short amounts of spare time.

How Does Virtual Volunteering Help?

Volunteering can benefit people in many different ways. As explained above, it can boost confidence, gain experience, and become a hobby. However, there even more benefits to this kind of online working. When performing virtual volunteering for a brand or company this gives the worker an opportunity to showcase their skills. In turn, this can lead to the opportunity to be offered a paid position or to network with people who can offer paid employment.

The fact that this volunteering is done online is a help to several people in many different situations. They could be unable to travel due to disability or living in a remote area. They may have young children, agorophobia, or work long hours during the day. For these workers, being able to simply switch on their device and volunteer is really useful. They can feel part of a group, make friends, and improve their mental health.

The History

Virtual volunteering is not a new concept, it dates back to the early 1970’s with Project Gutenberg. The aim of the project creators was to enter literary works online. They also wanted to encourage the sharing of e-books online. Volunteers would enter the books online and help manage and organise the site. Books that are in the public domain are the majority of items on the site and all the e-books can be accessed for free. The project was named after Johannes Gutenberg an inventor of many things, including the printing press in 1440. These inventions led to books being mass produced.

Further Development

In the mid 90s a non-profit organisation called Impact Online was set up to promote and study the world of virtual volunteering. Over the years they gained a lot of information about this kind of volunteering. As it progressed further, they a site was created to serve volunteers and businesses. They help match volunteers with organisations and have won several awards for the help provided to many causes. Towards the end of the 90s the anti-poverty group NetAid set up and created a volunteer division in 2000. It is known today as the UN Online Volunteering Service.

Virtual Volunteering Today

Today, it is unknown how many people take part in virtual volunteering or how many initiatives or organisations have a volunteering division. However, it is apparent that this method of volunteering is still popular. There are also no set rules or guidance known of for this kind of work. Therefore, the actual methods and figures aren’t too clear. However, the UN Online Volunteering service did do some research. They discovered that more of their volunteers were women of an average age of 30 and from developing nations. The vast majority of volunteers and organisations were happy with one another.

Modern Volunteering

Examples of Virtual Volunteering


Also known as the Business Council for Peace, this organisation helps to create jobs and grow small businesses by linking them with volunteers. These virtual volunteers are known as “skillanthropists” and are made up of professional, experienced business people who are willing to share their spare time helping these businesses. The aim is to reduce poverty, increase skills and education, improve health and lessen violence. These volunteers can perform many tasks such as creating and sharing remote workshops, help businesses explore growth strategies, and develop documents to help businesses reach their goals. They are climate aware and women forward, helping women to create a good work/life balance.


This Canadian charity initiative is a great alternative to social media and those who like to learn via small amount of information. They created Bytes Learning, these are small learning sessions of less than 10 minutes. Their aim is to help anyone access learning online via their community. They are very technically minded and do not have paid options. The Bytes courses are created by virtual volunteers. They consist of designers who can apply to create content. They must have a few hours to spare a week and enjoy working online. There are no specific skills or requirements. They also have volunteers who work as professionals in corporations.

Amnesty Decoders

Run by Amnesty International this platform hosts a global network of virtual volunteers who report violations of human rights. The information gathered is sent to researchers who can investigate the problems and look into fixes. Anyone can become a decoder and apply online. One of their projects was to monitor oil pollution in Nigeria. Over 3500 volunteers were asked to look over thousands of documents and images to gain information over a span of six years. Another was Troll Patrol that looked into online abuse targeting women politicians in India. Over 100,000 incidents were reported, helping Amnesty to research this issue further with a view to stopping it.

Be My Eyes

A Danish mobile app that helps visually impaired and blind people to do day to day things. With over 600 million volunteers all across the country this collection of virtual volunteers really is helping others. Once logged in, the volunteer then recieves videos or images via a live stream from the user. Of course, the system will ensure they are matched with someone who speaks their language who canthen verbally assist them. This can assist the visually impaired person to do many things such as clean up a spill, find an object dropped on the ground or know what instructions are on a document. These selfless volunteers help over half a million visually impaired users to gain some more independence.