Volunteers and Missionaries Tips

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What role can online volunteers play?

Online Volunteers do not and Cannot Replace In-Person Volunteers

For organizations working in or focused on developing countries, online volunteers present a tremendous and much-needed resource. Online volunteers have skills and expertise that are valuable to nonprofits and NGOs and that might not be in very great or accessible supply in the nonprofits' or NGOs' local communities. A base of online volunteers helps organizations stretch their onsite resources, enabling to serve more clients. Online Volunteers also don't require physical accommodations, and don't make any kind of negative physical impact on the often fragile environments they are serving virtually. In addition to those benefits for the recipient organization:

Online volunteering is an attractive option to potential volunteers, as well.
Online volunteers learn about other countries and issues that developing world faces. Online volunteering allows people to take on roles and responsibilities that might be wholly different than roles and responsibilities in the rest of their lives, giving them an opportunity to grow their skills and spread their wings. In many cases, online volunteering may enable an expatriate to reconnect with her homeland and contribute to a society that means a lot to her.

While online volunteering won't make all the challenges of nonprofit work go away, it is another exciting avenue through which people from all walks of life can get involved and connect with each other.

What do I need to do to be a good volunteer?

Be a Good Volunteer

While volunteers do not get paid and are providing a charitable service, it is no less a real commitment and obligation than a job. One of the reasons volunteering is such a huge help to nonprofit organizations is because volunteers meet real needs. Therefore, it is important that you show up when you are expected, that you do what the charity asks you to do, and that you work with the organization to create a schedule and expectations that are reasonable.

If you cannot undertake the kind of commitment that an organization needs, it is probably better for both of you to think about supporting the organization in a different way. If you know you want to volunteer, but do not have a schedule that allows for a regular commitment, there are several organizations - many based locally - that will match volunteers up with one-time opportunities. Try starting there, and develop your voluntarism as you can.

How can I find an online volunteer opportunity?


NetAid worked with the UNV to set up the Online Volunteer site, but is also its own nonprofit organization that promotes voluntarism for the benefit of the global community. NetAid focuses its efforts on the United States and other wealthy countries, creating a movement of young people who are champions for the world's poor and engaged global citizens.

NetAid's programs educate young people about global poverty and international development, and provide opportunities for them to take concrete actions that make a difference in the lives of the world's poor. NetAid makes direct involvement easy by creating opportunities to raise awareness, correspond with leaders, volunteer and fundraise, connecting people and organizations to local projects that help the world's poorest children go to school and build brighter futures. NetAid uses a range of online and offline learning tools such as educational games, lesson plans and success stories of other young people who are taking action.

*For more information about NetAid and online voluntarism, visit www.netaid.org.

Are there volunteer opportunities that are not "in person" opportunities?

Become an Online Volunteer

The Internet has created a whole new kind of volunteer opportunity: online volunteering. By being an online volunteer, you, and volunteers from all over the world, can help organizations that serve communities in developing countries without ever leaving their own communities (or homes)!

Online volunteers translate documents, write articles, research data, build web sites, mentor young people, design logos, and engage in many other projects to benefit organizations serving people in the developing world. While online volunteering may, on the surface, seem like a role for technology professionals, most online volunteers are not—they are just interested, involved people who may provide advice or consulting or perform administrative tasks for the charity they are helping.

*The practice of donating time online is also known as "virtual volunteering," "cyber service," "telementoring," "e-volunteering" and "cyber volunteering."

How can I help charitable causes if I don't have a lot of money to donate?

Give the Gift of Your Time

Volunteering can be very fulfilling—you are performing a much needed service, and filling a need like that can be very satisfying. You can get a lot out of it, such as:

• Volunteering can lead to learning new skills, all the while contributing to the pool of benefits that we all derive from society.

• Volunteering can give you great perspective and help you to be more sympathetic to and understanding about the world around you (this can help you deal with stress and problems in your own life).

• Volunteering can be very social, providing you with the opportunity to meet new people and breaks down barriers, and even make contacts that could help you in your personal or business life.

• Volunteering can be creative! You can take a volunteer vacation or make your wedding a volunteer occasion.

Can I volunteer my technology skills?

Become an IT Volunteer

An IT volunteer is someone who works on a volunteer basis to foster the implementation and use of Information Technologies. IT volunteers might install hardware or software, or might conduct IT training programs, or might help a nonprofit organization plan for and set up its communication infrastructure.

IT voluntarism is not necessarily the same thing as online voluntarism. In many cases, it's crucial for an IT volunteer to be onsite, walking beneficiary organizations and individuals through the steps and sharing knowledge. Some organizations that recruit and use IT volunteers include Geekcorps, the Digital Divide Network, and the United Nations Information Technology Service (UNITES).

How can I find an online volunteer opportunity?

Find Online Volunteer Opportunities

The United Nations Volunteers program (UNV) is the volunteer arm of the United Nations. UNV manages this Online Volunteering service at www.onlinevolunteering.org.

You can search the resources on the site and find online volunteering opportunities based on skills, location, and interests. Start your search for the right online volunteer position today!

What skills could I offer an organization?

Take Charge

Organizations need help mobilizing people to support a cause. You can contribute on a short-term basis by creating opportunities for others to donate, volunteer, or participate in events that raise money for a charity.

• If you are considering hosting a house party that is also an information session, have your favorite charity come talk to your friends or coworkers about the organization.

• If you're participating in a fundraising event, such as a walk or a gala, invite your friends to join you, or to sponsor you.

Word of mouth is great advertising, so spread the word and get others involved—an army of new supporters can be worth as much or more than a check.

How do I find a volunteer opportunity?

Find the Right Volunteer Opportunity

Volunteering is very hands-on, so here are a couple of volunteer tips to help you make your decision about where and how to donate your time.

While there are charities around the world looking for volunteers, it probably makes the most sense to start locally, since you know the area and its needs, and because you will be able to witness the benefits of your work. Common local organizations that tend to use volunteers include churches, temples and mosques, local libraries, Scout troops, halfway houses, or other community groups and projects.

You can call your local volunteer center, a branch of the United Way, or a community foundation to get information on volunteering. All of these organizations should be able to make suggestions on which local groups could use volunteers and help you decide to which you'd like to donate your time.

*Your friends, neighbors and co-workers can be an excellent network through which to find volunteer opportunities - your employer may even sponsor a volunteer program.

What are missionaries?


A missionary participates in the mission of his or her church or religion by serving peoples of other cultures, often in a foreign country. A missionary may be ordained, vowed religious, or a lay person. A missionary often does charitable and volunteer work, but what separates him from the run-of-the-mill volunteer is his associated responsibility to convey the message of his faith or religion to the people he is helping.

Historically, missionaries played key roles in the settlement of new areas, particularly in North and South America. Spanish missionaries in California and Mexico both settled the areas and converted indigenous persons to Christianity. In modern times, missionaries tend to go to underdeveloped areas to help with aid and relief efforts while also advocating conversion.

*While colonial missionaries are often argued to have done more harm than good for indigenous peoples, modern missionary work, in general, focuses on humanitarian work and faith-based initiatives.

How do I find a volunteer opportunity?

Online Tools

Finding the right volunteer opportunity is no small task. Like any job, volunteering carries with it challenges and rewards, and it is an obligation. You want to make sure that you commit to the opportunity that works for you, and where you can make a real impact. Luckily, in recent years, several organizations have developed online resources that will help you find the volunteer opportunity that is right for you. Each of them is affiliated with different charities and volunteer organizations, and provides slightly different services. Take some time to explore them and decide which one best suits your needs and interests, and then get involved!

The Network for Good is a nonprofit organization that connects individuals with their favorite charities. You can also make online donations, explore volunteer opportunities, and learn more about important causes at www.networkforgood.org. Idealist (www.idealist.org), a project of Action Without Borders, is a site that features more than 46,000 nonprofit and community organizations in 165 countries, searchable by name, location or mission. The site also lists thousands of volunteer opportunities in your community and around the world, a list of organizations that can help you volunteer abroad, and a nonprofit career center.

• VolunteerMatch (www.volunteermatch.org) offers a variety of online services that support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement.

• Volunteer Solutions (www.volunteersolutions.org) is a volunteer matching application available through the United Way of America that helps Volunteer Centers connect individuals to volunteer opportunities in their community.

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Tammi Reynolds