Recruiting volunteers is hard. Keeping them is even harder. There always seems to be a shortage of people who want to help out. However, that’s changing with the rise in popularity of virtual volunteerism, also known as online volunteering or cyber service.
Virtual volunteerism allows people to complete volunteer tasks at home using their own computer. It provides even more people with an avenue to use their talents and abilities to help out, and that’s a great reason for your church to work toward making these kinds of opportunities available.
Why virtual volunteerism?
Let’s face it. Not everyone can or will volunteer on-site. Some people aren’t comfortable in large groups and may find face-to-face volunteering outside of their comfort zone. Due to job restraints, some may struggle to find time within a traditional volunteer schedule, and others may have family responsibilities (such as the care of small children or elderly parents) that prevent them from leaving home to volunteer.
Virtual volunteerism also is a great option for people who are homebound due to medical or age-related issues, and, of course, for those who simply enjoy or are more adept at computer-related work.
What tasks can be completed from home?
The first step in recruiting virtual volunteers is to determine what types of volunteer positions your church has that can be filled by people working from their own home or computer.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Social-media coordinator: Recruit someone to help coordinate and update your social media posts.
- Multimedia editor: Ask someone to create voice-overs, slideshows, video announcements, etc.
- Event planning: A virtual volunteer can accomplish a lot of organizational tasks from home.
- Online registration: Someone has to set up online registration forms, confirm registration, and then gather and distribute the information when the registration process has ended.
- Advertising/promotion: The internet offers a variety of advertising and promotion opportunities — often free of charge. Recruit someone who can be in charge of this aspect for each event or for your church in general.
- Research: Ask a volunteer to help research specific ideas for various ministries or sermons. A good research assistant can provide helpful links, engaging illustrations, jokes, background information and much more.
- Communication coordinator: Find someone who is willing to tackle the enormous task of keeping up with all of your church emails, texts, prayer chain requests, etc.
- Online-giving treasurer: Enlist someone to help your church treasurer manage online giving opportunities.
- Meal manager: Is your church planning a potluck? Does someone need extra support during a time of illness or loss? Recruit a volunteer to manage meals online.
- Donation solicitor: Procure someone who would be willing to make calls or send emails soliciting businesses for food or prize donations for special events.
- Blogger: Find someone in your congregation who enjoys blogging and ask him or her to create a blog on your church website.
Of course, there also are people who may not necessarily want to be an “online volunteer” but who are more than willing to help from home. Your church can find a place for them, too.
Does your church send direct mail? Recruit home volunteers to write and send follow-up postcards after vacation Bible school. Need two large trays of cookies for an upcoming event? Instead of picking them up from the local grocery store, ask a home volunteer to prepare them and then swing by their house to pick them up. Having a church yard sale to raise funds for an upcoming mission trip? Try asking a stay-at-home mom or dad who might jump at the chance to include children in a poster-making project to help advertise it.
What do you need to get started?
Although there are lots of great benefits to using virtual volunteers, there are also some requirements and responsibilities. Of course, to fulfill many of these tasks, these types of volunteers must be computer competent and must have their own equipment at home.
In addition, there are a variety of online tools that will help. For example, a meal manager might use Meal Train or Perfect Potluck to organize who's bringing what. Event planners will want to take advantage of free event management software. Churches can get free access to premium apps via Google for Nonprofits. With the myriad internet resources available, most virtual volunteers will be able to complete their tasks with little to no added expense.
A church leader will still have to recruit, train and manage the volunteers who are working from home. Church social media policies and codes of conduct, among other things, will have to be discussed with volunteers as well. There are a variety of volunteer management software programs that can help with the logistics.
The important thing to remember is that everyone has something to give. Everybody can contribute, but sometimes it takes a little thought and creativity to open the doors for everyone’s participation. Even when they can’t be physically present, there are a lot of people who would love to lend a hand. Make a plan and start recruiting virtual volunteers today.
— Tricia Brown has been a freelance writer and editor for more than twenty years, ghost-writing and editing for individuals as well as for health, education and religious organizations. She enjoys reading, writing and public speaking commitments in which she teaches and encourages other women.