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How to set up a microvolunteering project

Microvolunteering can be described as easy, no commitment, free to participate actions that can be completed in less than 30 minutes. They are mostly online based but there are some which can be done offline. What if you’re an NGO, a non profit or grassroot initiative wanting to tap into the huge potential that the microvolunteering market can offer? Would you know how to set up a microvolunteer action? Read on and find out!

Things you'll need

  • time
  • resources
  • internet
  • a microvolunteering action idea

What attracts people to a microvolunteering action?

To entice people to microvolunteer for you, you’ll need to get in to their mind to see what motivates them to participate in this particular form of volunteering. You should be aiming to set up a microvolunteer action that has some and ideally all of the following attributes to lure your ‘customers’ in to your net. They are listed in no particular order.

  • Bite sized: Can be completed in under 30 minutes.
  • Non location based: Participation can be accomplished from almost anywhere in the world.
  • Visible feedback: Volunteers like to see how they have contributed and who else is participating. Could be achieved via photos of other people participating in the same actions.
  • Non discriminatory: Should be able to be completed by people with disabilities.
  • No training: Provide an action that has little or no training required.
  • Simple instructions: Ideally a volunteer should understand how to participate in three easy steps.
  • No vetting interviews: If set up correctly within a self contained, do-it-by-the-book system, there would be no need to vet someone.
  • No registration: If it’s participation levels that are required, then an action without registration is the way to go.
  • Free to participate: 'Free' has strong pulling power – enough said!
  • Communication: Provide a means to communicate with other participants or support team.
  • Incentives: Provide something for the ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude as in peer recognition or something more materialistic.
  • No commitment: Think about a volunteer being able to ‘dip-in, dip-out’.
  • Flexible participation: Action should ideally be globally accessible, 24/7 and not when the volunteer co-ordinators are working.
  • No age restriction: So long as a person is web savvy, then that is normally all that is required.

Where does a non-profit start?

With a great idea of course!

But what if you don’t have that world changing idea. You could certainly look though the micro volunteering actions on for inspiration or thumb through the more comprehensive ‘How To’ guide featured in the ‘Further Information’ section below.


Involve other staff members

You'll need to introduce your idea of a microvolunteering action to other staff members on top of having to get them to buy-in to the microvolunteering concept. A tough nut to crack? Maybe or maybe not.

Start by talking with appropriate staff members and volunteers about the potential for microvolunteering at your organization, and why different staff members and volunteers want or don't want to do this. There are many people who would love to try microvolunteering at their own organizations, but who feel that the other staff or volunteers aren't ready, or are uneasy about the whole idea of microvolunteering.


Produce a written plan

Prepare a written plan that includes a mission statement, goals and objectives for your microvolunteering idea. Identify the potential costs and, following the discussions you've already had with other staff members, allay any fears that may have arisen. Establish a timeline but be flexible enough for unforeseen problems. Identify activities and assign responsible parties to complete them.

Your plan should also include some or all of the following details:

  • What resources you'll need to set it up and keep it running?
  • How long it should run for?
  • If applicable, how is the flow of information to be monitored?
  • How is the voluntary work to be verified to a particular standard?
  • What will be its' code of conduct?
  • How do you protect identities?
  • How will volunteers be enticed to repeat volunteer or be retained?
  • Will it be a good ROI?
  • How will the rules of engagement be enforced and adapted if someone is breaking them?
  • How will a consistent standard of volunteer involvement be maintained?
  • How much supervision is required?
  • How will staff be educated to co-ordinate it?
  • What type of relationship do you want to build with your volunteers?
  • In what form will the results / feedback take?
  • How will the results / feedback be evaluated?

Establish staff support and training

Establish executive level support and commitment. Without support from your organization's leadership, a microvolunteering project could be doomed to failure. Executive level commitment and ongoing support can help break down managers' reluctance to microvolunteering and get such managers to participate long enough to see the positive results.

Do an in-house training on microvolunteering to demonstrate its viability, perhaps by inviting staff to participate in some of the microvolunteering actions featured on Refer to this Workshop Guide on Microvolunteering for pointers on presentation topics.

Amend your policies and procedures manual relating to microvolunteers. This may not be that easy as microvolunteering challenges some of the most deeprooted aspects of coordinating volunteers with regards to say, security checks, insurance and health and safety issues. Also, what about your stance towards expenses, providing equipment or dismissal of a volunteer where someone is volunteering online?


So, what’s next?

Once you've got to this stage, you should be about ready to actually set up your microvolunteer action. As the range of actions promoted by nonprofits are so varied, this guide cannot possibly hope to cover the particular action you're intending to set up, so at this point it maybe advisable to turn to some of the initiatives featured on and either base your action on theirs or contact them for advice.

However, you'll still need some pointers to guide you in the right direction. You might like to consider the following suggestions:

  • Arrange to allocate funds to consultants, advisers and firms you've employed to develop the action
  • Sort out the text and graphics for the website and instructions
  • Ensure safety measures are included where minors are involved
  • Arrange for legal status, if applicable and where relevant to the country it is going to operate in
  • Arrange for web host, domain name and statistics tracking
  • Choose the beneficiary, where applicable and the method of donation
  • Test drive the action with colleagues or interested supporters
  • Be prepared to change and evolve your idea in development and post development stage
  • Be mindful of stakeholder requirements

Promotion / marketing

- Before launch: Spread the word in target publications, inform subscribers by email, write a news release for your site and set up specific social media channels to build up the pre-launch excitement and buzz.

- After launch: Encourage your supporters to spread the word about your action using your social media tools. Try and get blogs who may be interested in your action to try it and write a review.

In the future: Monitor feedback from users and suggestions on improvements to help with this.

Of course, let’s not forget, who can place your microvolunteering action on it’s database and promote it for you for free!

Reach out to your customers!


In conclusion

It's a growth sector and there's such a huge market of untapped volunteers out there who want to benefit worthy causes in bite sized bursts of meaningful micro actions. What are you waiting for?!

Go forth and microvolunteer!

Further information

Some of the information provided in this guide was based on an article prepared by Service Leader. This guide is an extract from a more comprehensive look at 'How to set up a microvolunteering project' aimed at charities and non profits.

Other microvolunteering projects




Page last edited Mar 03, 2016 History

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