Volunteering. The vast majority of decent people have thought about donating their time to worthy causes, but most of them don’t follow through – donating cash, instead of time, to the effort. While cash is certainly welcome, most charities embrace volunteers, as they don’t require pay or benefits, and they provide much needed labor. Soup kitchens, shelters, halfway houses, children’s homes – they all benefit from the personal involvement of their volunteers.

Why do so many people donate money instead of time? Perhaps because they have more money to spare than time to give. Single people, without family commitments, donate their time as well as their money. However, those with families often find their time is constrained to the point where just getting to church on Sunday is a major accomplishment. There are others, who are dealing with medical issues, whose time is spent in caregiving, with little time available for outside interests. For these people, who want to volunteer but can’t, a new option has arisen, thanks to the Internet – virtual volunteering.

What is Virtual Volunteering?

As you may suspect from the name, virtual volunteering is volunteering over the Internet. All you require is a computer and a connection – something the vast majority of people already have. Google the term ‘virtual volunteering’ and you will be directed to sites providing virtual opportunities. Search these sites for causes or charities you want to support and contact them for details.

Virtual vs. Actual Volunteering

Charities and non-profits to prefer actual volunteers. After all, while you may have joined up to tutor math students, you may prove to be useful in other, physical ways – like helping with maintenance on the facilities, or helping to provide meals. These are not things you can do over the internet, and they do provide real benefits to the organization. However, by virtually volunteering to say, handle fund-raising, you may free up staff members who can then do other things the organization needs. There is definitely a place for the virtual volunteer as well as the actual one.

Is Virtual Volunteering Right for You?

you can help

You’re the only one who can answer the question, is virtual volunteering right for you? You know your time constraints and commitments better than anyone; you also know if providing a physical presence is feasible.

If you are the primary caregiver for a disabled individual, it’s not likely you’ll have the time to have a personal presence at the cause you want to support, but you can find time to work at the computer, doing online tasks to support the organization. If you are mobility-restricted, you may find actual volunteering more challenging than beneficial, but you can Skype a student for an online tutorial on a subject they need help with. Also, if you’re a busy Mom, with children under six, virtual volunteering is definitely for you. When those kids are school-age, actually volunteer as a family, and teach your kids about real charity. You know your situation; you make the call on actual or virtual volunteering.

Virtual volunteering is, as Martha would say, a good thing; it increases the pool of volunteers available to charities and non-profits. It gives people without the time or ability to physically go to a site the opportunity to help in meaningful ways. Paid staff also become free to involve themselves with other tasks requiring a physical presence. It’s a win-win situation, no doubt about it!