The Oasis Institute

Volunteer Home

Take this self evaluation before volunteering!

Volunteering from a home or work computer is different from working on-site with an organization for many obvious reasons: there's usually more flexibility in the use of your time, a greater degree of independence, you interact very little (if at all) with various staff members, etc. For some, these differences make virtual volunteering ideal; these same reasons can make it difficult for others. Setting your own schedule is one of the chief joys of virtual volunteering. However, there's nothing virtual about the commitment you are making, nor the deadlines you are assigned to complete the volunteer work. The organization is counting on you to finish any projects you volunteer for. When you agree to a virtual volunteering assignment, you are agreeing to completing the assignment on time.

It's so easy to say yes to volunteering via the Internet that many individuals sign up to do so before really considering their expectations and schedule for an assignment.

Before you volunteer to help an organization via the Internet, consider the following to determine if you are ready:

Do you have regular, ongoing access to the Internet?

If you only have access at college, and the semester is about to end; or, if you are about to switch Internet providers or computers, now is probably not a good time to volunteer to complete a project virtually. Online volunteering assignments usually last around three months; make sure you will have ongoing access to the Internet during that time.

Do you know how to communicate well via the written word? <

Most, if not all, of your communication during a virtual assignment will be via e-mail. Good writing skills and excellent attention to detail are important in any virtual volunteering project. Even if you want to provide a highly technical service, such as creating a database, you have to be able to clearly communicate what you are doing to your contact at the organization.

Do you stick to deadlines? Do you see a project through to its finish?

Organizations are counting on you to complete the assignment you've volunteered for; there's nothing virtual about your commitment.

Are you comfortable working on your own, without direct supervision? That doesn't mean you shouldn't ask for guidance when you need it. However, virtual assignments are best for those people who enjoy working on their own, with just occassional supervision.

Are you self-motivated? Some organizations involving remote volunteers are good at creating ways to inspire those individuals during their assignments -- they may call you just to say, "Good job" or to check in. The executive director may send out a personal email thanking a volunteer for his or her contribution. But many organizations aren't this savvy with online volunteers yet. When you work at home, the inspiration to work on a virtual assignment has to come from yourself.

Do you pace yourself well? Do you avoid over committing for projects? Most volunteers who do not complete their online assignments say that they thought they could do the work when they signed up, but as the deadline for the assignment approached, they realized that other things must take priority: school activities, home duties, work projects, etc. The organization is left with an unfinished assignment and an unmet need. Think about your work style and your other commitments before volunteering virtually.

Do you have a set time of day when you will work on virtual assignments? Don't just assume that you will get to that three-hour virtual assignment some time before the deadline two weeks from now; schedule a time, however approximate, to complete the project you've committed to do.

Will your work area be void of distractions while you are working on a volunteer assignment? Any virtual assignments is going to take a certain level of concentration and intensity. Make sure your environment is going to allow you to devote the proper energies to your assignment.

Is this the right time for you to take on a volunteering project? If you are feeling overwhelmed by other responsibilities, now is probably not a good time to volunteer, on or offline. Volunteer managers try to be very understanding about your job and family commitments -- but they are also counting on you to finish assignments you commit to.

Do you answer your e-mails quickly (no more than 48 hours/two business days after receipt)? The organization may need to contact you with a critical issue before you complete the assignment. If you are interacting one-on-one with someone as part of the virtual assignment, responsiveness is crucial to the success of your online relationship.

What benefits do you expect out of volunteering virtually? What results should the organization expect because of your volunteering?

Answering these questions for yourself will help you better identify the virtual assignments right for you. If you answered no to any of the above questions, or had difficulty answering some of the questions, perhaps you are not ready for volunteering virtually.

If you feel you are ready to volunteer online, we encourage you to take the time and read "Types of Assignments" and complete the online application at the end.