Microvolunteering Day 15 April – It’s all happening at a computer near you

Are you a volunteer?

Wonderful that you are and our community love you. But would you like to help even more? And, if you’re not already a volunteer, is the reason because of time restraints, logistical limitations or simply not knowing how or where to go? Has it bothered you that you can’t volunteer? Microvolunteering may be a way you can.


The concept of Microvolunteering is geared towards maximising the impact of a volunteer’s available time i.e. “micro effort in order to generate macro impact.”

Microvolunteering is changing the way people volunteer and is also changing what is considered as impact from ‘do good’ actions. In the past it may have been difficult to imagine that any sort of meaningful impact could result from just minutes of effort by volunteers through email or online services. However, the world is changing rapidly and technologies such as the Internet and social media are revolutionising the speed and boundaries of communication, conversations and social good deeds. This means that seemingly inconsequential action that takes only minutes to complete for one person, has the potential to cause a meaningful impact –anywhere in the world.


The traditional volunteer typically works tirelessly for an organisation, for no pay. Their skill and effort is appreciated enormously. However, traditionally, it has also meant that a person must be present and accountable for – in the same way that an employee would be. A traditional volunteer task might be to shop for an elderly homebound person, to help pick up rubbish from a parcel of land or even to run a coffee shop for a hospital. The impact of such tasks are clearly evident and needed within the community for it to thrive. No question.


But, consider the scenario of being able to help an organisation or research body, by not being physically present. It really just takes a change in thinking.


Like the project being headed up by the Museum Victoria. Their Describe Me project asks you to write alternative text (alt-text) for images to make their Collections Online more useful for people who are blind or have low vision. They use the Alt-text website information associated with an image to convey the same essential information as the image. It is important for people who use screen readers or view websites in text-only format. By writing a short description of what you see for them, you’ll help to make Collections Online more useable and accessible.


There are many ideas and ways for how a Microvolunteer can get involved in their own time, at their own pace.


A Microvolunteering task could take the form of taking photographs or drawing/illustrating on behalf of a charity for their publicity material. This may not seem initially to have as much impact but using your skill this way helps their bottom line by them not having to pay royalties for images. Professionals may say they do this type of work anyway – as a form of pro-bono? And in fact, research shows many Australian sites set up as Microvolunteering services are simply pro-bono services. Microvolunteering goes further.


Consider this: by clicking through a portfolio of images, or adding to those images, you help a University across the globe better understand urban design priciples to create new community living spaces.


Consider this; the charity organisation you microvolunteer for is on the other side of the globe or from a third world country.


We talk about how we can support and send aide for third world countries from Australia. Well, Microvolunteering is already able to help. The most popular Microvolunteering service is a game called “Freerice”. Volunteers play a simple online game and in doing so they generate money to send rice. The Freerice service is a non-profit website that is owned by and supports the United Nations World Food Programme. Freerice has two goals, the first being to provide education to everyone free and the second to help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people free.


Similarly, while a traditional volunteering project might be measured in terms of the number of hot teas physically served to the homeless, the Microvolunteering impact would be the number of mouse clicks completed to raise money via click-to-donate site to pay for those hot teas. In this case, the two forms of volunteering are complimentary.


Each activity can provide benefits beyond the function of just participating, which can be classed into two general areas: functional abilities and quality of life.


[Extract] In the context of functional abilities, a participant that is fully absorbed in a Microvolunteering activity, where one does not think about the obligatory activities in daily life, could help in releasing tension or anxiety. On the other hand, quality of life may be improved by participation where a positive influence on life satisfaction and well-being could be obtained.


In the context of care homes, a high level of inactivity in such places has been documented since the 1950′s and continues today. This is despite the evidence that participating in activity can reduce the levels of depression, challenging behaviour, falls and dependency in care home residents. Indeed, a recent study assessed daytime activities as an unmet need for 76% of care home residents with dementia (Hancock et al, 2005) – Source: Northwest Dentia Centre.


– See more at: http://helpfromhome.org/our-projects/help-from-seniors/beneficial-stimuli#sthash.NGRDrjMw.dpuf


Microvolunteering is growing in popularity and the efforts that are taking place across the world, involving people of all ages and from many different backgrounds is the vision of companies such as Help from Home, a UK based organisation. Their philosophies and services have been the basis of pilot projects run here in South Australia, lead by Charlie-Helen Robinson.


Charlie-Helen says, “I was proud when Help From Home asked me to head up the Adelaide based #microday. I have integrated Microvolunteering into my daily life and encourage everyone to do so. It has helped my own skill levels deepen in many areas, plus I get personal satisfaction knowing my online time is beneficial to others. I manage Facebook carer support groups because of my skill in this area, but I also check the Help From Home website frequently to see who and what needs to be done to help organisation across the globe. And yes, I play Freerice.


Microvolunteering Day is a global celebration held on April 15th every year and is used to promote the concept of Microvolunteering. It brings people together to collectively get involved and stimulate discussion on the concept. The hope is that one day people will be aware that they do not have to be confined to the date, time and place restriction usually imposed by traditional volunteering opportunities. It just takes a PC, iPad, Mobile Phone, maybe some skill depending on the task requests and as little as one minute a day.


More Information

The initiative behind Microvolunteering Day is Help From Home a leading promoter of micro-actions throughout the world since 2008.


Help From Home is a Cardiff, UK based volunteer driven initiative that promotes and encourages participation in easy, no commitment, on-demand nonprofit run microvolunteering opportunities where a spare 10 seconds to 30 minutes is all that is needed to help out worthy causes. They use microvolunteering actions to show people how they can use the spare moments in their life more impactfully.


The inaugural Microvolunteering Day was first held in 2014 and attracted scores of organisations and thousands of people to dedicate a few of their spare moments to good causes.


Be Inspired, Be Involved!

Microvolunteering Day is a unique opportunity for microvolunteering platforms, volunteer involved organisations & individuals to join together in a synchronised effort to demonstrate the empowering potential of the microvolunteering concept. It is primarily aimed at:

– engaging individuals in microvoluntering tasks

– inspiring organisations to embrace the idea

– stimulating discussion on the concept

– sharing photos + stories via #microday


The term ‘microvolunteering’ was popularised in 2008 by The Extraordinaries (now Skills For Change), where the concept has since grown in stature and momentum to become a global force for matching up people who want to put the spare moments in their lives to more impactful use, with worthy causes who need a small volunteering task completed.


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