While the majority of people in the United States support volunteerism, only 25% of the population spends time volunteering.

According to research from the Stanford Center on Longevity, nearly 50% of people cite a lack of free time and inflexible volunteer commitments as the main reasons why they do not volunteer.

Americans are growing increasingly busy. Between working, caring for children, preparing meals, long commutes, and other time consuming activities, it can be difficult for people to find room in their schedules for volunteering.

While it might seem like this problem has more to do with volunteers than nonprofits, the truth is that there are changes nonprofits can make to help even the busiest people engage in volunteer work.

If your nonprofit is feeling the strain of a dwindling volunteer force, micro-volunteering might just be the perfect solution.

What is micro-volunteering?

Micro-volunteering is a volunteer management strategy that involves providing shorter, more specialized tasks for volunteers who may be short on time or unable to make a commitment to an organization.

Take Exodus Refugee, an Indianapolis and Bloomington based nonprofit organization that centers on refugee resettlement, for example. 

This nonprofit offers traditional volunteer positions like English Conversation Partner, Transportation Volunteer, and Community Support Team Member, which require commitments of several hours per week over several months.

While these are critical volunteer roles that need to be fulfilled, Exodus Refugee also highlights shorter, non-committal volunteer opportunities as well.

This way, prospective volunteers who don’t have enough time to spend hours volunteering with the organization each week can still contribute.

With micro-volunteering, volunteers are able to sign up for limited or one-time volunteer opportunities that are easier to fit into their busy schedules.

Benefits of micro-volunteering

Micro-volunteering is a good way to help people feel like they can still make a difference even if they have an inflexible schedule, and a great way to help your organization receive the help it needs to thrive.

Here are a few benefits of micro-volunteering:

Volunteer program growth and engagement

If someone is interested in supporting your cause and volunteering with your organization, but they don’t have enough time in their schedule to meet your listed volunteer needs, they may give up on working with your organization.

For example, someone who has conflicts on all of the days when your organization is hosting an event or someone who isn’t able to commit to spending multiple hours a week volunteering with your organization might feel like they won’t be of much help to your nonprofit.

Micro-volunteering eliminates this issue by opening the doors to a host of ways for these volunteers to engage with your organization.

Sure, a volunteer may not be able to spend four hours a week reading to children for a nonprofit, but they may be able to spend two hours at the beginning of the month sorting the books that the children will read or two hours at the end of the month compiling a newsletter detailing how many books children read during the month.

Micro-volunteering helps prospective volunteers connect with your organization and feel like they have the chance to get involved and make an impact, and it helps nonprofits gain new volunteers who would otherwise shy away from volunteering with their organization.

Volunteer retention

Sometimes even your most passionate volunteers will need a break. Someone who has spent countless hours devoted to supporting your organization may start feeling overwhelmed or have the desire to step back for a bit.

Providing opportunities for micro-volunteering will help these volunteers stay connected and useful to your organization while giving them the break they need, which is key to retaining volunteers.

Instead of a volunteer going from working 15 hours a week with your organization to zero hours a week, micro-volunteering may encourage this volunteer to donate a couple hours of their time every other week or two.

Micro-volunteering opportunities can also increase retention and reduce burnout by lightening the workload for your volunteers. If there are some tasks that can be delegated to volunteers looking for one-time volunteer opportunities, it will ease the burden on your other volunteers.

For example, someone who is tasked with sorting through clothing donations, separating these donations into piles of items that can and cannot be used, shelving and hanging usable items, and taking unusable items to the dump, may appreciate if one-time volunteers could take one of these steps off their plate by making a trip to the dump.

With micro-volunteering, volunteers will continue to stay engaged and reduce their chances of experiencing burnout, and nonprofit organizations will be able to retain high quality volunteers even when their schedules and time commitments shift.

Creating micro-volunteering opportunities within your volunteer program

Because micro-volunteering benefits both volunteers and nonprofit organizations, you should consider incorporating this volunteer management strategy within your volunteer program.

Here are a few ways create micro-volunteering opportunities for your volunteer force:

Compile a list of one-time opportunities

Think strategically about the tasks that your nonprofit needs to have done each week. 

Are there some volunteers with too many responsibilities on their plates? 

See if you can turn a task or two into a limited or one-time volunteer opportunity for someone else to manage. A volunteer who completes five tasks for your organization over the course of a week might appreciate it if a series of one-time volunteers could handle one or two of these tasks.

Are there any small tasks that always seem to fall through the cracks? 

Make these tasks a separate volunteer opportunity. Maybe your volunteers also forget to break down cardboard boxes before recycling day, and you can delegate this task to someone who has less time to volunteer.

Are there specialized tasks that need to be done? 

Try to request one-time volunteers to help. Someone who is bilingual can translate documents that your volunteers will need to use to fulfill their volunteer roles. An accountant can lend their expertise for a fundraising event. A graphic designer can consult on a logo or t-shirt design before a walkathon.

Are there any tasks that can be completed in a flexible time frame? 

Include these tasks in your list of micro-volunteering opportunities. Someone who works during the day and doesn’t have the time to spend hours every week volunteering with your organization during a set time in the morning may be able to write 50 handwritten thank you notes by the end of the month in their spare time after work.

Create micro-volunteering opportunities that take five minutes or less

In addition to limited or one-time micro-volunteering opportunities, your organization will also benefit from offering ways for individuals to make a difference in their spare moments.

If someone can help your organization while commuting to work, waiting in line at a fast food restaurant, or drinking their morning coffee, they will be able to engage with your organization even if they are incredibly busy.

Here are a few examples of ways people can practice micro-volunteering in five minutes or less:

  • Sharing one of your organization’s posts on social media
  • Completing a survey
  • Leaving a Google review
  • Signing a petition
  • Attaching your nonprofit’s bumper sticker to their car

Market your micro-volunteering opportunities on your website

When individuals visit your volunteer page, they should see a list of available volunteer positions and opportunities.

Make sure to highlight your micro-volunteering opportunities on this page by listing these options in a separate section or with a separate section heading.

This way, prospective volunteers can quickly see that there are ways to help your organization that don’t require a major time commitment.

Using volunteer management software

Micro-volunteering is useful because it makes volunteering far more convenient. 

Make sure your volunteer management program is equipped to continue to make your volunteer experience as smooth and seamless as possible by using volunteer management software.

Volunteer management software will help your nonprofit organize one-time and long-term volunteers, and everyone in between, allowing you to see how your volunteers are making an impact for your organization. This software also streamlines communication and scheduling, allowing your volunteers to know exactly what they need to do to support your organization.

Learn more about volunteer management software and how you can use Civic Champ’s software solution to step up your volunteer program when you visit our website.

About the Author:
Geng Wang
As CEO of Civic Champs, I lead our team of passionate change leaders to create technology solutions to create a seamless and rewarding volunteering experience for both volunteers and service organizations.