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The value of giving a little time: Understanding the potential of micro-volunteering

Summary

Micro-volunteering – participating in small increments of time, in particular through the use of technology – has recently attracted increasing attention. Despite this, we know very little about its current scope, about its potential value and impact, or about its relationship to other forms of volunteering. With project funding from Nesta, IVR and NCVO undertook research to explore the opportunities and challenges that micro-volunteering presents for individuals and organisations, in order to inform and improve policy and practice. We used a multi-phase methodology, including an evidence review, expert interviews with volunteering infrastructure bodies, policy makers, and volunteering researchers, focus groups with non-volunteers, a workshop to map trends and drivers, and case study research and on-going support with ten organisations.

This research found that micro-volunteering is not new in itself, but is changing. People have less time to give and are volunteering in new ways and, often facilitated by developments in technology that enable people to participate immediately and independently of time and place. It also highlighted some of the key characteristics of this form of volunteering, how it is understood by those delivering opportunities and those keen to do so, and what its potential and its limitations are.

The research found that micro-volunteering will not suit everyone nor every organisation. It highlighted that organisations need to think carefully about whether and how micro-volunteering fits in with their strategic direction, and whether the term ‘micro-volunteering’ is the best way for them to brand these small actions. When it is appropriate, and if the challenges identified in our research can be overcome, the benefits for the individual volunteer and the organisation of micro-volunteering can be significant.

Outputs

  • A literature review which reviews the research, including how the term ‘micro-volunteering’ has been applied and defined, perceptions of micro-volunteering and key themes to emerge from the literature.
  • The full report which explores in detail the findings from the research, and includes case studies.
  • A summary report which draws out the key messages from the full report.
  • A good practice guide for organisations seeking to develop micro-volunteering opportunities covering:
    • determining whether micro-volunteering is right for them
    • what they should consider when creating and managing micro-volunteering opportunities
    • recruiting and managing micro-volunteers
    • monitoring and demonstrating impact, including considerations for evaluating micro-volunteering activities.

Good practice guidance for organisations considering developing micro-volunteering opportunities will be available at http://www.volunteering.org.uk/goodpractice at the end of November 2013.

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