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Volunteerism and the Internet
Sarah Kuck, 21 Jan 09

volunteers.jpg Our willingness to work on behalf of others is on the rise. One of the reasons for this noticeable boost in volunteerism is that the Internet is making it easier for organizations and volunteers to connect. Social networking and volunteer placement sites are helping to create a more symbiotic atmosphere within the volunteer world -- organizations are better able to attract and call for much needed help and volunteers can more easily find projects they want to dedicate their time to.

Volunteers now have a better chance of finding exactly what kind of organizations are out there for them to work with based on both their passions and their time budget. According to's “Give 5” campaign, which encourages people to volunteer five hours per week and donate five percent of their income to charitable causes:

• Approximately 109 million American adults volunteer annually: that's 56 percent of all adults.
• Adult volunteers contribute an average of 3.5 hours per week - totaling 19.9 billion hours with an estimated dollar value of $225.9 billion.
• 59 percent of teenagers volunteer an average of 3.5 hours per week: that's 13.3 million volunteers totaling 2.4 billion hours at a total value of $7.7 billion.
• 70 percent of American households make a contribution to one or more charitable organizations. The average gift of contributing households is 2.1 percent of income.

Using the Internet, organizations can access a wider variety of potential volunteers, and rally them at the click of a button, while volunteers can find the opportunities that inspire them to take action on their own time.

Nonprofits are now harnessing the power of social networking sites like Facebook and Myspace to spread their messages and attract broader ranges of potential volunteers (ones they might not have ever guessed would be interested). According to this US TODAY article:

More than 22,000 non-profit groups have signed up to rally supporters on the teen-and-young-adult site MySpace since it began in 2004, says Jeff Berman, the site’s executive vice president for marketing. He says more young people are engaged in activism online and their creativity in using the Internet to do good works is “off the charts.”
Groups also have sprung up on Facebook, another social- networking site used by millions of students, to urge youth to fight global warming, help Hurricane Katrina victims, seek world peace or protest events such as charges brought against six black teens for beating a white classmate in Jena, La.

Site users can urge their online friends to join organizations and causes, and in return, the organizations can update members with information or rally their supporters.

For example, when Amnesty International needed its supporters to petition the Turkish government to free Kurdish activist Sehmuz Temel, they used the Internet to contact more than 5,000 volunteers. Within 48 hours, the Turkish government received more than 2,000 e-mails calling for Temel’s release. Soon after, Temel was released.

If you would like to volunteer, but need help finding the perfect organization to dedicate your valuable time to, there are a plethora of sites popping up to help match you with the most rewarding volunteer opportunity for you.

Here are a handful of online volunteer opportunity directory sites that I think are doing a fairly good job of helping organizations find great volunteers and vice versa:
Idealist is a project of Action Without Borders, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 with offices in the United States and Argentina. Idealist is an interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives.

As of today, there were more than 12,000 volunteer opportunities posted on the site. You can also find or post job listings, internships, events and more.
Launched in 1996, is a website that mobilizes and empowers the volunteer service community to tackle some of the toughest challenges facing local communities. Since its inception, has enabled millions of youth volunteers to connect with local nonprofits to make a difference in communities throughout America. In 2000, as a part of Global Youth Service Day, expanded into a global resource for the 3.5 million young people, in 155 countries around the world that participate in Global and National Youth Service Day.

Search by region, event, or category to find the right event for you. Using I found more than 180 Seattle-based events to volunteer for within the next month. You can also use Servenet to find grants, jobs and service related news and resources.

VolunteerMatch is a leader in the nonprofit world dedicated to helping everyone find a great place to volunteer. The organization offers a variety of online services to support a community of nonprofit, volunteer and business leaders committed to civic engagement. Our popular service welcomes millions of visitors a year and has become the preferred internet recruiting tool for more than 50,000 nonprofit organizations.

Enter your zip code, your area of interest and how far you’re willing to travel and VolunteerMatch will create an automated list of all the volunteer opportunities in your area that fit your criteria. Currently, VolunteerMatch searchable database includes more than 50,000 listings from organizations located all across the globe.

For more Internet volunteering and volunteering resources, visit or

Image credit: Flickr/*elizabeth, CC License.

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Thanks for the encouraging statistics on volunteering, and for all the good links. I thoroughly agree that the internet makes it easier to connect willing volunteers with good organizations. I thought you might be interested in one more resource. I work for UniversalGiving, an online non-profit with exactly that goal--connecting individuals with reputable organizations they can donate to or volunteer with, and we don't take any cut on donations either. If you're interested, you can check us out at, or visit our blog at

Posted by: Cheryl Mahoney on 23 Jan 09

We are trying to raise our children to act charitably, to volunteer their energy, time and effort, but it's tough in a world where children are looked upon as burdens. My girls, while still elementary school age, are capable cooks, seamstresses and cleaners. They could read to other kids, or help walk dogs at the local animal shelter. Alas, even with me watching over them (and volunteering, too), too many organizations will not ALLOW them to volunteer!

To bring up a new generation of volunteers, we need to ALLOW volunteerism as soon as the children are interested (and parents supportive).

Posted by: Jen on 16 Feb 09

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