'Micro-volunteering' opportunities likely to increase, says study

Nick Ockenden, head of the Institute for Volunteering Research at the NCVO, says 'bite-sized' opportunities would benefit from the time of those who could not commit to longer-term roles

Nick Ockenden
Nick Ockenden

More organisations are creating and advertising 'micro-volunteering' opportunities, according to a study by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.

Micro-volunteering involves participants taking part in short, one-off activities, such as tasks that can be completed online, including signing a petition or submitting details of birds spotted in gardens.

The report, Value of Giving a Little Time: Understanding the Potential of Micro-volunteering, says demand for micro-volunteering is likely to rise because it provides a more accessible form of volunteering. Technological development will also drive growth, the study says.

It points out that organisations that have offered micro-volunteering have benefited from a wider range of volunteers or improved their reach and capacity. But the report says that micro-volunteering is often felt to be riskier for organisations than long-term volunteering, because they have "less control" over volunteers.

Researchers analysed existing micro-volunteering opportunities, held workshops with organsiations that offered them and were considering doing so, and conducted focus groups with people who did not volunteer.

Nick Ockenden, head of the Institute for Volunteering Research at the NCVO, said organisations that were able to create "bite-sized" volunteering opportunities would benefit from the time of those who could not commit to longer-term roles, at least to begin with.

He added: "Micro-volunteering isn’t without challenges, though, and, as with all sorts of volunteering, it requires careful thought and management in order to get the best results for the organisation and for volunteers.

"It was also be interesting to see that although it is the most commonly used term, ‘micro-volunteering’ isn’t particularly popular with volunteers or organisations. It would be worth organisations finding ways of describing micro-volunteering opportunities that best suit them and their potential volunteers."

The NCVO will publish guidance for charities on good practice in micro-volunteering later this year. The research was funded by a grant from the Cabinet Office’s Innovation in Giving Fund, which is run by Nesta.

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