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Tips & guides 2,184 views Mar 01, 2016
Microvolunteering: A Little Goes A Long Way

Mike Bright is the founder of Help From Home, an initiative that promotes and encourages people to participate in easy, no-commitment, microvolunteering opportunities. Mike has been involved in the microvolunteering arena since 2005, initially as a participant and then more fully from December 2008 with his 'Help From Home' initiative. He is considered one of the pioneers of the microvolunteering concept, as well as the organiser behind Microvolunteering Day that occurs every April 15th.

In 2011, the United Nations published a report in which it highlighted three of the fastest growing trends in volunteering around the world, one of them being microvolunteering. Five years on, and the concept still shows no sign of abating.

To borrow a definition from the Institute of Volunteering Research, 'microvolunteering is bite-size volunteering with no commitment to repeat and with minimum formality, involving short and specific actions that are quick to start and complete'.

The vast majority of microvolunteering tasks can be conducted online, on-demand, and on-the-go, whilst sporting a completion time of between 1 – 120 minutes, but more usually a maximum 30.


For Volunteers

If you’re a volunteer looking to squeeze in a bit of bite-sized benevolence within your busy lifestyle, then microvolunteering may be the answer. 

You could be helping to cure cancer, researching penguins in the Arctic, or describing pictures for the blind, all from the comfort of your own home, during your work lunchbreak, or in the supermarket check-out queue. Basically, the actions come to you, and not the other way round – a far cry then from traditional volunteering activities.

Useful websites to seek out these microvolunteering opportunities are Help From Home, SkillsForChange, and CrowdCrafting.

For Nonprofits

Creating a microvolunteering action that perhaps only lasts 10 minutes might seem a bit daunting, especially when most volunteer managers' question the time taken to create an action is worth the impact generated from it. Well, it all depends on what type of action you're creating. Typically there are three different types:

  • One-off, non-repeatable skilled actions. Examples include logo design, a small bit of translation, proofreading a document etc. Such tasks could be described and uploaded to the very pro-active SkillsForChange microvolunteering platform in about 10 minutes
  • Repeatable skilled actions. Check out PhotoFoundation for an example of this type of task. Invite your supporters to use their photography skills to submit images to their platform, which in turn then have the potential to earn a royalties income for your nonprofit
  • Repeatable unskilled actions. These actions can range from being as simple as tapping in to your supporters' social reach using Justcoz, or conversely being as complex and costly to create like Fraxinus, a pattern recognition Facebook game to save UK Ash trees

Help From Home probably has the most definitive resource on creating micro-actions in cyberland, that includes 'How To' Guides, micro-task suggestions, photos of microvolunteering events, as well as ideas on how to generate discussions on the concept amongst your supporters.

Growing Trends

The microvolunteering arena seems to be constantly challenging the pre-conceived ideas of how volunteering can be conducted. With the internet's reach becoming all pervasive, it's been suggested that people could potentially participate in micro-actions in-flight on airplanes, on cruise ships during activity sessions, as well as by hotel overnighters in their rooms – all places where traditional volunteering simply cannot reach. But what of the current and growing trends within the microvolunteering arena?

  • Students and volunteer centres are using their laptops to entice visitors to their pop-up stalls at volunteering fairs and the like to take part in on-demand tasks like FreeRice
  • Some nonprofits have been renaming their more traditional bite-sized roles and calling them microvolunteering ones, eg Mariner Management
  • More microvolunteering smartphone apps are being created which focus on a single volunteering action rather than as a gateway into a directory of volunteering opportunities
  • Roughly 70% of microvolunteers are aged under 29, and approximately 75% of microvolunteers are female, according to this stats source
  • Disabled people are tapping into the convenience of the microvolunteering concept
  • The annual Microvolunteering Day on April 15th is going from strength to strength, and is now in its third year

The term microvolunteering gained its’ first blip on the voluntary radar back in 2008, and over the years has been seen as either an evolution or a revolution in volunteering. With its huge potential to transform the way in which nonprofits and volunteers can crowdsource impact, a little effort really can go a long way!


Image courtesy of winnond, at


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