Time – the great leveller. Irrespective of gender, age, race or economic status, we all only have 24 hours in each day.
With “other time commitments” cited as one of the key barriers to volunteering, and one of the main reasons for stopping volunteering, it is crucial that volunteer-involving organisations create more flexible and appealing roles in order to engage time-poor individuals. As increasing numbers of new voluntary and community sector organisations emerge to fill the gaps in statutory service provision, the choice of roles for individuals wanting to volunteer is growing exponentially – therefore standing out from the crowd is imperative.
Episodic, or micro-volunteering, is a great example of enabling busy individuals to fit volunteering around the rest of their lives. It is defined by NCVO as: “Small bite-size volunteering with no commitment to repeat and with minimum formality involving short and specific actions that are quick to start and complete.” Offline examples include: signing a petition, manning a stall at a fair, taking part in a street collection and baking a cake for a community event. Online examples include: writing a blog post, counting birds in a garden, setting up a Facebook event, and graphic design of a logo.
The following are excellent illustrations of how volunteering can be embedded into people’s busy daily lives by tying it in with lifestyle activities:
- casseroleclub.com: specially designed to connect people who like to cook with their older neighbours who are not always able to cook for themselves
- goodgym.org: a community of runners that combines getting fit with visiting isolated/older people, spending time with them and doing odd jobs
- northlondoncares.uk: a community network of young professional and older neighbours spending time together and helping one another out.
Whatever the role, the key thing to remember is that it needs to tap into people’s passions, and to be an attractive proposition to compete with other time commitments – and all marketing activities need to reflect this.
Giving you a helping hand
We have developed a short guide, summarising NCVO’s excellent “Giving a little time” research document, to give you further examples of micro-volunteering activities, and help you decide if micro-volunteering is right for your organisation; for example, do you have current volunteer roles that could be broken down into smaller tasks? Do you want to increase the range of volunteer opportunities? Do you want to involve volunteers across a wider geographic area? The guide will also assist you with developing roles.