According to a report by the John Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, more than 2% Indians volunteer for one cause or another. That is more than 1.6 crore people in India volunteer and the value of their work is estimated at USD 1356 million. Those of us who are familiar with social work or community service, know that volunteering often is a result of an inner calling. We wish to do something in the service of others and when we find the right NGO or project, we are able to contribute to the cause in a long and sustained fashion. This kind of NGO knows the importance of giving the volunteer the satisfaction of having made a change while also sharing the impact of the volunteer’s actions. Volunteering comes in many forms today and people have a plethora of choices to choose from. The real challenge however is creating an experience for the volunteer that encourages a life-long association.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of in-person volunteering had to pause. However, organisations and individuals have found alternate ways of helping with community service in India. There are two trends which have emerged in the last few years that have really taken off after the pandemic—Remote & Virtual volunteering.
What is Remote Volunteering?
Remote volunteering involves working for an organisation from a remote location, as opposed to working from the headquarters. This kind of volunteering can be both physical or virtual. For example, there may be an organisation based in Ahmedabad in Gujarat that wishes to distribute masks. You as a volunteer in Mumbai, can offer to stitch them using recyclable materials and send them to Ahmedabad.
What is Virtual Volunteering?
Virtual Volunteering, on the other hand, involves the use of an internet-compatible device to help an NGO. The volunteer can use their skills and expertise to help the NGO in one way or another. The most common example of this is offering online educational classes and career guidance to schools in rural or tribal regions. But there are others ways that you can volunteer virtually too, such as helping an NGO with documentation, online research, designing, etc. The most recent way individuals volunteered virtually was giving assistance to the elderly for their Covid-19 vaccination registration.
How to create a memorable experience for a volunteer
Creating a memorable experience for the volunteer is essential as it ensures that the volunteer will continue with the same cause while recruiting others for the cause through positive word-of-mouth. Certificates of participation, adding up volunteer hours, etc., can be a step in this direction. However, there are not enough. Just as an employee in a corporation requires recognition and celebration for their efforts, so do volunteers. It is important therefore for the Changemaker to address the volunteers regularly. Changemakers, being the starting point for an NGO and the driving force behind the project, need to provide inspiration to volunteers by showing them the bigger picture of how each individual’s contribution adds up to the larger vision.
Giving Circle encourages their Changemakers to interact with the volunteers, share regular updates as well as send broadcast messages to the larger community to keep in them the loop about the developments related to their cause. Similarly, we ask Changemakers to create macro tasks which are not bound by time as a strict task-oriented approach can be counteractive in the long run.
To sum up, volunteering is a way for people to access their inner calling for making a difference. NGOs must provide volunteers diverse ways and means to do so, including in-person, remote and virtual volunteering. Going forward, we must find ways to engage volunteers by recognising their contribution and giving them a way to see the impact of their actions on a larger scale.
For real life stories of volunteers and their experiences, head to the Volunteer Diaries section. If you would like to get involved in community service in India, go to the Contribute To A Change section.