Volunteering in the Digital Age: The Volunteer Perspective

Posted Tuesday, November 5th, 2019 by Sterling Volunteers Staff

Volunteering in the Digital Age

As the world becomes more connected than ever, we’re asking volunteers how they’re transitioning and how we can help.

Volunteers come from every generation, career field and background, and that means each one has a different level of experience with modern technology — including the digital tools we use to support our volunteer programs. The new online experiences can be intuitive for some, a little bit of a challenge for a few, and overwhelming for others.

Sterling Volunteers wants to help volunteers of every experience level as they transition into the digital age, and we’re prepared to develop the tools they need to move forward. But we can’t develop the tools volunteers need most without their input.

In a partnership with VolunteerMatch, the largest network in the nonprofit world, we recently surveyed more than 7,200 volunteers on who they are and how they like to volunteer, including questions surrounding volunteering in the digital age. Click here to download the entire report.

According to the findings in our report, the most common ways volunteers find organizations and opportunities are through an online platform (57% of all volunteers), friends (44%), social media (39%), and online searches (38%). It’s safe to assume that many of the opportunities found “through friends” also involve digital media.

Whether volunteers are ready or not, the industry is taking a turn in the digital direction. It’s our job to help volunteers through the transition.

Sterling Volunteers asked volunteers what they thought about some potential digital tools in an online survey.

How could a new online volunteer community serve volunteers?

Sterling Volunteers and our partners have started building an online community dedicated to volunteers and nonprofits. We asked our survey respondents which features they would value most.

Volunteers expressed the most interest in features that will help them find new volunteering opportunities. Of the survey respondents, an overwhelming 87% are interested in a “volunteer opportunity search”, and 69% were interested in the “ability to be recruited by organizations with opportunities.” When we probed further, we learned 77% were at least somewhat interested organizations in their area reaching out to them with volunteering opportunities, and an additional 20% said they would at least take a look to see if it sparks their interest.

Volunteers are also interested in a feature that helps them develop professional and social contacts through an online platform; of the survey respondents, 68% are interested in networking with contacts at nonprofits and other organizations, and 62% are interested in networking with like-minded volunteers.

Could a digital credential designed for volunteers help them move forward in the digital age?

We introduced volunteers to the idea of a credential created to assist people who are looking for volunteer opportunities online. We suggested a few different ways it could help:

  • Prove their identity to nonprofit organizations
  • Verify their screening history
  • Track trainings and hours
  • Allow them to check in at volunteer locations
  • And more

More than two-thirds (68%) of respondents said they would be interested in a credential that could help them with these tasks.

We’re pleased to inform you that Sterling Volunteers has already acted on this opportunity! Volunteers and organizations can now utilize our new digital credential. Learn more here.

Could helping volunteers own and manage their own background check simplify the digital-age volunteering experience?

We asked volunteers how interested they would be in owning their own background check and being able to securely share it with the non-profit organizations they’re interested in volunteering with. More than half of the respondents said they would be at least somewhat interested.

We also learned from the survey that 50% of volunteers aged 35 years or older were interested in owning and managing their own background check while 55% of those under the age of 35 were also interested. The similarity between these two numbers suggests that the generational gaps are not very significant.

Rural volunteers we surveyed expressed particular interest in this idea, with 54% saying they’d be very interested (not just somewhat interested). This could be due to the geographic limitations rural volunteers can sometimes experience. In situations such as these, it’s our job to ask ourselves as volunteer organizations “What can we do to help make things easier for volunteers?”

Gain More Volunteer Insights

Visit our blog for more insights into the “Volunteer Perspective: Industry Insights 2019” report. Read the full report here.

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin.

The information contained herein is for informational purposes only. Sterling is not a law firm, and none of the information contained in this notice is intended as legal advice.