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‘Micro-volunteering’ highlights positive impact of technology on voluntary sector

It’s easy to become jaded by the endless stream of technological advances we see practically every day.

But one piece of technology I recently became aware of that made me sit up and take notice is an app which allows people to donate just a few valuable minutes of their time to charities in a quick and convenient way.

The Extraordinaries http://app.beextra.org/ is a micro-volunteering network website where not-for-profit organisations can register and post challenges they need help with.

Individual volunteers can also register with the site and they then receive an app which allows them to browse the challenges on their phone and volunteer to help out with the projects which match their skills.

A quick internet search has yielded results of other apps out there doing similar things, such as iVolunteer.

However, the uniqueness of the Extraordinaries is that people can volunteer just a few minutes of their time to give their expertise towards a challenge a charity is facing. It’s know as ‘micro-volunteering’.

One charity was recently trying to find an inexpensive way of digging a well in Kenya, and through the network was connected with a US-managed but Kenyan-based well digging company within a week.

The creator of the App, Jacob Colker, recently won a Rolex Award for Enterprise, which provides support for innovators ages 16-30, for the project.

It seems to be well-deserved recognition, as the app really highlights the hugely positive impact that technology can have on the sector during a difficult economic time.

It may be harder to secure monetary donations from people, but securing donations in the form of time are still more than possible, if you do it in an innovative way.

  • Jamie Thomas

    Thanks for the mention Sophie. We’ve been promoting the micro volunteering concept for some months now as it’s still a fairly new concept in the UK – the Extraodinarires are a US site that have led the way accross the pond. But there is some activity going on here, check out Help From Home who have a profile on i-volunteer and have some great blogs on the subject as well a bunch of micro opportunities that you can start doing right now http://www.i-volunteer.org.uk/helpfromhome/ We’re also launching a micro volunteering campaign on next week which we hope TS will mention :o)

  • jacob from The Extraordinaries

    Thanks so much for writing about us! Real quick, I am not the founder alone. We have an amazing team of people including Boris, Ben, Shauna, Chad, Jordan, Joseph, Jeff, Britt, and Sundeep. Check out the rest of our team here! http://app.beextra.org/content/team

    Also, we’re soon launching a new product called Sparked. You can find it at sparked.org — hope you can check it out in two weeks! Thanks again.

  • Michael Bright

    Thanks to Jamie from i-volunteer for mentioning Help From Home http://www.helpfromhome.org/ . The micro volunteering arena is definitely taking off. For instance, Help From Home contains over 500 micro volunteering opportunities for people to participate in and they’re all designed to take between 10 seconds to 30 minutes to complete. We’re in the process of updating the Help From Home database at the moment and we reckon come November, there should be over 700 vastly varied micro actions to choose from that can all be done from within your own home.

  • Simeon Stewart

    Great site, thanks. We also run a micro volunteering site where people can help out on anything. By doing so users earn goodwill points which they than can use to support charity projects. Presently we work with Whizz-Kidz, Carousel, Conflict and Change and Action Against Hunger. Legal & General are our corporate partners and make the funding happen http://cofacio.com

  • Ethan Ohs

    I have mixed feelings about whether the sector is being pushed to the breaking point. Yes we are being pushed and the last few years have been anything but comfortable for the sector. Maybe we are being squeezed more than is fair, but this is a huge opportunity and we are being squeezed because of what make this sector great.

    My colleagues are flexible, innovative and entrepreneurial. In the last 3 years I have watched them become more so as we have endeavoured to weather the uncertainty we face daily. While things are not easy I have watched as new ideas have come to life and creative solutions have improved efficiency. Having less to work with I feel is making us better at dealing with what we do have.

    I think our sector is getting better as a result of the challenges we’ve faced. Don’t get me wrong I agree there will come a time where some charities may not be able to provide services because funding has been cut too far (This could leave room for some great new ideas to come to life). Some of the pain may mean we need to find new ways to innovate and look at the challenges we are facing.

  • Martin Preston

    Excellent points raised Richard. As you point out the run-up
    to the election is no doubt key to the timing of this. Key, local voluntary
    groups going to the wall isn’t good for votes. £40million is also a tiny
    amount of money given the scale of the problem. If the investment
    ends up being spread too thinly then It surely will make no real difference. We don’t want the funding to temporarily prop-up groups who are destined
    to close anyway. How will groups be checked to ensure that are not ‘too far
    gone’ that they cannot be saved? Given the limited pot this needs to be carefully
    targeted at and awarded in appropriate amounts to the groups who really can be
    saved.

  • I agree with martin great piece. All these good ideas but when they come down to implementing them they don’t seem to work.

  • Rob Parsons

    It does make a difference to me. People aren’t carrying a Tesco bag to advertise Tesco. They’re carrying a Tesco bag because they need a bag and this one happens to have Tesco on it. People like the woman you describe are promoting their charity – or supposed to be. I have a similar story. The London Paris bike ride seems to be a weekly event now. Part of it goes on a country road not far from where I live. Lots of twists and turns and a number of straight passages where cars can pass bikes, if the cyclists exercise reasonable road sense. I had the misfortune to be stuck behind a bunch of cyclists. I didn’t mind following them round bends, but when we got to the straight bits, they all immediately started overtaking each other, taking up the entire road and preventing cars from overtaking them. So for about ten minutes I went at cycling speed. I identified the charity and sent them a complaint about their lack of road manners. I did not get any reply. I will not say which charity it was, but it has been removed from my giving list.

  • It does matter. People notice and judge, and tell their friends. All staff and volunteers have been selected by the organisation, and are its ambassadors; they should respect the Code of Conduct and be alert to the importance of brand and reputation.
    One of the few onerous parts of volunteering for Guide Dog is being out and about with a clearly branded dog! I like to snooze on the bus – no chance if accompanied by a large, friendly Guide Dog. One has to be polite, and ready with key stats and messages. (The dog may not always understand this secondary role so well…)

    • Jackie Ballard

      Thank you for your great comment, I have never seen a badly behaved Guide Dog – I am sure those very well trained dogs know the expectations we have of them to live the brand!
      Jackie

  • Philip Hamilton

    Interesting point. The issue as I see it is that to some, a job is a job. It doesn’t matter if they work for either in the Private, Public or Third sectors. So is it a case of ensuring the recruitment process is more focused? Does it matter if the employee does not agree wholeheartedly with the aim of the ‘charity’ if they are the best person for the job. Maybe there should be something in their contract as to how they behave when they are in ‘uniform’? Is there a chance of then being too selective? Are we saying that those who work for Cancer research can not smoke? I know how I feel. If you work for a charity or organisation which have a high profile regarding it’s message then how you act reflects upon them and as in the case of Mr Parsons, they have been removed from his giving list. However the other point are those raising money for said charity. Must we hold them to the same standards? Those cyclists ‘racing’ each other may have been fund raisers who were also out to enjoy themselves. If we become ‘moral police’ is this likely to have an impact upon those willing to raise money. I leave it with you to ponder the wider implications.

  • Martina Reaney

    It does matter, of course it does! If you work in private sector and driving your company car, you are probably tied by the company rules (except, of course, the highway code) about behaving properly – because EVERYTHING you do while displaying the brand MATTERS. The question, however, is how can you control a huge number of your volunteers who have no “legal” obligation towards your charity. And therefore, no reason – except their common sense and personality – to behave well.