Covid-19 has changed the way we look at things, it has given a new meaning to the things that we presumed were important, to relationships, to the way we work and to life, overall. It has certainly changed the way we can volunteer. Though volunteering as a concept has been in existence for ages, the pandemic and the following lockdown gave us an opportunity to rethink the ways we can volunteer and relook at how we can do it from the comfort of our homes.
Before we go into how you can prepare yourself for a Virtual Volunteering activity, lets first understand what Virtual Volunteering is! Virtual Volunteering or online volunteering is nothing but volunteering using your computer (can be your laptop, your tab or even your phone), without having to leave your home or adjusting your schedules. You can log in from any city or country, for that matter, and be in your most comfortable jeans and t-shirt as well! Thanks to modern technology, I personally feel ‘Virtual Volunteering’ has been one of the blessings in disguise during the pandemic, because we at iVolunteer have helped hundreds of beneficiaries upskill themselves or learn a new skill, with the help and support of committed volunteers from across the country and some from outside as well.
So, if you are a first-time volunteer or if you are volunteering virtually for the first time, here are TWELVE tips to help you prepare for an engaging and wholesome VIRTUAL VOLUNTEERING experience.
- Choose a volunteering opportunity that REALLY EXCITES you. Don’t take it up just because your friends are doing it or because your company is asking you to complete your volunteering hours. If you are not excited about what you are going to do during the virtual activity, you are not going to excite the audience as well.
- If you have time, before the actual session, understand HOW the online PLATFORMS WORK – there are some tech variations between a Zoom, a Google Meet and a MS Teams app and you could possibly use it to your benefit.
- Prepare about the TOPIC/THEME of the online activity. Prior to the activity, go through the details that have been shared with you by the organization. If you need to put together a PPT or a video to aid your activity, then work on it and get it ready before the day of the activity.
- Understand who your AUDIENCE is going to be – children, youth, adults, senior citizens or others. If you are about to speak on a topic like ‘Health and Safety during Covid-19’, it certainly needs to handled differently for each of these target groups. Keep them in mind while you prepare for the day.
- It could be a one-time activity or one with a medium or long-term commitment (like Teaching English speaking skills or Mentoring), all of it virtual. You are not sure if you are ever going to meet the beneficiaries in real life, so DON’T COMMIT! Never promise them, especially children, that you will go and meet them after the pandemic. If you are not sure about that, tell them you will try.
- Given the pandemic, the non-profit sector has gradually risen to the challenge of meeting the technological needs of their stakeholders and some still struggle with it. Kindly do not DEMEAN or QUESTION that effort and never instigate the beneficiaries to do the same. Avoid asking them, “Why is your NGO not providing you with a laptop instead of a phone or a tab?”.
- This is not face-to-face, and you think you don’t need to DRESS-UP. Wrong! The audience can see you (at least the portrait mode), so freshen up, wear a decent top/t-shirt and do that hair please! Remember, your SMILE is your best makeup.
- If your company has provided you with a VIRTUAL BACKGROUND and encourages you to use it, then good, or else, choose a subtle background. Don’t go with the flashy, unrealistic ones that take the audience’s attention away from you.
- Be prepared for the UNEXPECTED! You imagined there were going to be 40 children who were going to be part of the virtual activity and only about 4 turned up. They had genuine reasons – heavy rainfall in their area, no network connection, etc.,. What will you do? Cancel the activity and let down the four who made it, or continue and engage the expectant group of kids.
- On the day, check your internet access. Connect to a good broadband or Wi-Fi network. Remember EVERTYHING IS VIRTUAL, there is no face-to-face contact with the beneficiaries you are about to work with. If the network falters, then the flow of the activity is hampered and your audience are at a loss.
- RELAX! This could be the first time for you, possibly this could be the first time for the beneficiaries as well. Understand everyone is as nervous as you and equally excited too! Reduce the nervousness and build on the excitement.
- HAVE FUN! Enjoy the volunteering process. Make it a memorable evening for the participants too. Use some humour in your activity. Remember, almost everyone is stuck in their houses, doing the same things and interacting with the same people over and over. Some novelty and sharing of funny anecdotes won’t harm anyone!
Now that your are so PREPARED and wanting to volunteer virtually, just visit www.iVolunteer.in and click on the volunteering opportunity that interests you. Go, JUST VOLUNTEER!