Volunteering 20 Minutes at a Time

Apr 1, 2013

Today's blog is reposted from Business4Better blog, published on March 20, 2013.

Do you have busy employees that can’t give large amounts of time for charitable volunteering due to other commitments and a busy lifestyle?

Then try micro-volunteering.         

Micro-volunteering leverages employees’ skills and can be done entirely online via a laptop or even smartphone in increments as small as 15 minutes.

Here is how it works: A non-profit posts a small project or question that requires professional expertise. The request must be something that can be solved online, able to be completed in less than 3 hours and have a clear deliverable: Think marketing or communications projects, a finance problem or a graphic design need. Through a platform delivered by Sparked.com, the request is then routed to individuals or groups of individuals that have an expertise or interest in that area. Volunteers can jump in.

The beauty of the platform is that through crowdsourcing the non-profit can get their challenge solved and even get more than they originally asked for, explains Chris Jarvis, Co-Founder and Partner for Realized Worth.  “A lot of work is done in a short period of time. Non-profits can quickly get a range of responses that were outside the original problem but it can also give the non-profit a broader context and bring new issues to light,” says Jarvis.

“Crowds are smarter than any one of us,” he adds.

United Healthcare piloted the Sparked.com platform and micro-volunteering to their employees in 2011. The program involved a group of 60 college hires who had joined the company within the past three years. Each employee was expected to fulfill at least three to five challenges and complete a feedback survey about their experience.

“I thought it would appeal to our employees. This is a very performance-driven organization but many don’t have the time to volunteer and 25 percent of the workforce is locked to their desk, explains Susan Osten, Director of Office of Social Responsibility for United Healthcare.  In total 1,447 people completed the 800 challenges.  Eighty-three percent of respondents who participated in the program said they would recommend micro-volunteering to others.

Osten explains how one woman went above and beyond all expectations. This United Healthcare employee is a single parent with five children who could never get out to volunteer with all her responsibilities at home.  During her lunch hour and in other small increments, has completed almost 60 challenges.  This type of inspirational micro effort can indeed  have a macro impact for non-profits in need.

For more on micro-volunteering and the opportunity it presents, attend the Business4Better Conference & Expo in Anaheim on May 1st and 2nd Chris Jarvis and others will be discussing Skilled and Micro-volunteering Programs: High Impact, High Innovation.