Micro-volunteering: every little helps – on the whole

Joni Browne worked at NCVO’s Institute for Volunteering Research until December 2014. Joni has now left NCVO but her posts have been kept here for reference.

More people are talking about micro-volunteering, as technology evolves and patterns of volunteering are shifting. People are looking for volunteering opportunities that they can fit around other commitments. At the same time, technology is developing in a way that’s making more opportunities possible.

Despite all the interest, there wasn’t much actual research on the scope, benefits or impact of micro-volunteering. With project funding from the Cabinet Office, we wanted to change this.

Read our report ‘The value of giving a little time: Understanding the potential of micro-volunteering’.

Often thought of as brief volunteering actions that can be completed online, micro-volunteering can, and does, take place offline too. Roughly, it means any ‘bite-size’ volunteering opportunity which people can dip in and out of easily. (We’ve come up with a more formal definition in our report, but more on that another time.)

We spoke to a wide range of people such as policy-makers, infrastructure bodies, researchers, volunteers, non-volunteers, and volunteer-involving organisations about micro-volunteering.

In our report we:

  • give examples of micro-volunteering which show the diversity of opportunities currently available
  • define micro-volunteering to provide a starting point for organisations to think about how it could work for them
  • explain the relationship between micro-volunteering and other forms of volunteering to demonstrate that while there are differences, they are not always clear-cut
  • describe the role of technology in micro-volunteering to argue that micro-volunteering can be done offline but also that technological developments are leading to changes in the way people participate
  • describe the supply and demand of micro-volunteering, including: who is offering it, who is participating and why
  • bust some common myths about micro-volunteering to show that when it’s done well, it can be a valuable way for people to give their time and skills
  • examine the challenges of micro-volunteering and explain that it is not suitable for every organisation and activity.


How to set up a micro-volunteering project (KnowHow NonProfit)

Coming soon…

Based on our research findings and the workshops we have run with our case study organisations, we are writing good practice guidance for volunteer-involving organisations.

We’ll be outlining key considerations for organisations  to think about when developing micro-volunteering opportunities. Suggestions for how challenges could be addressed will also be covered.

This guidance will be available at the end of November 2013.

Questions? Comments?

Do you have any thoughts on micro-volunteering or things you think you’d like the guidance to cover?

Get in touch by emailing me or use the comment box below.


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