Micro-Volunteerism: Worthwhile or a Waste of Time?

Micro-volunteerism provides small tasks that volunteers can start and complete in a short amount of time. Though the term “micro-volunteerism” has only been around for about 15 years, it has received a lot of buzz. So does it work?

When it Doesn’t Work

The primary issue is around the “return on investment.” All nonprofits are strapped for time so they utilize volunteers to expand what they are able to do. It’s inefficient to take 40 hours of staff time and turn it into 20 hours of volunteer time. So a big challenge with micro-volunteer opportunities is how to efficiently set them up and administer the program. There can be a lot of administrative overhead that needs to be kept in mind

  • How many hours does it take to recruit the volunteers? 
  • How many hours does it take to manage them? 
  • How much follow up is required?
  • How much of an issue is it if the volunteer is unable to complete the project? 

Some associations have halted their micro-volunteer opportunities when there wasn’t enough to make them worth the effort. 

When it Does Work

There are cases where the administrative overhead is less than what the volunteers are able to accomplish and micro-volunteerism has worked great to expand the capacity of the Association. However there are also other potential benefits of micro-volunteerism that make them worth the effort. Associations have been able to utilize them as an entry point to larger volunteer positions. While being able to complete some micro tasks isn’t insignificant, the real return on staff effort is being able to identify volunteers that can be recruited for larger projects. 

So Does it Work?

Is micro-volunteerism worthwhile or a waste of time? Is it something that Associations need to be utilizing to avoid missing an opportunity to engage more members and get more done? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as it all depends on specific circumstances. It is another tool that can be used as part of an association’s volunteer management program, but if it doesn’t work, or if it’s inefficient, don’t feel guilty about passing on this trend.

The key takeaway is to take a critical look at how much time is invested in micro-volunteerism compared to what is being accomplished. If the program is inefficient, you may need to ask if it just isn’t working under specific circumstances, or is this acceptable as these tasks can be used to funnel volunteers to larger projects that create a better return on the time investment. 

Download RGI’s free e-book: Success with Leading Volunteers for some practical tips to help you to think differently about your role as a manager and leader of volunteers.