Are all the e-volunteers programmers?
Definitely not! Of course, to be e-volunteer basic skills in using of the computers and the Internet are essential. But yet, to do the vast majority of e-volunteering tasks handling Web Browsers and e-mail accounts is sufficient. Many of the tasks for virtual volunteers requires specialized knowledge or skills, but those are not always computer skills. E-volunteering can be art, logo designed for your organization, or a lawyer providing free advice online.
Is e-volunteering just making websites and moderating forums?
Absolutely not. E-volunteering is much more, but the issues involved in creating websites and forums are usually the first thing that comes to mind. You can get an inspiration from the examples of e-volunteering sites in Poland and in the world, take look at your organization and find areas where cooperation could be developed by virtual volunteers.
When I communicate with the volunteer by e-mail, is he/she already an e-volunteer?
The boundary between traditional and virtual volunteering is thin and sometimes extremely difficult to determine. The easiest criterion of division seems to be the nature of the tasks that volunteer is doing: when using the Internet, then we can talk about e-volunteering. Therefore, when we arrange a meeting with volunteer via email but all our cooperation is ‘in the real world’, this is not an e-volunteering yet. However, in a situation where a volunteer uses a mailbox for example for sending our newsletter and invitations to events organized by us, we definitely can call him an e-volunteer.
If this is e-volunteering, does it have to leave a trace on the Net?
Typically, e-volunteering leaves a trace on the Web, such as sent e-mails or material on portals. Some of the foreign social e-volunteering portals allow volunteers to collect points for each completed task. However, it often happens that volunteer activity goes beyond the network and flows into reality. Sometimes volunteer activities on the Internet causes a real change in the world around us.
And what if volunteer creates our website in our office?
Then he is just a volunteer. E-volunteer does not include all the tasks that have something to do with computers and the Internet. The essence of e-volunteering is to enable contact between volunteers and organization, who are not always able to contact directly, physically. E-volunteer can work both for the organization from the other end of the globe, as well as for that from his district, if every week he spends two hours on the virtual work.
And if we meet in real life too, is that an e-volunteering?
E-volunteers often work with organizations also ‘in the real world’, and e-volunteering can also act as the first step to establish a closer relationship with the organization and engage in traditional volunteering. Jayne Cravens, a specialist in the field of virtual volunteering for 15 years, writes in her article ‘Myths of e-volunteering’: ‘According to a study conducted in the late nineties for the Virtual Volunteering Project – and relations of non-governmental organizations – vast majority of e-volunteers often works in the real world with some organization in their area, often of the same that their work for on-line’.
Does e-volunteering always mean working with an NGO? And if someone is doing something alone?
The ‘e-volunteering’ term refers to both – the tasks of non-governmental organizations, as well as those initiated spontaneously by a group of Internet users, for example, many self-help groups and support groups working on the Web, not formalizing its existence. The first Polish edition of the ‘Discover e-volunteering’ has shown that e-volunteers can successfully operate even alone.