Microvolunteering via Smartphones: IVR's Report

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The Institute of Volunteering Research (IVR) published a report on the 7th June 2012, that looked into some of the whys and wherefores of microvolunteering via smartphones. It used Orange's Do Some Good mobile app as the medium to conduct its research and whilst it findings represent an insight into the microvolunteering arena, it must be remembered that the vast majority of micro-actions in general are conducted via pcs / laptops. It also concentrated on the non-skilled microvolunteering actions that Do Some Good and Help From Home promote rather than the skilled micro-actions that initiatives like Sparked and Brightworks promote.

The research paper came up with a few surprises, that included:

- ‘the need to be wary of assuming, that such (microvolunteering) initiatives attract those who are likely to participate in more ‘traditional’ forms of civil engagement’

- ‘the factors and motives that drive people to participate in microvolunteering can be quite different to those commonly associated with wider forms of volunteering’

Some of its findings are concurring with Help From Home's current (but not complete) survey on microvolunteering. Where Help From Home and IVR asked the same or very similar questions, the results are strikingly similar, as can be seen below. Please note that the Help From Home results are interim only and subject to change upon the completion of it's survey.

Question: Would you recommend microvolunteering to friends and family?


IVR = 83% said Yes

Help From Home = 77% say Yes

Question: Would you use the app (or microvolunteer) in the future?


IVR = 94% said yes

Help From Home = 95% say yes

The report suggested that microvolunteering could be perceived as complementing other forms of engagement, rather than being a replacement. Indeed, Help From Home’s current survey is bearing this perception out, as its interim results are veering towards that conclusion as well.

Of interest within the report was the statistic that 81% of respondents would be encouraged to use the app further if there were different / more activities to do. The report goes on to argue that the 'creating of new and different actions that are easy and quick to complete (that) potentially feed into people’s values and interests’, ‘highlights the need for micro-opportunities to be designed and targeted in different ways to wider volunteering if organisations are hoping to ensure that they facilitate the continued and meaningful involvement of volunteers.

This finding is based on microvolunteering via smartphones and as mentioned before, is a narrow band of activities compared to the microvolunteering arena in general. Indeed if one takes a look at the actions on offer through the other microvolunteering organisations out there, it can be seen that the actions on offer are extremely varied and diverse. That being said, it could be argued that Help From Home is already one step ahead of the report, as it recently launched a free Microvolunteering Consultancy Service aimed at encouraging a wider circle of non profits to engage in microvolunteering via more innovative micro-actions.

In closing then, IVR’s report pointed out that their research helped to address a gap in the knowledge around microvolunteering, but went onto to suggest a further seven areas of research, that in summary touched on, amongst other topics:

- the pattern of participation overtime,

- the management of microvolunteers, and

- the use of social media.

Help From Home would like to propose some other topics, namely:

- what motivates non-profits to embrace microvolunteering?

- what specific types of devices, using what type of Internet connections, are best suited for microvolunteering?

- continuous recruiting is a significant resource drain. What methods and strategies will assist in retaining microvolunteers?

- are there specific types of tasks with certain types of non-profit organizations which attract specific microvolunteers?

Only time will tell if funding will become available to follow these additional avenues of research though. Watch this space!

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