Sparked: Are You Ready to Microvolunteer?

by · May 16, 2011

Yes, we are all busy, but are we too busy to give just a bit of our time to help a worthy cause? Maybe if it requires volunteer training or considerable in person support, but what about virtual volunteering? I have done that before – written a press release for a non-profit, made some media calls, helped edit a website – it’s a great way to support your favorite charity organization. One website takes the concept of virtual volunteering a step further though, into the realm of Microvolunteering.

Sparked is a website for the extremely busy person that still wants to do good. Its goal is to connect these busy people with non-profit organizations that need help on small, yet important tasks. As the site says, it tries to fit volunteering into the same kind of time you might spend on Facebook, Farmville or Twitter.

To truly be microvolunterring, Sparked says the work must meet four criteria: convenience, bite-sized, crowdsourced and network-managed. Essentially, it must fit into your schedule, be a small task and ask a larger network than just one person for help. Makes sense and sound like something I could handle, so I decided to sign up.

The causes you can choose from on Sparked

Signing up was simple – it requires minimal personal information and then has you identify issues that are of interest to you and what general skills you have. For me, the issues that “get me fired up” were the environment, civil rights, justice and animals (love you Chloe!). My skills were marketing, social media, twitter (that’s a skill?), blogging and copy writing. I thought the skills were a bit too general, but I suppose it was intentional to increase the potential crowd for a given task. After clicking submit, I found there were over 8,000 people with similar interests and skills to me already registered. A decent crowd.

After identifying passions and skills, it’s already time to jump in and tackle challenges. Sparked makes it easy to flip through microvolunteering options and choose one to take part in. The challenges really are quite simple and there was a decent variety. The ones that were selected for my profile included giving feedback on a website, crafting a mission statement, developing a tag line and identifying blogs to target for outreach – all things I can do, and that don’t always take a ton of time.

How could you not want to help the Piedmont Wildlife Center?

I quickly completed my first challenge – coming up with a tagline for the Piedmont Wildlife Center. It took me all of 5 minutes, but as anyone who has worked on taglines before knows, the more options you have to look at, the better. Now, I don’t know if one of my taglines will get picked, but hopefully my suggestions help a bit.

Overall, I really like Sparked’s concept. I think microvolunteering is a great way to engage people online, and it certainly taps into the power of crowdsourcing. I was a bit disappointed with the variety of organizations and activities – I think there could be some more creative tasks assigned to the Sparked network overall, but this is something that will grow with time as it attracts more users and organizations. I also would like to see them have a deeper layer of skills categorization. Sometimes it may be useful to an organization to be able to reach out to someone on Sparked and seek specific help from an expert. Yes, that is virtual volunteering, but it might be a nice, easy feature to add.

Definitely check out Sparked and see if you can help some non-profits – and do a good deed today. Yes, you can spend 5 less minutes a day on Facebook and live – I promise!

 

Post By Brian Wesolowski (137 Posts)

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Discussion2 Comments

  1. Jayne Cravens says:

    “One website takes the concept of virtual volunteering a step further though, into the realm of Microvolunteering.”

    Thanks for affirming that microvolunteering is, indeed, virtual volunteering.

    “was a bit disappointed with the variety of organizations and activities – I think there could be some more creative tasks assigned to the Sparked network overall”

    Creating microvolunteering assignments is very difficult for most nonprofits – and, quite frankly, often not worth their time. If the people behind microvolunteering would spend much more time helping nonprofits create microvolunteering assignments and to quickly manage contributions, you would see a lot more of such assignments. Until such capacity-building activities are undertaken, I fear microvolunteering will never reach its potential.

  2. Brian Wesolowski says:

    Jayne – thank you for the comment and information. Your link has a lot of great ideas for microvolunteering assignments that could be fruitful. I especially like the point about how microvolunteering can foster new supporters – it’s definitely not just about getting a task done – and honestly most of the assignments on Sparked were more about giving feedback than doing a task.

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