An early look at the world of volunteering online

As someone who's been involved with voluntary and non-profit stuff for years, I was pretty surprised this week when I started researching what's already out there in web world for volunteers. Never knew any of it existed, and to be honest there's a good reason why.

None of them are exciting, and their approach is hugely self-service. Big and yes, boring, sites full of information about volunteering opportunities. Completely dependent on proactive volunteers going online, wading through the sites out there and finding the opportunity relevant to them. In our world of instant gratification and information delivered how you want it, when you want it, into whatever space is most convenient, these sites might as well be invisible to the audiences we're talking about with the Urban Survival Project.

It is still early stages, and I'm working on a more detailed analysis of how volunteering currently works online and where exactly the opportunities lie, but I think I can reasonably safely say that the findings will back up why we need to do what we're doing, and our approach to doing it. There is a real need to bring social engagement into the spaces we all use, in ways that remove the effort barriers to getting involved, and make it easy for the busy generation to make the differences they'd like to.

Anyway, having scanned through loads of volunteering sites including many that are specifically for whichever charity is hosting it, here's the list I'm going to look at seriously. Where I can, I'll sign up as a member and see where it takes me. My aim is to really understand what they're all about and why they haven't captured our collective imaginations. When I'm done I expect to be able to show where the Urban Survival Project will both differentiate and fit in. Maybe using a basic 2D grid quadrant - some sort of adaptation of a BCG matrix.

I'll probably drop some and add others to whittle it down to the sites we should take seriously. If you can think of any good ones I'm missing that we should look at, let me know.

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