Decoding the Volunteering Landscape

If you woke up one morning and thought about doing something useful with your life... maybe volunteering, what would you do? Search the net I'd imagine. Your expectation would involve a quick search and an easy route to what you're thinking of. What you'd find however, is that your search would throw up so many options, each with their own particular focus and requirements, that you'd probably be overwhelmed to the point of giving up. If you persevered however, and selected a few sites to browse through, you'd hit the same problem again. Massive lists of projects and programmes and opportunities that you have to search through and individually sort. Only the most determined, or those who already know exactly what, how and where they want to volunteer are likely to make it through.

Have to say I made the same mistake. When I started this comparative exercise I figured I'd search the net, collate a list of volunteer sites out there worth looking, understand their offerings and gaps and then map them in some kind of grid to figure out where we need to fit and differentiate. Simple.

What I didn't realise is how many variations and options there were, how much text you have to wade through, and how organisational rather than personal many of them are; I think because of their focus on displaying opportunities rather than engaging people.

So I scrapped my initial approach and set up about trying to make sense of what's out there. Step 1 = some kind of categorisation. Here's my first draft...

General & Online Volunteering

Niche Volunteering

International, Development & Travel Volunteering

Regional UK

Regional US

Regional Other

NGOs that accept Volunteers

Volunteering Information

Next step is explore these, review the ones worth focusing on and see what we can we learn for future reference.

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