Volunteers are an incredible resource for nonprofit organizations. Without them, a lot of nonprofits would not be able to run their programs, raise funds from the public or even serve their beneficiaries fully. This is because so many nonprofits have no paid workforce and are run entirely by volunteers. Historically, volunteers have been crucial to supporting during disasters across the globe.
What though does volunteering mean? According to Wikipedia, “Volunteering is a voluntary act of an individual or group freely giving time and labour for community service.” I like to define volunteering as the act of giving the gift of your time to a cause.
Volunteering Means A Lot More Now
For so long, when I hear the word “volunteering”, what comes to mind is an opportunity to lend my hands and feet to a cause and this is due to the fact that the history of organized volunteering as we know it today started during World War II, when young people, especially women, organized themselves to helping and caring for injured soldiers.
But increasingly, especially due to the power of the digital world and travel, volunteering has become commonplace in many societies. People now travel far from home to volunteer in other communities, offering their skills to make the world a better place and you see young people not only lending their hands and feet but also lending their tweets.
According to the 2017 Volunteering in America report, Gen Z will have the highest number of volunteers recorded within the next 10 years, due to the use of technology. This number is expected to exceed Millennials by more than 45%.
This report rings true seeing how in just one month after we launched Nzuriaiki.com; an online platform that showcases volunteer opportunities in Nigeria, allowing organizations find nonprofit easier and youths find volunteer opportunities, we received over 2,000 sign-ups. Technology is not only making a significant difference in conventional industries but also in the way people volunteer. Despite the pandemic, volunteering continued to thrive as people looked for other ways to give their time and skills without leaving their homes.
The Power of Digital
I remember my days in the University of Lagos as a member of AIESEC; a student-run organization on campus. We would go out seeking for nonprofits that had active projects and pitch the idea of having international interns/volunteers work with their organization. Many at the time couldn’t find local volunteers, international volunteers seemed farfetched.
Having worked in the nonprofit space in Nigeria for over a decade, recruiting and working with over 10,000 volunteers across the country through Beyond the Classroom Foundation, Carrington Youth Fellowship, Young African Leaders Initiative Nigeria, AIESEC, Global Shapers Community and the World Youth Alliance, I have learned that technology is an advantage. The changing dynamics in volunteerism through the power of digital technology has expanded the demographics of our volunteers by allowing people with mobility issues or physical disabilities also volunteer easily.
We are in an era of rapid digital transformation. Now, more than ever, a lot of organizations are utilizing technology and the internet to recruit and engage volunteers globally. Nonprofits like GivingWay, Idealist, and DoSomething are also harnessing the power of digital to promote volunteerism across the globe involving both young and old.
Tech Changes How We Work
In Nigeria, Nzuriaiki has created opportunities for young people to gain skills through volunteering. It also provides a platform for members of diaspora communities who are interested in volunteering for nonprofits in Nigeria but cannot travel for visa or safety reasons, to simply volunteer online. The platform not only makes it easier for youths to volunteer, but it also promotes volunteerism and service in the country.
Today’s younger generation of volunteers perform acts of service in ways that the world has never seen all thanks to the digital power of technology. They’re able to leverage technology and through their social media platforms, they promote the amazing work nonprofits they believe in are doing, they create amazing videos content to showcase the impact and drive fundraising for nonprofits in need all online without physically being present.
Looking back at my journey in the nonprofit space in the last decade, I’ve come to realize that when an organization intentionally harnesses the power of digital technology, it pays off in an exponential return. And the best part about it is: everyone can leverage the power of digital technology.
Raquel Daniel is a community mobilizer, development strategist and educator working in marginalized communities in Nigeria focusing on education for children and sexual & reproductive health for adolescent girls through Beyond the Classroom Foundation. She is the Co-founder of Nzuriaiki.com, an online platform designed to showcase volunteer opportunities in Nigeria. Prior to Co-founding NzuriAiki.com, she served as the Admin lead at the Secretariat of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (in the office of the Vice President). Raquel is also the author of FLOW: a girl’s guide to menstruation and There Is a New Virus in Town: a coronavirus awareness book for children.