Online volunteering service celebrates its fifth year
01 March 2005

Bonn: The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme’s Online Volunteering (OV) service today marks five years of connecting volunteers to development organizations via the internet, sharing their skills and knowledge to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Some 600 organizations from both developed and poor countries have posted online volunteering assignments and have been assisted by thousands of online volunteers since the service was launched in 2000.

These organizations work to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, empower women, educate children, stop the spread of killer diseases like Aids, and cure other development ills identified as priorities within the framework of the MDGs.

To date, more than 30,000 people have joined the OV service and more than half of them have signed up for online assignments.

The tasks they undertake are as varied as the volunteers themselves: they translate documents, offer professional advice, create web sites, produce organizational newsletters and brochures, research and gather information, and develop fund raising strategies, to name but a few of their activities.

As UNV Executive Coordinator Ad de Raad highlights in his message celebrating the anniversary, the exchange between online volunteers and the organizations they support is a win-win situation.

“For the organizations involving online volunteers, the service has enabled them to tap into an enormous channel of expertise and resources – assistance they might never have got access to otherwise,” he says. “For the individual, online volunteering provides the opportunity to personally contribute to development work and gain a clearer understanding of the development needs and challenges.”

In 2004, more than 700 online volunteering assignments were posted to the service. Most organizations asked for more than one volunteer, with some requesting up to 50. At any given time, there are between 150 and 300 opportunities available on the service’s web site.

“Online volunteering, in an outstanding and highly effective way, helps to harness the wealth of willingness, resources and commitment that exists in the volunteer world,” says Mike Tozer of Global Hand, a Hong Kong-based NGO. “So often, people want to help, but simply don’t know how to get involved. The OV service provides a way that is both simple and accessible for such people and, yet, changes lives in very practical ways.”

UNV launched the service in March 2000 with NetAid, a non-profit organization created a year earlier as a joint initiative by Cisco Systems and the United Nations Development Programme to help eradicate extreme poverty. UNV and NetAid jointly developed and operated Online Volunteering until February 2004, when the service was entirely shifted to UNV and moved to its own web address,

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