Sparked.com: Online Volunteering for Busy People (like you)

Oh the irony.

I have been feeling a little guilty that I just haven’t had time to work on my next TheSociallyConsciousBlog article. Things have gotten so busy lately. I was looking around our TSCB website bank, searching for inspiration and riddled with guilt when I decided to randomly click on a link. Low and behold I should land on Sparked.com – the “easy, social, online volunteering for busy people.”

I think it’s a sign.

Of course I’m not the only one who is busy. 73% of Americans (and about the same for Canadians) don’t volunteer and cite lack of time as the major reason. Sparked makes it easy for skilled professionals to help nonprofits get valuable work done, in a time frame that fits in with the demands of a full-time job. Sparked is labeled as the world’s first micro-volunteering network.

What is micro-volunteering you ask?

Well one of Sparked’s co-founders, Ben Rigby defines it using four characteristics.

Micro-volunteering is:

1. Convenient – It’s volunteering that fits into your schedule. It is typically done (although not always) via the Internet using a computer or smart phone.

2. Bite-sized – Tasks are broken into the small parts, so that you can complete the task in whatever time you have available.

3. Crowd-sourced – The nonprofit that needs help asks a group of volunteers for assistance. Micro-volunteers who have time, interest and the skills and are likely unknown to the nonprofit, do the work.

4. Network-managed – The time demands of the nonprofit staffer are reduced by giving much of the project management and quality review as possible to the network of micro-volunteers.

Check out the following video about Sparked and how it works. There are some astonishing facts in there!

Eager to start building myself an Empire State Building, I signed up. (You’ll have to watch the video to find out what I mean!)

I was asked about my skills and the causes that I am interested in so that I am matched with the challenges most suitable. Now when I log in at Sparked.com, my challenges are there waiting for me, thus saving me from having to search each time.

There are currently 3031 challenges on Sparked so you can be guaranteed that there is something that you will be able to help with and will be interested in. The challenges on my list include doing research for environmental organizations, critiquing an organizations website, helping an organization brainstorm blog article topics, helping to identify funding opportunities or aiding them in coming up with a new slogan. Through the tools built by The Extraordinaries, the group behind Sparked.com, nearly 300,000 people have micro-volunteered their time for nonprofits all over the world.

Need to read the benefits?

It’s great for volunteers because volunteer tasks are designed to be small and speedy, you can fit volunteering in at the bus stop, over lunch or even while cheering on your kids at soccer.

It’s digital volunteering!

Non-profit organizations can save money by having willing and able people help with the work. They can put the money they would be investing into activities that can be done by many micro-volunteers into other things that can help to drive their missions forward.  Plus they expand their talent pool of knowledgeable and skilled contributors who can help them get the job done efficiently and effectively.

For businesses they have a corporate experience called “Sparked Enterprise” to help companies around the world engage their employees and have impact. More than 90% of Fortune 500 companies have employee volunteer programs.

Skilled employees are of course incredibly busy and most employees would be willing to participate in company service days once or twice a year, but not every week. And for millennial employees that have grown up on text messages, video games, and Twitter, the experience of cleaning up a park isn’t all that attractive. Get your company involved and you have more than Saturday night to talk about around the water cooler.

This is an innovative initiative that is getting attention. Since 2009 they have received accolades in the form of numerous awards including:

  1. 2010 Rolex Young Laureates Award for Enterprise
  2. 2009 Ashoka Changemakers Award
  3. 2009 United Nations World Summit Youth Award
  4. 2009 FACT Social Justice Award
  5. 2009 Huffington Post Philanthropy Game Changer Award

Non-profits all around the world are using Sparked to get lots of their little jobs done. If you are a part of a non-profit that could use some help, consider signing up! It’s free and you’ll access plenty of talent professionals who want to help.

So if you think you can watch one less YouTube video or spend a little less time creeping the Facebook page of that hottie at your office, consider signing up on Sparked. You’ll feel great about helping out some great organizations and those videos will still be on YouTube when you’re done!

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