A recently published study suggests that there is a positive correlation between volunteers’ use of the Internet and their commitment to voluntary work. Although the authors are careful to point out that correlation does not imply causality, the study, published by Emrich and Pierdzioch in Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, offers some intriguing suggestions that by engaging with their traditional volunteers online non-profit organizations may be able to build a more satisfied and committed bodies of volunteers. The study comprised a survey among volunteers with the German Red Cross. A total of 1941 complete questionnaires were analysed. The study found that more intense use of the Internet, either for the voluntary work itself or for visits to the webpage of the GRC, correlated with higher levels of satisfaction with the volunteer’s commitment to the organization and a greater expressed willingness to increase that commitment. The authors suggest that these results may be interpreted in terms of the social capital associated with being a volunteer, concluding with the suggestion that “volunteers can use the Internet as a low cost and always available means that helps them to improve their connection to communication, decision-making and control processes in ‘their’ organizational unit and beyond”. This survey-based study of a single organization begs some interesting questions: might qualitative studies across a broader range of organizations be able to identify the mechanisms at play in more detail and could this offer a more nuanced perspective on the forms of voluntary work and digital engagement that benefit one another most?
A newly published book focused on the management of museum volunteers stresses the significance of emerging digital opportunities in this sector. Museum volunteers can undertake a variety of useful tasks online, including cataloguing, translation and transcription activities related to the digitisation and enhancement of collections. These opportunities offer ways to expand the demographic diversity of volunteers and to make involvement accessible to those for whom a regular on-site form of volunteering might be difficult to achieve. The online presence of a museum’s volunteer programme offers a means to engage with volunteers both old and new and to match volunteers up with suitable opportunities. An interesting UK-based example of a museum using online volunteer outreach is the Wardown Park Museum in Luton, whose Museum Makers site inspires a wide array of different forms of community engagement.