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ARTICLE Online Microvolunteering Program

More than 62.8 million adults volunteered almost 8.1 billion hours at local and national organizations in 2010, according to Volunteering in America. With National Volunteer Week taking place from April 15-21, you may be thinking about ways you and your colleagues can participate in a meaningful way.


UnitedHealth Group's Office of Social Responsibility has combined technology with volunteering to offer a new microvolunteering program that allows users to contribute to causes and organizations they care about with skills-based volunteering in small time increments. Sparked.com is the technical platform through which the microvolunteering opportuntunities are offered.


"Microvolunteering" leverages employees' skills for high impact volunteering (e.g., finance, marketing, communications, graphic design), versus traditional volunteering, and can be done entirely online. Many microvolunteering engagements can be completed in as little as 15 minutes, making it easy for employees to participate by working it into their personal schedules during breaks, over lunch, or outside of work.


A pilot program began in 2011 that involved a group of 60 college hires who had joined the company within the past three years. Each employee was expected to fulfill at least three to five challenges and complete a feedback survey about their experience.


Participants helped nonprofits in 22 states and 12 countries in causes related to health, poverty, education, environment and youth. Results from the evaluation survey were encouraging, with 83 percent of respondents stating they would recommend microvolunteering to others.


A full-scale version of the program launched enterprise-wide the week of April 16. Participants can create a profile identifying their skills and interest areas and weekly matching challenges will be automatically sent to them for various nonprofits. Alternatively, they can find their own challenges through the site's search feature. A challenge could be anything from "Can you critique these logo designs?" to "How can we make our website more appealing?"


By microvolunteering, participants can connect with thousands of nonprofits across the world, demonstrating that small contributions really can make a big difference.