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Microvolunteering: volunteering for busy people

Anita Kerwin-Nye • Things to do • Feb 17, 2022 • 10 mins

Doing good in your community

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Have you ever thought about volunteering in your community but have been unable to commit your time? Let’s face it, life’s busy and we don’t always have time to regularly lend a hand. Volunteering and doing good in your community has many benefits, not just for the people and projects you’re helping, but it also gets you out of the house, meeting new people and you'll feel a huge amount of pride and satisfaction.

We speak to OS Champion Anita Kerwin-Nye about microvolunteering and offer suggestions on how you can volunteer in your community without needing to commit to a huge amount of time.

volunteering gardening 

Microvolunteer by helping to plant trees

What's microvolunteering?

In my day job at YHA I have been fortunate enough to be running Generation Green – connecting over 100,000 children and young people to adventures in nature. Many of these are microadventures and involve small acts of volunteering that benefit both nature and well-being.

In a busy world the demands on our time are many and fitting in long term volunteering roles can be challenging. And, even with time, many people want to try out different approaches and organisations before settling on a bigger commitment. This is where the concept of microvolunteering comes in.

volunteering beach clean

Microvolunteer at your local beach clean

Microvolunteering is about small acts to benefit a good cause that can be done to fit in with the the volunteer's schedule and interests. Examples include signing petitions, setting up a bug hotel, letter writing to the lonely and picking up litter whilst out walking or on the beach. In a nutshell, microvolunteering is volunteering that can be done in small bursts or periods of time.

So, why microvolunteer? As mentioned, it allows you to fit volunteering into your busy lives, there’s no pressure of commitment, you’ll be helping to improve your community, you’ll spend time in nature and you’ll improve your wellbeing. Doing good makes us feel food!

Microvolunteering connects us to nature

Microvolunteering is a great solution for spending time in nature in a busy world. Many small volunteering opportunities can be done within our daily exercise or with a step onto our doorstep or simply just by looking up.

One example is GoodGym, a nationwide community of people who combine doing good in their communities with exercising. There’s no obligation to commit and you can accept tasks around your local area when you find yourself free. These tasks may include things like picking up shopping for the elderly, planting trees at the local park and sorting cans for a foodbank. What’s unique about GoodGym is that the work is (not too) physical and you’re encouraged to run, walk or cycle to each assignment, so you can do good and get fit at the same time.

citizen scientists RSPB garden watch 

Becoming a citizen scientist

Within microvolunteering there are also opportunities to become citizen scientists. This involves specific acts of microvolunteering that crowd source important information for larger research projects, often helping nature. One of the best known is the RSPB Garden Watch. The Marine Conversation Society also encourage you to become a citizen scientist at your local beach watch, which provides important information which is used to drive positive environmental change.

Runtalkrun volunteering 

Run and talk for wellbeing

Microvolunteering connects us to each other

By adding our inputs to the greater good microvolunteering and citizen science helps creates a movement for nature that can lift us all. It also allows us to meet new people in our neighbourhood, make lifelong friends, learn more about our community and as a result, gives us a rewarding purpose. Some microvolunteering opportunities focus on improving the wellbeing of yourself and others. An example is RunTalkRun which provides mental health support by encouraging people to run and walk together. Anyone can join and talk about their own mental health (or just listen) with others who may be in the same boat.

volunteering elderly 

Volunteer by helping the elderly

How to do good in your community?

If you want to try one thing at a time, then here are some of the best supported microvolunteering and citizen science projects for the year ahead. Some are attached to specific dates and others are year round. All have free resources to support action and the projects can be done alone or with friends and family, at school or workplaces and are suitable for both children and adults.

Marine Conversation Society Beach Watch. Record litter found on the beach. Nationwide. Year round

GoodGym. Short volunteer assignments that incorporate exercise. Across England, mainly in the south. Year round

RunTalkRun. Run and talk about mental health. Worldwide. Year round

CPRE Star Count. Record the stars you spot. Nationwide. 26 February - 6 March 2022

Garden Butterfly Count. Record butterflies found in your garden. Nationwide. 15 July - 7 August 2022

Great British Spring Clean. Pledge to pick up as much litter as you can. Nationwide. 15 March – 10 April 2022.

Wildlife Trust's 30 Days Wild. Do something wild to help nature. Nationwide. June 2022

Wildlife Trust's Plant a Tree. Get free trees to plant in your school or community. Applications open November 2022.

If you want to know more about how to connect to nature when you get outside, try out these free tips from Generation Green.

Anita Kerwin-Nye is Executive Director at YHA and Lead at Every Child Should. She is an Ordnance Survey Champion. Connecting young people to nature and encouraging social action are part of her life time mission.

Published: Feb 17, 2022 Edited: Mar 29, 2022

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