Micro projects for macro impact

posted by
Colleen Dunbar,

Project Specialist,
ASU Lodestar Center

Linton Weeks wrote an article on NPR back in 2009 on microvolunteering, and he said it right: we live in a micro world. “What began with microscopes and microbiology has morphed into microeverything.” Twitter is a microblogging platform, Kayla McKinney previously discussed the trend of microgiving, and now there’s microvolunteering.

Microvolunteering is an easy, commitment-free way to give back. Volunteers can choose the projects, causes, and organizations they help, and organizations can potentially get help from numerous volunteers. It can almost be seen as a form of crowdsourcing.

How does it work?

Sparked is a project-based microvolunteering site, where nonprofit organizations “challenge” the Sparked community, and the volunteers then respond. Volunteers may offer suggestions or solutions to the challenge, or they may give a “thumbs up” to other participants’ answers – either option will help the challenging organization get the best possible solution (or solutions) to their challenge.

I am relatively new to the Sparked community, having only been an active member for a couple of months, but it’s the microvolunteering site that I am most familiar with. However, it is not the only one. Help from Home’s tag line is “Change the world in just your pyjamas!”, but they also encourage volunteers to change the world from their classroom, work, and more. They also emphasize the fact that projects take “between 10 seconds and 30 minutes” – again focusing on the ease and speed of microvolunteering. VolunteerMatch is a great tool for nonprofits to recruit volunteers, as well as for volunteers to see exactly what opportunities are available in their area. This site has two functions; the first is traditional volunteering, like making Thanksgiving food baskets for a food bank, or wrapping gifts to raise money. The second is virtual volunteering, like reviewing scholarship applications for a foundation, or guest blogging about a specific cause.

Time to Give a Little

posted by
Kayla L. McKinney,
Project Specialist
ASU Lodestar Center

Reality: I think your cause is awesome. In fact, I think your cause is fantastic. You want to help the homeless? Me too! Rescue dogs? Me too! Make sure everyone has access to clean water? I’m on board! 

Other reality: I don’t have the time or money for your cause.

One more reality: I still want to help.


I know a lot of people who understand my plight. I’m a grad student, after all! And being a grad student means I’ve got more than a few limitations, economically speaking. So, how do you, as a nonprofit organization, get me to help you?

Jump head-first into the world of microgiving.

Microgiving is when a person donates small, seemingly insignificant amounts of money to a cause or a nonprofit. And it’s exploding in popularity, especially with our increasingly digital lifestyles. Many microgiving websites make it outrageously simple to donate, and with mobile giving on the rise, we can definitely expect an increase in the number of smaller donations.

I had a chance to chat with Leo Ramirez, President, CEO, and Co-Founder of MiniDonations, and he summed it up excellently: “When compounded, small donations of one's time, talent, and treasure can profoundly impact our world. Not only are these gifts more accessible — regardless of age or income — they're habit-forming: transforming a small giver today into a major donor tomorrow.”

In other words, it’s worth your time to get into the microgiving spirit. And there are lots of ways to approach it. What makes microgiving so neat is how creative some of the organizations have gotten with it. Below are a few of my favorite microgiving options — some your organization can use, some you can be inspired by, and some you can donate to yourself. So, go ahead - think small!