How to Volunteer with the United Nations

Become a United Nations Virtual Volunteer

A girl in the Democratic Republic of Congo looks on at the activity at a UN peacekeepers camp.
A girl in the Democratic Republic of Congo looks on at the activity at a UN peacekeepers camp.
Uriel Sinai/Stringer/Getty Images

Even if you can't commit a year or two of your life right now to volunteerism, the Internet has paved the way for you to become a virtual volunteer. You may be a student, a stay-at-home mom or dad, or you may have a disability -- that's OK. As long as you're committed to making a difference, you can serve the UNV's online volunteer program from a tour bus, igloo, dormitory or sprawling mansion. As you've probably guessed already, the demographic and number of online volunteers is slightly different from the field volunteer statistics: 40 percent are from developing nations and 3,000 people at any given time are serving.

Any organization that you may potentially work with through UN's Online Volunteering program must meet certain criteria. First, the organization must be a nonprofit. Second, the organization must prove that its programs "benefit developing countries and contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)" [source: UN]. The organization must also support the Charter of the United Nations and have a mission statement that echoes the UN's guiding principles.These are programs that deal with:

When you register online at the UNV Online Volunteering Web site, you'll have access to search openings with approved organizations. (You must be the age of majority in your home country to use the online volunteering site.) You'll then apply directly to the partner organization that has openings in your area of expertise. If you get the slot, you'll work directly with the organization that selected you, and they'll provide feedback about your work when you complete the agreed-upon project. You'll also provide feedback about working with them. Then, the organization will present you with a certificate of appreciation, acknowledging your service.

As we mentioned earlier, there are countless ways to volunteer online, such as by building a Web site or translating health education brochures. The beauty of online volunteerism with the United Nations is that you do the work at your convenience -- even if it's for a group thousands of miles away. You can continue to apply for projects with the same organization or try your hand working with different organizations registered with the online volunteering program.