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Virtual Volunteering: Nine Creative Ways to Volunteer this Fall

by Kelsey Gardipee | Oct 2, 2020 11:32:53 AM

When the pandemic started, most of us imagined it would blow over by the end of the year so we could get back to normal before the holidays. However, in most parts of the Northwest + Pacific, the upcoming season will likely look far different than the last.

Changing the Way You Give

For many, the end of the year is usually filled with family, friends and finding time to volunteer. Given how difficult the year has been so far, there is an incredible demand for services provided by charities, but public health concerns have caused many organizations to put in-person volunteer experiences on hold. With the steep spike in need, sitting on the sidelines is simply out of the question and many charities still rely on volunteer efforts to meet their goals. (Many charities also need to see an increase in donations to meet their surging demand for services, however, today’s focus is on finding ways to give back without whipping out your wallet.)

In a year that has discouraged so many, find encouragement in seeking new ways to give your time to charity. We’ll be honest – this year is going to look and feel a lot different; volunteering may not bring the same sense of satisfaction as before. It may take a little more work to find an opportunity and any in-person volunteer experiences will need to incorporate health protocols. However, we can assure you that it will be worth it.

Charities Still Have Volunteer Opportunities

BBB turned to our trustworthy Charity Seal Holders for inspiration and information on the volunteer options available this year:

“There are all sorts of ways that volunteers can still be helpful from home. We have office volunteers that help us update spread sheets from their homes, and we are starting to have some back in shelter (slowly) to help with dog walking and dog path maintenance. One of my favorite things to offer up is doing a towel drive in your neighborhood. Collecting all the old towels from friends and neighbors and bringing them to the shelter. We can use them, and people don’t mind giving up some of their oldest towels.” – Barbara Baugnon, Vice President, Marketing Communications at Oregon Humane Society

“By thoughtfully pairing youth with a caring mentor and providing access to a range of new experiences, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound has long worked to support kids and close opportunity gaps across our community. Our agency continues to recruit new volunteers and introduce mentor-youth matches virtually so kids can get paired during the pandemic. With more than 600 youth on our waiting list, our need for mentors, especially men, is great.” Elizabeth Bly, Director of Corporate Relations at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Puget Sound

“As a consequence of COVID-19, the Kauai Independent Food Bank (KIFB) had to turn away volunteers from our warehouse to follow social distancing guidelines. We have opened up opportunities for volunteers at our off-site distribution events where we screen each volunteer and take their temperature. Volunteers are the core of KIFB. Without the volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to meet our mission.” – Kelvin Moniz, Executive Director of Kauai Independent Food Bank

Ways to Show Up for Your Community

Many human service organizations have no option but to continue to offer in-person volunteering experiences but may have limitations on the number of volunteers they can accommodate. Masks, gloves, temperature checks, social distancing measures and limits on group size can be expected. Reach out to your favorite charity to see what their needs for in-person volunteers are to determine how you can help.

However, there are a lot of organizations that have suspended or drastically cut down their in-person volunteering options. Don’t be discouraged, there are a variety of ways to volunteer this year but we may need to embrace creativity to find ways to be valuable

  1. Tech talk: There are a lot of organizations out there that could use a hand optimizing their website. If you’ve got the skills to help audit a website, offer SEO tips or help design a few new graphics, offer up your abilities! Many small organizations don’t have web or graphic designers on staff and would welcome a talented volunteer. 
  2. Share your skills: If you’ve got art skills or musical talent, consider offering a virtual lesson or performance. Contact a senior center, youth group or residential group home near you to arrange a virtual session.
  3. Offer office assistance: Opportunities to help with office tasks may not be posted online but many organizations would appreciate a few hours-worth of office help: updating spreadsheets, organizing files or helping with data entry are just a few ideas to get you started.
  4. Make mentoring magic: If school can be done via Zoom, so can tutoring. Children (and parents) could use emotional and social support. Many youth mentoring organizations are making virtual matches – sign up and make a new connection!
  5. Fluent favors: If you’re fluent in more than one language, there could be an opportunity to translate brochures or webpages into another language.
  6. Share gratitude: Charities are in overdrive fundraising to bring in donations to close funding gaps and may need help thanking donors for their support. Check with a charity close to your heart to see if you can help to amplify their fundraising efforts through helping with donor thank you letters or phone calls.
  7. Gather unwanted goods: Before jumping to gather in-kind donations of unused clothing and household items, check with your charity of choice to verify their needs and whether they are currently able to accept donations. If not, follow these four tips to safely selling your unwanted goods online and donate the proceeds instead.
  8. Open your home and heart: Many animal welfare organizations operate using foster models in tandem with or instead of running shelters. Animal lovers can be crucial to helping furry friends find forever homes by temporarily fostering animals waiting for adoption.
  9. Share your volunteer stories: If your favorite volunteer opportunity isn’t an option this year, don’t despair, share. Speak up on social media to share your connection to an organization’s mission and leverage your social network for support.

If you’re searching for an opportunity to give your time to charity this fall, don’t be discouraged by social distancing measures. There are plenty of opportunities out there if you’re willing to get creative and offer up assistance. To find a BBB Accredited Charity to lend your time to, visit give.org.

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