It’s been startling to read recently that the inequality gap that has existed in our country since well before the COVID-19 pandemic began is actually growing more rapidly today.
With increased inequality comes a decline in our freedoms.
At VolunteerMatch, it’s in our DNA to look to one another in the spirit of service and ask how we can address social inequalities, whether they are a lack of access to healthcare, or proper education, or the injustices of extreme poverty, homelessness, and hunger, which erode our basic humanity.
For over 22 years, we have seen that volunteering is a great equalizer. It empowers neighbors to join hands and support each other across all boundaries -- real or imagined. It allows us a neutral territory where we can create an environment for healthy, robust dialogue and understanding.
As we emerge from the Fourth of July holiday in the United States, this concept of how volunteering contributes to a free society is top of mind for our team.
The dictionary defines “freedom” as “the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” For us, supporting people in growing their individual freedoms is key to developing a freer society -- one where we all have equal access to opportunities and services, and as a result, are able to support ourselves and our families and contribute to the larger community.
When any one of us is struggling to express our freedom in a way that allows us to make the contributions we are here to make, and when that struggling is made worse because of unforeseen conditions such as the economic impacts of COVID-19 and continued inequities in our social contracts, we turn to volunteering. We turn to helping one another. We each feel the larger truth at work: that by supporting one another in service, we can play a major role in supporting transformation in our communities.
Volunteering Can Play A Major Role in Expanding Our Freedoms
Access to volunteering is key to combating larger societal challenges and creating a freer society. Our public sector, obviously, plays a key role in this work. But so too does the social sector. As members of the social sector, we are continually looking for ways to make it easier for people to “be the change they wish to see” in their local, national and global communities.
As the world’s largest volunteering network, we make volunteer recruiting services available for over 130,000 nonprofits. Over 3.9 million volunteers are currently needed for causes in our network today. Additionally, through our Open Network API and our CSR partners including America’s Charities, Benevity, Bright Funds, CyberGrants, and YourCause, employees are able to access our volunteering network and align their talents with causes that they love.
We also are leading the way with first-of-its-kind public sector/nonprofit technology partnerships -- like the one we’ve recently launched with the #CaliforniansForAll service initiative to power its new state-wide volunteer engagement platform.
And, in the spirit of leveling the playing field and ensuring access for all, we created VolunteerMatch Connect, where anyone with a web property -- be they solopreneurs, bloggers, small or large organizations, or simply concerned citizens -- can turn their websites into volunteer action hubs.
As we look toward the future, we are continuing to build partnerships to give people even more access to volunteering through our open technology solutions.
How Can You and Your Organization Offer More Access to Volunteering?
There is more work to be done. And we can’t do it alone.
As Jerome Tennille pointed out in a recent blog post, Fighting Racism Through Diverse and Inclusive Volunteer Engagement Programming, accessibility is about being flexible and removing barriers.
When creating volunteering opportunities in nonprofit and for-profit organizations you work with, notice how you can bring some thinking to the table that encourages flexibility, and creates equity and inclusivity. Based on the constraints of your employees and your volunteers, what barriers are you seeing, and how can you potentially work together to overcome them?
Expanding Our Freedoms Starts with Each of Us
There are a variety of ways each of us can volunteer to put a stop to injustices and discrimination and ensure and expand our basic human rights and freedoms. If you need some fresh ideas, we’re proud to offer a wide selection of broad, searchable cause areas on VolunteerMatch that support this critical move forward, including:
Race and Ethnicity: Over 4,800 volunteers are needed within the race and ethnicity cause area, to work on projects and support nonprofits working to forward racial justice
Justice and Legal: There are many ways that you can give to help others within the justice and legal cause area, and close to 76,000 volunteers are currently needed to help make our world more just and kind
Advocacy and Human Rights: Over 360,000 volunteers are needed for projects related to advocacy and human rights serving a wide range of constituents
LGBTQIA+: Pride Month may be over, but close to 11,000 virtual volunteers are still needed today to support LGBTQIA+-related causes and organizations
Food Banks: Over 22,000 volunteers are needed today, and food banks are doing a great job innovating to create safe ways to volunteer in-person following CDC guidance
Meals on Wheels: Nearly 15,000 volunteers are wanted to deliver meals to seniors in your community and help keep our seniors at home and living independently
Food Drives: Food drives are always a great way to support food security, and today on VolunteerMatch, we have close to 21,000 volunteers needed in this area.
Homeless and Housing: Over 97,000 volunteers are currently needed to support people in need of safe, fair housing
Expanding our Freedoms Together
The challenges we are facing as a society are sizable, but together -- as volunteers, nonprofit leaders and for-profit leaders -- we can work to ensure we are expanding our freedoms, removing barriers and making volunteering more accessible. We know we have a long way to go toward this vision being fully realized. But are inspired and have confidence that by continuing the work to create a society that supports and values each of its members equally, where we are motivated and empowered to take action to improve the world for our fellow human beings through acts of volunteer service and mutual assistance.