How You Can Help in the Wake of Tragic Events

You’ve likely heard the news and watched the coverage of recent mass shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton. You may even be reading this from a community affected by gun violence. A lot of VolunteerMatch staff live in Northern California and the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting hit so close to home. Tragedies like this often spur us to ask what can be done to help. Below are strategies you can implement today to take actionable steps.

How to help when immediate disaster relief is needed

Our first thought is often to get to the affected area and offer assistance. However, certification and special training can be required of initial responders to ensure the safety of those affected. The Red Cross offers to train and station volunteers for disaster preparedness. If you’re interested, click the following link and narrow the location to your area to sign up to their postings:

If you’re not able to get to the affected area, that’s okay! There are ways you can help right where you reside.

What you can do to help where you live

You may think that there isn’t a way to help where you are, but consider that there are themes to tragic events that we can address in our own communities. For example, can you help a church shore up its safety program, donate time at an after-school program, write compelling content for an organization, or help people cope by fielding calls and texts at a crisis line?

Before committing to any opportunity to help create change, take a moment to assess what you’re interested in positively affecting in your area. Ask yourself questions like what upsets me that I want to change? What topics can I discuss for hours that always motivate me to take action? Answer these questions honestly. Those causes that you just thought of are the ones that you can use to drive your search. It’s really important to reach out to an organization whose mission and focus interest you so to ensure you follow through.

Once you’re ready, get started by visiting and filter volunteer opportunities by location – or go virtual – and cause area (e.g. disaster relief, crisis support, immigrants and refugees, advocacy & human rights) to find active opportunities to give back. Please note, you must be logged in to the site to view opportunities and sign up to help.

Use your voice to advocate

If you’re unable to give time to volunteer in your area, consider expressing your thoughts to your elected officials! This is an important strategy because, in these moments, a collective voice can influence policy. To keep that momentum, email, call, and/or send a letter to your elected officials and ask them what they’re doing to make your community safer.

Families USA has shared sample contact templates to use to clearly frame your thoughts: Share your ideas and keep engaged where you can.

Communities take time to heal

Keep in mind, recovery takes time and affected areas will likely feel the effects of life-altering events for generations. You can help promote communal healing and resiliency by servicing your community through a nonprofit whose mission reflects your values and interests.

Additionally, contact your local, and state officials and use your voice to advocate and stay engaged.

Finally, check out the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations to sign up for preparedness training so you can provide immediate support assistance.

If you’re a nonprofit in need of volunteers, please register to our nonprofit network here:

Have other volunteer strategies? Share them in our comments below!


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