COVID-19 has dramatically changed our lives, and many of us are feeling less connected to others. But, even as we learn to navigate these changes, it’s also empowering to see so many public illustrations of how we are connected — and that, when we each take actions towards helping our communities, and work together, we can make huge strides in combating these larger societal challenges.
Volunteering, A Positive Impact in Your Communities and Yourself
By doing so, you are also taking care of yourself. Studies have shown that volunteering is good for your mental health. According to a VolunteerMatch study with UnitedHealthcare in 2017, there are many mental and emotional benefits to volunteering with:
93% reporting an improved mood
79% reporting lower stress levels
88% reporting increased self-esteem
Additionally, volunteering is good for employees as well:
91% of the people we surveyed believe it is important for an employer to allow employees to volunteer on paid time — offering a good opportunity to bring your wellness and social impact programs together at work.
89% of employees believe that companies who provide volunteer activities offer a better overall working environment than those who do not.
77% of employees say company-sponsored volunteer activities are essential to employee well-being.
Start with Your Passion
So what is the first step in deciding how to make a difference? Start with what you are passionate about. You will find that you will not only be bringing joy to others by doing this, you will also be giving yourself joy. Then, decide how you would like to be of service to your community. It could be something that is related to your hobbies, skills, or where you would like to grow your knowledge. Lastly, look at your schedule and evaluate how much time you have to commit to volunteering. Some people have more time on their hands, while others have less. Be realistic about your time. You may want to start small and see how it fits into your schedule and build from there, so that it feels easy to do on a regular basis.
Now that you have a solid plan with what you want to do and how it fits into your life, what are ways that you can give back?
1. Volunteer Virtually
With the flexibility and people practicing physical distancing, the interest in virtual volunteering is rising as it’s something that can be done at home remotely, typically with a computer and internet connection, or by phone. We at VolunteerMatch have seen a large shift to virtual opportunities, which is now at over 630,000. According to our survey in March, 32% of nonprofits started creating more virtual opportunities. With so many opportunities, you are sure to find something that aligns with a cause that you are passionate about. Here a few ideas to get you started:
Veterans and Military: With Memorial coming up on May 25, it’s a great time to support veterans, those in the military and military families. With over 62,000 virtual opportunities, you can find a way to be of service to those who have or are serving our country.
Animals: If you have a soft spot in your heart for animals, you have over 58,000 virtual opportunities to select how to give your time in supporting our furry friends
2. Volunteer in Person
As we are continuing to practice physical distancing, volunteering in person may not be something you first think of. Communities are needing your help now more than ever when it comes to volunteering in person as some volunteering can’t be done virtually. You can volunteer safely by following the CDC guidelines:
Wash your hands often and for 20 seconds each time. If you don’t have access to soup and water, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and cover all of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Wear a face mask to cover your mouth and nose.
Maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
Before you volunteer in person, evaluate if it makes sense for you. Points Of Light created a list of things to consider such as any underlying health conditions, your age, continuing to stay up to date on COVID-19 information in your area, and understanding what the risks are.
The demand for in person volunteering is continuing to grow as the needs in our communities grow and less people are volunteering in person. Here are areas where we are seeing a larger need:
Food Banks: There is a growing need for in person volunteering, especially for food banks, which are seeing a significant increase in demand and a large decrease in the number of volunteers. According to a survey of the nation’s food banks in March conducted from Feeding America, 98% reported increased demand for food assistance and 67% of Food Banks are currently accepting and are in need of volunteers. With over 14,000 opportunities, you can find ways to volunteer at your local food bank.
Homeless and Housing: There are nearly 110,000 opportunities you can select in how you would like to support one of the most vulnerable populations in your communities: the homeless. This has been a growing concern in the U.S. and with the uncertainty of the current environment, it will continue to be a challenge within our communities, and the only way to combat it is if we solve it together.
Hospice: With over 2.9 million opportunities, you can see that many people in hospice need your support and there are a variety of ways you can help.
Elderly: Many of the older population in the U.S. need our support. There are a variety of ways to support this vulnerable population with over 2.4 million opportunities.
3. Help with COVID-19
As you are reading about the challenges people are facing from COVID-19, you may be wanting to contribute your time and energy to causes that are directly supporting communities in need. Through the Help with Covid-19 Portal, you can select from over 366,000 virtual and local volunteers currently needed across the United States to aid communities impacted by the coronavirus.
4. Turn Your Website Into A Volunteer Action Hub
From research we performed during the month of March, we learned that 93% of nonprofit organizations are seeing volunteer cancellations, with some losing 100% of their volunteer force.
So, how can you help to recruit even more volunteers?
If you have a website as a solopreneur, blogger, or large organization, you can easily turn your website into a volunteer action hub with VolunteerMatch Connect. With a simple copy and paste code snippet, this self-contained module easily integrates into your website in a standard ad-sized space, giving you direct access to search and connect to opportunities through the Help with Covid-19 Portal, while allowing nonprofits the ability to respond quickly to the frequently-changing needs of their communities. With this free digital product, you have the power to play a leadership role in filling the growing gap of volunteers needed by supporting the effective recruitment and coordination of volunteers at a local, state, and federal level.
You Can Make A Difference Now
There are a variety of ways that you can give back. It all begins with your passion. You are not only serving others, but you are also doing something positive for yourself. If we all come together during this time, we can overcome the challenges we are facing and become stronger.
Volunteering During COVID-19 EBook
A Compilation Of Quantitative And Qualitative Data On Volunteering During COVID-19
Get insights into the new reality of volunteering during and beyond COVID-19 with early findings from the growing body of knowledge we are assembling — part of a series we’ll continue to pulse on over the coming months. Plus, a few tips on what to be aware of when shaping your programs.
Erin Halley is the Senior Manager, Business Development and Marketing for VolunteerMatch. She is passionate about making a positive impact and contributing to a better world. She has extensive experience in marketing from digital to events to tradeshows. Her background includes marketing for an international consumer electronics company, a leading national health advocacy nonprofit, a well-known healthcare institution and an arts non-profit. In her free time, she enjoys riding her bike and doing yoga.