Here's where to safely give back and volunteer
Maggie Stamets is a writer for BUILT BY GIRLS, which prepares the next generation of female and non-binary leaders to step into their power and break into their careers. WAVE is the backbone of BUILT BY GIRLS: it’s a 1:1 matching program that connects high school and college students with top tech professionals across the country. For more information and to sign up check out builtbygirls.com.
Many are gearing up for a long winter filled with Zoom holidays and limited social interaction. One way to fight off this year’s particularly acute seasonal blues is to give back through volunteering.
Seasonal volunteering often conjures up images of serving meals to people experiencing homelessness or delivering toys for local tots. While these in-person opportunities are still available, space may be limited due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
Think about the causes that matter deeply to you as you’re likely going to be more motivated to volunteer for an organization or cause near and dear to you.
Nonprofits are always looking for skilled volunteers who can help with their digital platforms, fundraising, outreach, advocacy, and social media efforts. Many of these opportunities are remote and can help hone professional skills while adding impressive experience to a resume.
If you’re still not sure where to start, check out these virtual volunteering opportunities:
Volunteer with the LGBTQ community
The Trevor Project is the nation’s leading crisis resource for LGBTQ youth. They are currently looking for Crisis Counselors who will be trained to answer chat messages or texts online from young people who are struggling with issues like coming out, LGBTQ identity, depression, and suicidal thoughts.
Tap your local LGBTQ Center. The Center in Denver, for example, has volunteers make weekly check-in phone calls to elderly LGBTQ people who may just need someone to chat with. There are likely similar local opportunities where you live.
Assist the differently-abled
Be My Eyes is a free app that connects a volunteer with blind or low-vision individuals through a video call. Volunteers assist with anything from reading a food label or instructions to navigating a new or unfamiliar area. Given the all-virtual connection, volunteers can serve from anywhere without a time commitment.
Bookshare is a virtual library specifically for those with learning impairments, low vision, or physical disabilities. All the titles are extremely accessible with large, highlighted font and braille options. Volunteers can either scan in texts or proofread and format files already uploaded titles.
Save the environment
Volunteering ZSL Instant Wild means watching videos of animals from all over the world and identifying and tagging them for conservation experts. The crowd-sourcing project helps scale up important animal monitoring work and helps scientists protect wildlife and increase biodiversity.
Zooniverse is a popular platform for people-powered research for millions of worldwide volunteers to assist professional researchers. The goal is to enable research that wouldn’t be possible, or otherwise practical.
Career and professional volunteer opportunities
CareerVillage aims to make career advice accessible to every student no matter where they live or what their parents do. Professionals volunteer to answer questions emailed from curious students, and every exchange is recorded in a growing open-access library for future reference on career readiness.
BUILT BY GIRLS prepares the next generation of female and non-binary leaders to step boldly into careers powered by technology. WAVE is the backbone of BUILT BY GIRLS: it’s a one-on-one matching program that connects high school and college students with top tech professionals across the country.
Looking for something else?
If you want something different or that uses a specific skill, check out these volunteer databases:
Volunteer Match has hundreds of volunteer opportunities and can be customized to put certain skills to work.
DoSomething.org is a database of causes and groups that need volunteer assistance. It also has information on how to start a local organization.
Catchafire matches volunteers with nonprofits looking for specific roles. This is one option for a person who is looking to build their skills as they job search, take a break from school, or figure out their next professional steps.
Give back to your community by volunteering your time with local organizations like women’s shelters, homeless shelters, food banks, toy drives, retirement homes, environmental groups, and more.
If your budget permits, you can always donate to the organization championing the causes you care about. Especially during the colder months, many organizations gladly accept donations of blankets, coats, food, feminine products, or other goods that can help people make it through winter.
Read more information and tips in our Advice section