The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted nearly every sector of our societal system and brought chaos to industries around the world and right here at home. While it has directly or tangentially affected almost every facet of what we consider “normal daily life” (or used to consider normal, at least), it has had a particularly visceral impact on one particular segment of society that has a knack for flying under the radar and not getting as much publicity or appreciation as it deserves – volunteers. It is estimated that approximately 63 million Americans volunteer nearly 8 billion hours of time each year. That amounts to almost $200 billion in quantifiable value added across the United States, all thanks to the committed groups of non-profits and volunteers that use their passions and talents to make a difference.

However, with the “new normal” of social distancing, Safer-at-Home orders sweeping across the country, and the vast majority of major population centers across the country holing up inside their homes in a coordinated effort to flatten the curve and mitigate the impact of the pandemic, these volunteers find themselves unable to serve and offer the sweat equity they used to. This comes at a precarious time as non-profits and local charities are being leaned on more and more, and they are being forced to adapt and find ways to continue serving their communities without the regular framework of volunteers that are critical to the execution of their mission. Almost three-quarters of all non- profits report that volunteers are vital to their work. This leaves non-profits and local charities facing a monumental challenge of figuring out how to keep serving their communities on a skeleton crew.

So how are these groups adapting to the changes they are experiencing, both internally and externally as the communities they are serving also have evolving needs brought about by the pandemic. Enter the world of virtual volunteering. If you have not yet had the opportunity to check out the “Some Good News” videos on YouTube featuring John Krasinski, head on over and spend some time watching one of his episodes. With the closure of the outside world, people have turned to social media and virtual communities more than ever before. So even though how we are volunteering our passion, time, and talent may look drastically different now than it did 2 months ago, offering your attention, your energy, your positivity to others is still possible and necessary—maybe more so now than ever before, in fact. Every great newsletter has a list, so we will leave you with this list of the benefits of virtual volunteering:

  • It’s flexible. You can do it in the morning, you can do it in the evening, you can do it in the afternoon, on a weekend or a Wednesday.
  • It’s an easy way to give back. Those who are experienced volunteers know the tangible satisfaction that comes with helping to make a difference in the lives of others around you. And with virtual volunteering, all you need to do is pick up your phone or open your laptop – it is that simple!
  • It’s a new way to connect and expand your social network. You never know who you might meet or reconnect with, but there will definitely be others out there doing the same thing as you, and that is a great start to making new connections.
  • It’s a way to be a part of something larger than yourself. The world can sometimes feel giant, but personal connections are just a Zoom video conference away!

Looking for virtual volunteer options right now? Here are a few ideas to kick off your search:

  • Thank our Healthcare Heroes. Record a thank you video to encourage those on the front lines by submitting a video expressing your gratitude and then share the campaign with friends and family.
  • Heart House. Devices (laptops or tablets) help their teachers connect to their students for virtual help. Email Tori Hobbs at Heart House if you are able to provide technology devices you may not be currently using.
  • United Way Dallas Virtual Volunteering Opportunities. Send an encouraging e-message to patients and caregivers at Children’s Health and Parkland Hospital; or write letters/cards, create artwork, or donate new items (playing cards, dominoes sets, craft kits, adult coloring books with pens/markets, activity books, etc.) to senior living residences since they are required to be in social isolation.