At the time of this writing, it has been 394 days since the first COVID case was verified in the United States. As we are all well aware, things spiraled quickly from there, and business, school and personal lives have not quite been the same since. Community Service is no exception, and the opportunities to help our communities with physical work have been limited to say the least.
And yet, the need is still there. If anything, the need—for everything from hunger and the elderly to mental illness—has increased. However, when difficult problems arise, we have seen volunteers rise to the task! If you are looking for ways to adapt to a situation that does not allow you to volunteer in-person, take a look at our virtual community service ideas for inspiration.
1. Virtual Food Drive
Traditionally, going door-to-door or setting up a collection booth for canned goods has been a great option to help supplement local food banks. But with limited in-person contact and more people using grocery delivery or curbside pickup, are these options enough? One alternative is to host a virtual food drive. Essentially, you can set up an online store to collect donations for your local food bank. This is a great option for the food banks because they don’t have to sort through donations which can take up time and resources. Instead, they get to purchase exactly the food that they know is needed.
2. Emails and Videos for Seniors
One of the biggest needs for seniors, especially those living alone or in retirement communities, is connection. Too often, this segment of our population is forgotten. That’s why many schools, youth groups and scout troops focus their community service events at these locations. But this group is particularly sensitive in COVID times, so in-person events are out of the question. One thing you can do is organize a platform for connecting safely with seniors. Set up virtual pen pals and provide suggestions for content that can be communicated digitally through email, video or FaceTime.
3. Collect School Supplies for Kids
When money is tight in a home, you can imagine a child’s school supplies might be one of the first things to get cut from the list. Similar to the virtual food drive, you can set up an online store to collect funds for a virtual school supply drive. This is a great option for both the buyer and the recipient. The buyer doesn’t need to go shopping for specific items, and the recipient (or teacher) can buy exactly what they need. In the instance that COVID gets worse and more school lockdowns are put into place, this could mean putting funds towards laptops and other virtual learning supplies.
4. Teach People Online
Do you have a skill that would be useful for people in your community to learn? First Aid, CPR, music lessons, math tutoring and voter registration are just a few examples of skills that can be taught virtually. Just set up your meeting on Zoom, Google Meet or another platform of your choice and share the event information on bulletin boards, email and social media. This is a great way to give back to your community virtually!
5. Offer Your Services for Good
If you have a specialized skill set that would be of benefit to a nonprofit in need, why not provide it pro bono? Do you have Photoshop or marketing skills? Help the local Rotary Club with its membership drive. Do you know multiple languages? Provide document translation services for a group serving the international community. You have much to offer, and it doesn’t have to be in-person. The benefit of offering your services digitally is that you can often do it on your own time.
6. Get Social About Mental Health
The latest studies show that youth mental health is worsening and mental illness among adults was increasing. Partner with a local or national mental health organization to use your social media networking power for good. Partnering with an accredited organization helps ensure you are sharing content that is accurate and helpful. Reduce the stigma about mental health among your network and open up a conversation. You just may help save someone’s life!
7. Get Your Community Moving
Exercise is proven to reduce anxiety and depression as well as improving self-esteem. Whether you are a fitness guru or you could stand to get a little more fit, help motivate your community to do it by your side! Set up a virtual exercise-from-home meetup group and get your yoga, pilates, weights, cardio or Zumba on! You could stick to one activity or rotate through them each week.
8. Promote Healthy Eating
In the same vein of getting healthy, let’s help our communities eat right. We know many families are extra busy these days and could use help with recipe ideas. Put together weekly meal kit cards that include exactly what a family would need to buy as well as super-easy, healthy recipes that can be made in 25 minutes or less.
9. Help Out Busy Parents
These are difficult times for all sorts of demographics but working parents of young children are on the list! Organize a virtual babysitting hour where you can sponsor a craft, read a story or sing songs with the littles. This could be just the ticket for parents to get their laundry done, cook dinner, or finish that presentation they’ve been putting off.
10. Help for Pets
In these crazy times, pets need love too. Host an online follow-along where your group can make tasty pet-safe treats or a fun DIY toy. You can also tap into your local animal shelter and help share adoptable pets on your social media accounts.
11. Help Fight the Good Fight
When it comes to bigger, more global causes such as hunger, climate change or saving the pandas, put your voice to good use. Go online to contact congress, contact your local legislators, share important content on social media and spread the word about fundraisers that support the cause.
Thank you for your interest in doing something good for your community. With a little creativity, you can adapt and still serve your community safely. This list of 11 virtual community service ideas certainly is not conclusive. There are many ways you can get out there and make a change in this world!