Many of us will not bat an eye when it comes to bidding 2020 adieu. It has been a challenging year (to say the least). You’d be hard pressed to find someone who wasn’t looking forward to turning the corner to 2021.
Many sectors have seen dramatic impacts in what they consider “normal”. Volunteerism is no exception. According to VolunteerMatch.org, “over 90% of volunteering in the United States virtually shut down” in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. But, once the reality of the situation settled in — like many organizations — people started to get creative.
Volunteering in a Pandemic
In the beginning, it didn’t take much to maintain business as usual for those who were used to working remotely. But, as daycares closed, schools shut down and restaurants were all but ousted, things changed. Things turned very quickly to a socially distanced environment, and they haven’t fully gone back since.
For volunteers and the groups who need them, this was detrimental. It’s not like the local toy drive or food bank could just close the office and work from home, as in the tech sector.
But nonprofit groups have gotten creative. The Salvation Army’s annual Red Kettle campaign certainly made concessions to keep things moving. Volunteer bell ringers wear masks and socially distance, and they are providing ways to allow people to donate electronically.
Still, fewer people are shopping in person this year. As sales move online, there will naturally be a reduction in foot traffic to the red kettles. The Salvation Army is expecting to bring in 50% less than last year.
As The Need Grows
To make matters worse, volunteers are needed more than ever. Salvation Army is expecting more than double the number of people who need help this year:
We’re looking at potentially 6.6 million people who don’t have money for rent or utilities, can’t buy Christmas gifts for their children, put food on the table and other problems that come up. — Kenneth Hodder, Salvation Army National Commander
Of course, the Salvation Army campaign is just one example of many that have the same or greater needs as they did pre-pandemic. According to Feeding America, most food banks are serving more people now than a year ago, with 4 in 10 people visiting a food bank for the first time. We are seeing staggering metrics that show higher rates of domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues as this pandemic rolls on.
Virtual Volunteering: Here to Stay?
Those in need and those interested in volunteering are getting creative with virtual ideas such as:
- virtual peer counseling
- adopting a family for Christmas
- design help for a nonprofit website
- blog writing
- promote the sale of virtual fundraising items
- making friendly calls to seniors
- collecting donations for those in need
- fostering and adopting a pet
- virtual run/walks
- supporting military members with greeting cards
- virtual tutoring
- grant writing
- offering translating services
- picking up groceries for a senior if delivery is not available
- help with a virtual fundraiser
- and so much more.
Check out the virtual volunteering opportunities section on the Volunteer Match website for more ideas.
Volunteering doesn’t always have to mean signing up for a 3-hour shift with your local nonprofit. It’s so much more than that. It’s arranging a Corona Kindness page on Facebook to coordinate help for people in your community. It’s letting the stores open their first hour to senior citizens for safety. It’s donating what you can, when you know that you are more fortunate than others.
And although the situation of our world and nation can seem bleak at times, there are reasons to be hopeful. Throughout this pandemic, we have seen examples of people taking it upon themselves to make things better in the world. Like the saying goes: “be the change you wish to see in the world.”