Last year, virtual volunteering was something we had barely begun talking about. When COVID-19 was a new phenomenon and we were struggling to know how to deal with it both personally- and professionally- there was great uncertainty around how long we might need to change our practices.
One year on, we now know this is here to stay in some form or another. While there is a shining light at the end of the tunnel, we are not through it yet. And even after the worst is behind us, we know some of the changes we have made to our lives will remain.
We are all hoping that we can get back out and interact with the local community as soon as possible. There are encouraging signs that things are moving in the right direction. And no one is in doubt that personal contact is a critical component in providing care and support to those in need.
But this may not be appropriate for all your staff – and certainly isn’t possible for the majority of them right now. As we have highlighted before, many CSR Managers have done a great job in re-purposing their programmes and harnessing their employee volunteering resources in response to the disease.
Last year we provided you with an extensive list of ways you and your staff can help the local community.
One year on we wanted to update that list with the current virtual volunteering ideas and opportunities. Once the lockdown eased last year, some volunteer groups disbanded – for many reasons. The need felt less urgent; some people came off furlough and no longer had the same level of time available to give; the perceived risk of the disease lessened through summer… But often the need did not go away and now that we are back in lockdown, this provides an opportunity to encourage staff to use their volunteer time.
Please use this list to kick start your employee virtual volunteering and let us know if you can recommend any more sources.
(As always, make sure you do your own due diligence on any of the organisations below recommending them to your employees)
COMMUNITY/EMOTIONAL SUPPORT DURING COVID-19
- Assisting Blind and Low-Sighted Individuals with Everyday Tasks (Global) Be My Eyes
This is as easy as downloading the ‘Be My Eyes’ app and join the global community as a blind/low-vision user or a sighted volunteer.
- Crisis Text Support – Shout (UK)
Offering telephone support to those who ring the hotline, this involves some training and some evening work.
- Telephone Based Befriending for Elderly (UK) – Age UK
Age UK and their partner charity The Silver Line offer free telephone friendship services to people who are missing the joy of regular conversation. They can enjoy chatting with someone over the phone, from home.
- Help Combat Loneliness in Old Age with ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ (UK)
Help combat lonliness – Pairing residents of the CHD Living homes with caring individuals brings a sense of comfort to both young people and the elderly who may not have grandparents/grandchildren of their own. This can be in the form of phone conversations, letters, pictures, emails and more.
If you have a bit more time on your hands these organisations require a longer time commitment:
Starting with 30 hours of training, you will be well placed to receive phone calls from those in a crisis. Training is free but they do ask for a minimum commitment of 200 hours to make sure the cost to them is well spent.
- ‘Telephone Buddy’ Services for Older People (UK) – Link Visiting
Over a million older people in the UK are always or often lonely, some go for months without seeing friends or family. Here you can get involved in phone and facetime chats with an elderly ‘buddy’. Requiring a longer term commitment of 6+ months and in the Workingham Borough only.
SKILLS BASED VOLUNTEERING
- Use Your Skills to Assist 100s of United Nations Peace & Development Projects
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. From translating documents to designing a logo or updating a blog, these opportunities are now online – allowing organizations and volunteers to team up to address sustainable development challenges – anywhere in the world, from any device.
- Use your Professional Skills to Help Charities – Catchafire
With currently over 500 opportunities available, there is something posted for every skill set – from a couple of hours to several evenings worth of work, you can use your skills to make a difference.
- Digital Volunteering for IT/Digital professionals providing help to charities on IT related projects – Energise Resources
Once you sign up to Energise Resources, you will be notified off relevant opportunities and you can decide whether any of them are the right fit for you.
- Use Your Skills to Help Fight Cancer – The F Cancer Project
Cancer charities post tasks they need help with – browse the list and sign up to any you can assist with.
- Use Your Language Skills to Complete Translation for Humanitarian Projects – Translators Without Borders
If you can fluently speak another language, then this charity could use your skills. Fill in the application form and they will contact you if there is a project that fits.
ONLINE RESEARCH PROJECTS FOR GOOD
- Online Research Projects On Every Topic Under the Sun. Thrive CSR staff love this! – Zooniverse
This is one you can get involved with right away. The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. More than a million people around the world come together to assist professional researchers. Their goal is to enable research that would not be possible, or practical, otherwise. Anyone can be a Zooinverse researcher, you don’t need any specialised background, training, or expertise.
- Complete Online Research Projects for The Smithsonian Institute
Whether it is transcribing documents, identifying items from old slides or helping to combine many of the world’s diverse encyclopedias, you can help the iconic Smithsonian Institute from the comfort of your home.
- Help Map Unmapped Areas to Help Humanitarian Aid- Missing Maps
Many areas of the developing world have incomplete or out of date maps – especially after natural or humanitarian disasters. This ‘Open Street Map’ mapping platform can use your help – watch some short tutorials on their website and you can be ready to contribute.
- Digital Volunteering Researching Human Rights Violations – Amnesty Decoders
Amnesty Decoders is an innovative platform for volunteers around the world to use their computers or phones to help researchers sift through pictures, information and documents. Anyone can become a decoder, you don’t need previous knowledge or special equipment. All you need is a computer, tablet or phone with an internet connection. You don’t need to download any apps, just complete tasks on the website. No minimum time is required; do as much or as little as you’d like.
- Help Create a Library of Free eBooks- The Gutenberg Project
You can register as a volunteer proof reader and you will be sent single pages of books to proof read at your leisure. These pages are proof read by others as well so you are part of a well oiled system. The Project Gutenberg missions is “preserving the literary history of the world in a freely available form for everyone to use.”.
- Online Conservation Work – Instant Wild by Zoological Society of London
ZSL’s Instant Wild empowers you to take part in vital conservation work by bringing you LIVE images and videos from amazing locations all around the world for you to identify. You don’t need any special expertise to take part – help is provided in the Field Guides – simply sign up and start tagging the animals in the images.
- Contribute to the Largest Biodiversity Related Citizen Science Project – Ebird
Help hone our knowledge about local bird life by signing up to log your own bird spottings and findings.
NONE ORGANISATION BASED WORK
- Can you sew? Last year a collection of community sewing groups got together to make Scrub Hub. As the name suggested, they were making scrubs for care workers. This idea exploded and – like the NHS Volunteer program – they had such an overwhelming response that they closed the doors to new applicants. But the need to sew and knit for others is still very real. Can you knit squares into blankets for homeless shelters and refuges? Dog blankets, baby shawls, even masks and scrubs are still welcome.
AND A MORE LIGHT-HEARTED ONE TO FINISH:
- Not exactly volunteering, but a fun way for your employees to interact online while doing good… Answer the quiz questions correctly and the UN World Food Programme donates rice to change lives! – Free Rice
Has your team engaged in any virtual volunteering opportunities? We would love to hear about them.. Drop us a line in the comments, or if you would like to talk to our team about how you can make the most of virtual volunteering, do get in touch! Email me – firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more about Community Volunteering Opportunities through COVID