When you think about volunteering, you probably have a certain image in mind. Maybe you're serving food at a soup kitchen, tutoring kids at a library, or cleaning a community park. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, many of those in-person volunteer opportunities are out of the question — especially for high-risk individuals. However, just because you can't give back with others doesn't mean you can't give back by yourself. Enter: virtual volunteer opportunities.
According to a Good Housekeeping poll of almost 5,000 people, 48% of readers say COVID-19 has impacted their volunteer efforts, while 46% say their volunteering was largely unaffected.
Interestingly, 5% say they've shifted their volunteering to be online. If you want to join their ranks, it's a lot easier than you might think. Ahead, we've found the best virtual volunteer opportunities you can do remotely. All you need is a computer, an internet connection, and a passion for helping others. And for more ways to get involved, don't miss our handy guide to civic engagement.
Virtual Volunteer Opportunities
Hire a Hero: Help veterans and military spouses excel in their careers by conducting mock interviews, offering general career counseling, or guiding federal-sector applicants through the USA Jobs portal and interview process. Most online volunteer opportunities are conducted via phone or video.
ZSL Instant Wild: Contribute to essential conservation efforts by tagging animals in images and videos. Don't worry if you don't have any expertise — the organization provides helpful field guides for each project. Watching videos of cute animals while saving their futures? Sounds like a dream.
Tarjimly: The Tarjimly app connects refugees, asylees, immigrants, and the people who support them with multilingual volunteer translators. As a remote volunteer, you'll receive a notification whenever someone who needs your skills makes a translation request (translations are needed for everything from texts and documents to voice notes and live calls); you can choose to accept the request based on your availability.
The United Nations: The United Nations Volunteers website includes a list of virtual volunteer opportunities at UN entities, civil society organizations, and governmental institutions. You can sort opportunities by type (for example, COVID-19 response, teaching and training, project development, and more).
The Trevor Project: Support LGBTQ youth who are struggling with issues such as coming out, LGBTQ identity, depression, and suicide by volunteering to respond to chat messages as a crisis counselor for The Trevor Project. You'll need to complete a 40-hour online training and serve one three-hour shift per week for at least a year.
Be My Eyes: This free app connects blind and low-vision individuals with sighted volunteers for visual assistance through live video calls. As a volunteer, you'll answer requests from people who need help with anything from checking a food label or distinguishing colors to navigating a new area or reading instructions.
Create the Good: Not sure what you want to do yet? Head to Create the Good, AARP's searchable database of volunteer opportunities. To find virtual gigs, select "show only home/remote opportunities." You'll find interesting ways to support a range of organizations without ever leaving your house.
Bookshare: This ebook library makes reading easier for people with barriers such as dyslexia, learning disabilities, visual impairments, and physical disabilities; titles are available with karaoke-style highlighting, braille, and large font. As a virtual volunteer, you'll upload books to the Bookshare collection using a scanner, or proofread previously scanned files from other volunteers and format them properly.
RAINN: The National Sexual Assault Hotline, operated by RAINN, needs virtual volunteers to provide live, secure, and anonymous support to victims of sexual assault and their loved ones. Volunteers must receive extensive crisis-intervention training and commit to a minimum of 10 hours of service a month, for a minimum of 18 months of service.
Career Village: The tag line for this one is simple: "Volunteer to answer questions from students who want to be you when they grow up." Essentially, kids submit questions about various career paths to Career Village, and you'll get notified if there's a question you might be able to answer. It's like a virtual career fair you can participate in whenever you have time.
Lifetime Connections Without Walls: This telephone activities program provides opportunities for older adults to connect with others; LCWW offers educational sessions, game nights, support groups, and friendly conversations, all over the phone. The organization relies on volunteers to increase their class offerings. Got an idea for a class? Drop them a note.
Smithsonian Digital Volunteers: Consider yourself a history buff? Volunteer for the Smithsonian Institute. Digital volunteers help make historical documents and biodiversity data more accessible by transcribing and reviewing various field notes, diaries, ledgers, logbooks, currency proof sheets, photo albums, manuscripts, and biodiversity specimen labels.
Empower Work: This text hotline connects people who need help navigating challenges at work — for example, those unsure of how to handle a toxic workplace, bad boss, discrimination, or benefits issue — with volunteer peer counselors. In order to become a peer counselor, you'll need to complete 20 hours of interactive digital training.
Translators Without Borders: This non-profit offers language and translation support for humanitarian and development agencies, as well as other non-profits. If you're fluent in a second language, you can volunteer remotely to translate medical texts or crisis response documents.
StoriiTime: If reading is your passion, then sign up for StoriiTime, a service that connects children with seniors for virtual story hours. You can sign up as a reader (you must be over 50), a parent who would like their child read to (kids must be ages 13 and under), or a care provider looking to get their residents involved.
Sidelines: Sidelines' mission is to support women and families experiencing complicated pregnancies and premature births — and they need volunteers who have experienced those things to help achieve that goal. As a volunteer, you'll complete online training and provide emotional support to women in a variety of ways, including email, phone, video chat, and discussion groups.
Volunteer Match: You've probably found in-person volunteer opportunities on Volunteer Match before, but the platform now allows you to search for virtual opportunities too. Organizations are looking for everything from writers and designers to web developers and knitters.
Crisis Text Hotline: Answer texts from people in crisis, offering them active listening, collaborative problem solving, and safety planning. In order to become a crisis counselor volunteer, you'll need to complete 30 hours of virtual crisis management training. Volunteers must commit to serving four hours per week, and at least 200 hours total.
TED Translate: You've probably learned something from more than a few TED Talks over the years — and by volunteering as a translator for the organization, you'll enable others to do that too. With this remote volunteer opportunity, you can work as many or as few hours as you'd like.
IMAlive: Provide support to people in crisis by becoming a volunteer for IMAlive's online crisis network. Volunteers complete 20 hours of training in crisis intervention and commit to volunteering 200 hours. All communication takes place on IMAlive's free online chat.
Catch a Fire: Similar to other volunteer opportunity search engines, Catch a Fire connects professionals with non-profits that need their skills. You can find projects that require skills from accounting and strategy consulting to event planning and human resources.
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