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September 2, 2020
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Of course, volunteering makes you feel good because it allows you to help others, but it can also help you feel more connected to your community, make new friends and even improve your health.
Various studies have shown that volunteering regularly can reduce your chances of developing high blood pressure and boost your mental wellbeing and critical thinking skills, according to Harvard Medical School.
Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer right from your living room — one of the lowest cost, yet highest impact, activities you can participate in when you have some free time.
All you need is an internet connection or, in some cases, no technology at all. (Sometimes the best way to volunteer is to send a handwritten letter to someone who needs it. Be sure to check out these USPS coupons). Here are a number of virtual volunteer opportunities: just skip to the area you’re most interested in!
Virtual Volunteer Opportunities to Help Others Learn
Whether you want to make books more widely available to audiences online or help the Smithsonian ensure that content is accurate on Wikipedia, there are plenty of opportunities to spread knowledge by volunteering at home.
Archives of American Gardens: Sift through a number of old photos of gardens across the U.S. and help the Smithsonian identify the exact location. (According to the museum, these photos were either never properly labeled or were a part of slide lectures that were dismantled.)
CareerVillage: Share your career expertise with young people who are figuring out what they want to do with their lives and preparing for their own careers. (It doesn’t matter if you’re currently working or you’re retired. Any advice you can share helps!)
LibriVox: Record yourself reading public domain books for others to enjoy. You can read an entire book or choose a poem or short story — no audition required!
OpenStreetMap: Help others get an accurate feel for specific geographic areas — for example, where a local trail begins or where a cafe recently opened — by editing the interactive map of the world.
Project Gutenberg: Edit ebooks for others to enjoy. Project Gutenberg is a free library of more than 60,000 ebooks digitized and edited by thousands of volunteers. (Editor’s tip: If you’re more of a hard-copy book person and you’re looking for your next read, check out these ThriftBooks coupons.)
Smithsonian Transcription Center: Join a crew of tens of thousands of volunteers who have sifted through old diaries, manuscripts and other historical documents; transcribed them; and made them more accessible to researchers and the general public online.
Smithsonian Wikipedian Volunteer Program: Help the Smithsonian add reliable information to Wikipedia and improve the quality of existing content related to artifacts, records and other historical information.
UPchieve: Coach low-income high school students in math or science or give general advice about college and life. You can work on your own schedule, and UPchieve will offer training on how to be a good coach. (Editor’s tip: Need to brush up on some high school math and science concepts? Check out these Chegg coupons for potential savings on study solutions.)
World Archives Project: Browse historical records gathered and digitized by Ancestry.com and describe what you see in the records so that they’re publicly searchable and available to those who could potentially learn more about their past.
Zooniverse: Join more than a million volunteers who help professional researchers with their projects. (There’s no specific training or background knowledge required!) Past volunteers have explored images of the solar system, examined historical documents and watched videos of animals.
Virtual Translation and Language Volunteer Opportunities
Many volunteer opportunities become available when you know another language. Use your language skills to make someone else feel comfortable or disseminate information to wider audiences.
Encyclopedia of Life: The Encyclopedia of Life, a Smithsonian project, aims to round up information about all of the animals, plants, fungi and other life forms on Earth and make that information accessible to all. Help translate the website and basic scientific terms so that more people can benefit from the information.
Table Wisdom: Help non-native English speaking students improve their English and provide them with professional and personal advice.
Tarjimly: Live chat with refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants who are in need of a translator or an interpreter through the Tarjimly app.
TED Translators: Subtitle inspiring TED Talks in different languages. Currently, there are more than 35,000 translators working in more than 100 languages.
Translators without Borders: If you’re fluent in another language, you can help translate medical and other crisis response texts. (Translators without Borders is also looking for volunteer project managers and graphic designers.)
Virtual Volunteer Opportunities to Promote Mental Wellness
Maybe you’ve struggled with your own mental health in the past and would like to help others feel a bit better. Or maybe you’d simply like to give others the gift of being a good listener. Check out these ways to help those who may be struggling. (Editor’s tip: Also explore these unique streaming services focused on mental wellness.)
7 Cups: Volunteer as a listener to those who call in and simply need to be heard. You can make yourself available to listen as frequently or infrequently as you like, and the 7 Cups team offers an active listening training course.
Crisis Text Line: After 30 hours of virtual training in reflective listening, collaborative problem solving and crisis management, you can become a crisis counselor. (You’ll be asked to be available by text to those in crisis for four hours per week until you reach 200 hours.)
IMAlive: Chat with those in crisis through the IMAlive online crisis center. You’ll go through a background check, take a 10-hour online crisis intervention course and spend 10 hours practicing with a supervisor. (You’ll also be asked to commit to 200 hours of volunteering.)
Letters Against Depression: Handwrite positive letters to those who are living with depression or other mental health issues. You can read a short bio about your letter recipient and volunteer to write one- or two-page letters.
The Trevor Project: Help LGBTQ youth who are struggling with issues related to their identity, coming out, depression and suicide. You’ll train for 40 hours with online lessons, roleplaying and supervised shifts and must carry out your commitment for one year.
Virtual Volunteer Opportunities Helping Veterans
Explore several organizations that allow you to send homemade cards and care packages to service members deployed overseas or even mentor those who’ve returned and are looking for work.
American Corporate Partners: Offer your career advice to service members, veterans and their spouses.
Any Soldier: Send items directly to service members by scrolling through Any Soldier’s comprehensive database and identifying the members you’d like to support.
Hire Heroes USA: Help service members, veterans and their spouses with their job searches by conducting mock interviews, offering career advice and helping those who are applying for federal jobs to fill out their applications.
Operation Gratitude: Show your support of service members and first responders by assembling a care package, making bracelets and writing letters.
Soldiers’ Angels: Write letters, bake treats, send cards and make blankets and bracelets for service members, veterans and their families.
Support Our Troops: Write letters to service members and Support Our Troops will distribute them to those deployed overseas.
Virtual Volunteer Opportunities Helping Those Living With Disabilities
There are plenty of ways to lend your sight, voice or simply your time to those living with disabilities, from sending in recordings of your voice to advance the development of synthetic voices to video chatting with those who have low vision.
Be My Eyes: Video chat with those who are blind or who have low vision and help with tasks like distinguishing colors, reading instructions or checking expiration dates through the Be My Eyes app.
Best Buddies: Become an “E-buddy” with someone living with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Or, host a virtual activity — maybe trivia, crafts, cooking or an exercise class.
Bookshare: Scan and proofread customizable and accessible ebooks for those who face reading barriers. (Bookshare’s library currently features about a million titles in more than 30 languages.)
Learning Ally: Empower students with learning disabilities and those who read below proficiency to appreciate reading with audiobook learning solutions. Learning Ally looks for volunteers to read audiobooks and to listen to them to make sure they’re of the highest quality possible.
VocaliD: Record your voice at home and add it to VocaliD’s Voicebank. The company then uses your voice to build synthetic voices for those living with speechlessness.
YouDescribe: Record audio descriptions of YouTube videos to make them more accessible to those who are blind or who have low vision.
Virtual Volunteer Opportunities Helping Seniors
Loneliness and social isolation can be a barrier to happiness for people of all ages, but it often affects seniors especially, according to the CDC. Explore these ways to call, video chat and stay connected with seniors.
Adopt a Grandparent: Call, video chat or send letters to seniors in the UK through the Adopt a Grandparent program organized by CHD Living.
Adopt a Nursing Home: If you’re in Texas, the Texas Health Care Association can match you with residents or staff members at Texas nursing homes, and you can send letters to show them you care.
Big & Mini: Fill out a profile with your interests, availability and goals; complete a training course and quiz; and get matched with a “Big” with whom you can call or video chat.
Elder Friends Phone Companions: Volunteer for regular phone calls with seniors who might be experiencing loneliness. (If you know someone who would like to receive calls, you can also recommend a senior.)
Sharing Smiles: Go back to the basics and write letters to senior pen pals. There are also Sharing Smiles Virtual Concerts that allow kids to cheer up older adults with online performances.
StoriiTime: Set up a time for you and your child or grandchild to read a book to a senior over a video call.
Virtual Volunteer Opportunities That Don’t Require The Internet
Virtual volunteering doesn’t have to mean typing away at your computer or video chatting someone. There are plenty of ways to unplug and still make a difference in someone’s life from your home.
Color A Smile: Color a sheet with crayons or markers and mail it to the Color A Smile team, which will give it to seniors, troops and others in need of smiles.
Enchanted Makeover: Make pillowcases, quilts, baby quilts, dolls and blankets for women and children living in shelters. You can also donate towels, wash cloths, sheets, mattress pads, pillow protectors and pillows.
Knots of Love: Knit homemade beanies for cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy and blankets for infants in neonatal intensive care units.
Project Linus: Become a “Blanketeer” and make blankets for ill children. Project Linus welcomes blankets of all styles and colors, but they must be homemade, washable, free of pins and smoke-free.
The Snuggles Project: Knit, crochet, sew or quilt blankets for dogs, cats and other small animals. You can turn them in at participating animal shelters and humane societies.
Other Virtual Volunteer Opportunities
Check out these other unique virtual volunteer opportunities, from initiatives to document and research human rights issues to ones that encourage people to vote.
American Red Cross: Become a Digital Advocate for the American Red Cross by sharing the organization’s content on social media and hosting online fundraisers.
Amnesty Decoders: Join Amnesty International researchers in looking through photos and other documents related to human rights issues. (Past projects have included analyzing tweets sent to women politicians in India and identifying oil spill images in Nigeria.)
Black Voices Change Lives: Call or text Black voters to encourage them to vote. The program run by the NAACP provides talking points and other tools to make the outreach process go as smoothly as possible.
Eldera: Mentor a kid, read a story to them or help them with homework via video chats through the Eldera platform.
National Park Service: Help the National Park Service optimize its website by suggesting names for new sites, reviewing designs and testing various online elements.
Student Conservation Association: Volunteer to be more eco-friendly by creating a pollinator habit, reducing your energy use or building a garden.
When We All Vote: Text people to encourage them to vote through When We All Vote, a self-described nonpartisan nonprofit organization.
Financial Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering might not pay in the traditional sense. However, there are many indirect ways that volunteering can pay off financially.
Better Job Prospects: Researchers at the Corporation for National and Community Service looked at volunteering and employment data over a 10-year period between 2002 and 2012. They found that volunteering was associated with a 27% greater chance of employment. (You really never know if you’ll pave the way for your dream job by volunteering!)
New Skills: You also never know what skills you’ll pick up while volunteering — maybe learning a new software platform or perfecting your management skills. (This is free education that you can use to find a new job or better yourself in other ways.)
Free Perks: Everyone likes to be rewarded for their hard work! Depending on where you volunteer, you might receive free clothes or complimentary tickets as a “thank you” for your time.
More Time: People sometimes say that time is money. It turns out that volunteering can make you feel more “time affluent,” or, in other words, that you have more time, according to research in the Harvard Business Review.
Tax Benefits: In some cases, you can deduct certain out-of-pocket volunteering expenses: for example, if you’re making a lot of phone calls or sending a lot of letters that require extensive postage.
As you mull over which virtual volunteer opportunities you want to pursue, it’s probably worth taking some time to get pretty comfortable with video communication software. Check out these Zoom coupons for potential savings on the popular video communications platform.
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