Volunteering is an admirable activity for any student or young professional.
You help your neighbors, community, the environment, and fellow human beings, and it looks damn good to include on a resume and cover letter, as well!
However, volunteering takes time. It takes commitment. It takes energy. If you’re attending university or just getting your bearings in the workforce, you may not be able to donate what precious few spare hours you do have. And, in the post-Covid world, you may not feel comfortable helping out in person.
So, how about virtual volunteer opportunities?
Online volunteering opportunities not only exist, but they are growing faster than ever. In this article, we’ll talk about how to volunteer online and where you can find these remote volunteer placements.
In our modern, digital age, the virtual connections we find through the internet are more important than ever. The same is true for non-profit organizations, which saw a 433 percent increase in virtual volunteering over the past year.
If you’ve volunteered in-person before, you’ll know that the many benefits of volunteering make it a worthwhile way to spend your time. But online volunteering also offers many of the same personal benefits as IRL volunteering. These include a more diverse resume, improved well-being, and new world insights. What’s more, online volunteer opportunities can connect you to organizations all over the globe, where your specialist skills might be even more sought after.
Not sure how or where to volunteer online? Whether you’re looking to make good use of your extra free time as a volunteer during COVID or as part of a more long-term project, we’ve got you! Keep reading to learn how to make a real impact through virtual volunteering.
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Now, let’s talk online volunteering and how to remotely help others:
Local Online Volunteering Opportunities
Before you head straight to the big names in remote volunteering, check out local online volunteer opportunities. Smaller non-profits in your area might not have the funds to set up a website for virtual volunteers but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need your help.
One option is to check out idealist.org for listings near you by changing the location settings. Or, if you already know of a local foundation in need of help, reach out to them.
Remember to let them know your availability as well as any special skills you might have. These might include languages, graphic design, or writing. Many non-profits are sure to welcome any help they can get and will be more than happy to find a project to suit your skills and interests.
United Nations Volunteers
The UN’s virtual volunteer program is a great place to find a range of online volunteer opportunities. UNV connects volunteers to a variety of organizations working for peace and development. And, with 12,000 volunteers from 187 countries currently lending their talents to projects around the globe, you can be sure of a tight operation.
The site lists a variety of projects under skill headings such as art and design or translation. This makes it easier to filter your selection and find an opportunity that grabs your attention. And, whether you prefer a long-term or a short-term project, there are always plenty of timeframes to choose from.
The Red Cross is another well-known non-profit in need of digital volunteers. Here, you’ll assist with various crisis support initiatives in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. During times of disaster, online volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross often involve monitoring online discussions. Through this, you can help direct aid to those in need.
Virtual volunteers can also contribute by sharing fundraising updates on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re social media savvy, this could be a great way to make use of your skills and time.
Are you looking to beat cabin fever with some virtual volunteering? Or are you keen to commit to a long-term project you’re passionate about? Either way, this virtual-only volunteer search tool is the place to head.
Depending on your preferences, Catchafire allows you to filter by cause, skills, and time. This makes it possible to seek out specific areas of interest, such as climate change or LGBTQ+ rights. Beyond that, you can also narrow down your search according to your abilities. Since they have everything from accounting to photography on the list of skill sets, you’re sure to find a match.
Current projects include diverse online community service opportunities and digital planning initiatives. And, while some projects last weeks, others only ask for an hour of your time so being too busy is no excuse not to help out.
Translators Without Borders
Are you fluent in more than one language? If so, Translators Without Borders (TWB) could be the perfect place for you to start online volunteering.
With TWB you’ll get the chance to support humanitarian aid initiatives one translation at a time. Volunteers working with TWB provide translations for international organizations focusing on health, education, and crisis relief in the world’s most vulnerable regions.
That said, not all TWB’s online volunteer opportunities involve translation work. They also need help with organizing projects, fundraising, and digital support. So, if your skills include project management, web design, or coding rather than languages, you could still find your perfect fit here.
Amnesty International’s network of digital volunteers helps expose human rights violations through various online research methods. Volunteers from all over the globe have used their investigative skills to unearth evidence of drone strikes, flag abusive tweets, and confirm the location of oil spills. If you’re detail-oriented and love data analysis, you could be exactly the kind of virtual volunteer Amnesty Decoders is looking for.
Crisis Text Line
Looking to commit to a long-term online volunteer project complete with full training? If so, you should consider volunteering as a remote crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line.
Although you need to be at least 18 to enter the online training program, anyone can apply. If you’re accepted, the training lasts 30 hours and provides you with all the tools you’ll need as a counselor. The kinds of skills you’ll develop include active listening, problem-solving, and safety planning. (While we’re talking safety and volunteering online, make sure to follow these important online safety rules!)
Most people in search of help contact the crisis text line early in the morning or late at night. As such, crisis counselors who can work these hours are especially in demand. So, if you’re a night owl or an early riser, this could be the perfect way to make virtual volunteering fit your schedule and lifestyle.
One thing to bear in mind with volunteer opportunities like this is that the training is only free for you. For Crisis Text Line, training you to be a counselor is a big investment of their time and money. As such, you’ll need to be certain that this is where you want to volunteer online before you make any promises.
Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular people-powered research platform. The platform’s goal is to enable research that wouldn’t be possible without the help of online volunteers, which is where you come in!
The great thing about volunteering here is that you don’t need any training or expertise to contribute to real academic research. All you need is a computer and as much free time as you can offer. The role involves studying objects of interest and answering questions about them. These could be anything from images of a faraway galaxy to information about endangered animals.
It might sound simple but your contribution will be invaluable to our understanding of the wider world. To begin your virtual volunteering journey into the Zooniverse, go to their projects page!
DoSomething.org empowers young people like you to work on volunteer-led social campaigns. These campaigns can relate to issues such as homelessness, bullying, gender rights, and racial injustice.
For those of you keen on tackling real-world problems such as emoji diversification and mental health for students, DoSomething.org could be the perfect online volunteering opportunity. The platform also offers the chance for you to earn volunteer credits that help your chances of winning a $1,000 scholarship. So, getting involved with a cause or issue you’re passionate about is a win-win for everyone involved!
Smithsonian Digital Volunteers
Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex, including The National Zoo and 19 museums. The institution’s original aim was to increase and diffuse knowledge with museums of artifacts. Now, it does this by preserving and sharing the resources it discovers with the world via online resources.
You can help them honor this mission by joining the Smithsonian’s growing team of virtual volunteers. Your duties might include transcribing historical documents or checking and editing Wikipedia articles.
This Mississippi-based non-profit began in 1971, making Project Gutenberg the OG of the virtual volunteering world. The project’s mission is to make written works available at the lowest possible cost across the US and the rest of the world. This makes the resources Project Gutenberg provides an invaluable tool for furthering the world’s educational efforts.
You can help Project Gutenberg by transcribing books into digital format or proofreading other volunteers’ work. You can also help by donating eligible materials to the Gutenberg digital library. So far they’ve amassed 59,000 free eBooks but they can still do with your help to complete their ever-expanding digital library.
Become a Virtual Volunteer and Make a Real Difference
Even if you can’t help in person, these online volunteering opportunities show that you can still donate your virtual time to a cause that matters. After all, you don’t have to volunteer IRL to make a real impact in the world.
For more insight and inspiration on ways to reach your full potential and give something back in the process, make sure to join our online network today!