Behind-The-Screen: The Virtual Volunteering Scene

COVID-19 has established a new normal in the world. Virtually every sector has been adversely impacted, prompting a mass adoption of digital technology. New opportunities abound in this new digital landscape, including the ability for volunteers to continue their necessary pro-bono work. Virtual volunteering has become the new buzzword and is the alternative avenue for young professionals to lend their skills to a deserving cause while staying safe.

Royalty-free vector illustration by the beneficent Freepik.

COVID-19 and the 180° Turnaround

The pandemic has radically changed the modus operandi of the world. The far-reaching consequences of this catastrophic event have disrupted, and even dismantled, global institutions and operations. In particular, the social sector which includes Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs), Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), and charities, has been adversely impacted. Volunteers are equal, if not more vital, a contributor to assisting these social organizations carry out their missions. Coordinating their work is difficult enough in fair weather and is certainly made more complicated in the battering storm of this pandemic.

With the introduction of social distancing measures, volunteer contributions have been severely limited. Volunteers are not able to engage in-person activities, including canvassing, campaigning, and fundraising. With social distancing measures, the operational goals of these organizations have become more out of reach. NGOs and charities are obliged to be socially responsible and to prioritise the health and safety of all their staff and volunteers. For some organisations that have been deemed as less essential, they were required to suspend operations altogether. These knock-on effects further curtail the social impact these organisations make. Apart from the scaled-back operation of physical volunteering, organisations have also been affected by the pandemic-induced economic downturn. These financial pangs that have resulted in reduced handouts and welfare benefits for the communities which they serve. As such, the pandemic-induced challenges are wide-ranging yet interrelated, exacting a toll on the social sector and its beneficiaries.

Novel and Viral: Virtual Volunteering

Migrating online has been the response taken by social organisations. Given the novelty of virtual volunteering and the rapid acceleration of digital adoption, there has never been a better time for young volunteers to hop on the bandwagon and actively engage in virtual volunteer opportunities.

Virtual volunteering opportunities allow participants to complete volunteer work online in the comfort of their own homes. These opportunities are generally quite flexible and allow volunteers to complete a task or project at their own pace. However, these benefits do not require organizations to make a trade-off with impact as virtual volunteers can be just as in-person volunteers. Virtual volunteering opportunities run the gamut: graphic design, social media strategy development, telephone reassurance (calling isolated seniors or an adult with a disability), or even online tutoring. The uptick in digitalisation has allowed volunteers to continue their good and necessary work in one of the most challenging times of recent history. Through virtual volunteering, the social sector can continue to receive a pipeline of valuable volunteer resources.

Time is Better Than Dime

With schools and extra-curricular activities significantly reduced for the foreseeable future, there is definitely more time that we can devote to other causes. One shining example is the land that is ample with maple: Canada!

In 2017, Candian volunteers have given over two billion hours, valued at nearly US$56 billion. Driven by a passion for community service and creating social good, the contributions of Canada’s volunteers have ensured the delivery of essential products and programs. These have not only strengthened the bond of communities, but also contribute to the educational, health, and labour market outcomes of those that they serve. Young people drive a significant portion of the total volunteer effort benefiting communities across the country. In the federal government’s latest Survey on Giving, Volunteering, and Participating conducted in 2013, about 53% of Canadians ages 15–24 were involved in volunteer activities for nearly 130 hours a year on average.

Eat, Love, Volunteer!

In Singapore, President Halimah Yacob was extremely heartened by the droves of volunteers that have donated their time and talents in the wake of the pandemic. When considering Skills-Based Volunteering, these are some helpful questions to guide the decision-making process:

Create: Can you make time to contribute? Where would you like to contribute your time? What skills would you bring to bear through as a virtual volunteer? What would you be able to do and create? Finding time and skills are important so that you can effectively contribute to an organisation.

Love: Which organizations are you most passionate about supporting? Reach out to contacts at the organization and offer suggestions on how you might be able to help virtually! Many NGOs are short on volunteers and offering to help may benefit them tremendously.

Volunteer: Start creating impact! Put your skills into action and help make a difference in the community. The collective skills of volunteers make all the difference in the world!

Overall, there are numerous ways for young volunteers to get involved virtually, and the opportunities available will undoubtedly continue to grow as non-profits brainstorm more ideas for ways to engage volunteers virtually. At the end of the day, it is important that we do not stop supporting the non-profits and charities that have made a meaningful difference in our communities; volunteering virtually is one great way to do so!

About Skills for Good

Skills for Good, a local volunteer-matching organisation, with a base of eclectic volunteers with skills ranging from marketing and communications to information technology to fundraising. We seek to empower volunteers through convenient and meaningful skills-based volunteering opportunities that help social organisations to achieve their mission.​ Volunteer with us today and wake up tomorrow with the warm and fuzzy sensation of ‘volunesia’.

Read our previous post on the benefits of Skills-Based Volunteering!

Some exciting news

For the second part of this series, we’ll be sharing more on how Covid-19 has affected the volunteering scene and how both social organisations and volunteers can move on. Do keep a lookout!

Author: Colin Bolton