If you’re familiar with the 5 Rings of Retirement, one of the key ingredients for living an active, healthy and engaged lifestyle is “giving back.”
Which includes volunteerism and donating your talent and time to helping others.
Why is volunteering a worthwhile effort, especially in your retirement?
Plenty of reasons.
And they all benefit your health and overall well-being.
In fact, a study by UnitedHealth Group found that out of the people who volunteered:
- 75% felt physically better
- 93% had improved mood
- 79% were less stressed
Not to mention, 78% felt like they had more control over their overall health.
While volunteering sounds like a simple activity to dive into, it’s not.
In reality, finding the right volunteer opportunity is a challenge.
So many of my students and clients struggle with figuring out where the heck to spend their volunteer hours, let alone conjuring up the extra time in their schedule to donate to others.
The good news is, these days, you have more options.
Enter… virtual volunteering.
Which is especially helpful these days, considering our heavy practice of social distancing.
Before we dig into your options, though, let’s quickly define what virtual volunteering is.
What is virtual volunteering?
Made entirely possible by the internet and technology, virtual volunteering is a form of giving back by lending your donated time, talent and effort remotely.
Most virtual volunteering can be done digitally online, where you contribute your work through a computer (and sometimes a phone).
Which means you can volunteer conveniently from the comfort of your own home. All you need is the internet and a volunteer organization that’s the right fit.
On top of the convenience factor, another benefit of virtual volunteering is having flexibility in your schedule. You can avoid time constraints of physically traveling to a volunteer site and having to follow someone else’s schedule.
In fact, a flexible schedule and working from any location are the two biggest benefits of working remotely.
So, if you’ve got years of career experience and wisdom to share, particularly if you worked in an office or admin environment, becoming a digital volunteer may be right up your alley.
The downside is if you’re interested in a volunteer opportunity that requires your physical presence (let’s say, gardening or building a home, for instance), then virtual volunteering may not be for you.
Still wondering if virtual volunteering roles are a good fit? Check out some examples.
Examples of virtual volunteer activities
Some examples of virtual volunteer activities include:
- Creative work – Designing graphics, websites, web pages, landing pages, publications, presentations, collateral, marketing materials; photography; illustration; video creation; writing; editing; content creation
- Programming – Developing apps, websites, features, databases
- Researching – Conducting market research, customer research, competitive analysis, data gathering, data analysis
- Administrative – Admin support, scheduling, vendor management, transcribing scanned documents, translating documents, proofreading, editing, writing, data entry, captioning videos, tagging files, monitoring media, email management, organizing
- Professional support – Providing legal, business, medical, agricultural, financial or any other expertise by consulting, counseling, coaching, answering questions, strategizing, reviewing, evaluating, serving on an advisory board or committee
- Marketing – Copywriting; email marketing; social media management; branding; campaign management; editing and writing proposals, press releases, newsletters, blog posts, video scripts, web pages; conducting market research; SEO; ad management
- Fundraising – Fundraising calls, donor outreach, event planning, volunteer management, contribution tracking
- Educating – Tutoring, reading, teaching, developing curriculum, creating educational materials
That’s not to say your e-volunteer opportunities are limited to roles that are traditionally online. If anything, now (aka our post-pandemic world) is the time to get creative.
You can bring, well, virtually, anything into the virtual world. All you need are video chat tools to help you stay connected while practicing social distancing and working remotely.
For instance, check out how musicians are bringing their live performances to a virtual stage through the UnCancelled Music Festival, which hosts live streams of remote concerts.
Or how HR Virtual Summit brings over 30,000 HR professionals to an online conference.
The point is: no matter your interest topic or role, there may be a creative way to get involved and virtually volunteer.
To help you brainstorm some ideas on how to give back, here are 21 virtual volunteering sites.
21 virtual volunteer ideas and websites
To help you brainstorm volunteer opportunities, check out these 21 virtual volunteer ideas with links to each website:
- 7 Cups – Become a volunteer listener for an online emotional support organization.
- AllForGood – Search through a database of volunteer opportunities you can do from home.
- Amnesty Decoders – Join a global network of digital volunteers that help research and expose human rights violations.
- Ark of Hope for Children – Volunteer remotely and support victimized children of human trafficking, child abuse and bullying.
- Be My Eyes – Join nearly 3.7 million volunteers worldwide help blind and low vision people live more independently.
- Binky Patrol – Sew, knit, crochet, fleece tie or quilt “binkies” for children who need emotional support blankets.
- Catchafire – Support a wide range of nonprofits by applying for numerous project-based remote opportunities in their database.
- Chemo Angels – Support people with cancer by encouraging an assigned patient with cards, letters, uplifting notes and small gifts during their treatment.
- Crisis Text Line – Become a Crisis Counselor and answer texts from people in crisis.
- Idealist.org – Search for remote volunteer positions across thousands of nonprofit organizations.
- LibriVox – Read and record chapters and audiobooks that are made available for free on the internet.
- Project Gutenberg – Digitize and proofread ebooks for a library of over 60,000 free ebooks.
- Red Cross – Find remote volunteer opportunities in their database of positions within categories of behind the scenes, finance and fundraising, IT, leadership and team empowerment.
- Right Here at Home – Help eliminate poverty in the US by helping provide financial and technology education to poor people.
- Smithsonian Digital Volunteers – Transcribe historical documents for the Smithsonian Institute.
- Soldiers Angels Treats for Troops – Support deployed service members and veterans with projects you can work on from home or by providing sweet treats.
- Translators Without Borders – Become a translator or volunteer in a non-translator remote role.
- United Nations Volunteers – Search through a global database of remote volunteer opportunities and roles.
- VolunteerMatch – Find a virtual volunteer opportunity in their robust database across a wide range of topics and categories.
- Warm Up America – Join over 20,000 volunteers who knit and crochet blankets, clothing and accessories for people in need.
- Zooniverse – Volunteer as a beta tester or project moderator across a wide range of research projects.
Caveat: It’s worth mentioning – starting your volunteer search by simply perusing the internet without a specific volunteer role and cause in mind is not recommended.
What to do instead?
To make sure you don’t waste time looking into the wrong volunteer opportunity, don’t start your search until you have a clear understanding of the type of work you want to be involved in and how it fits into the rest of your life (and goals) – which brings us to our final tip today.
How to find the right virtual volunteer opportunity
Just like a traditional volunteer opportunity, there are important steps to follow for finding the right digital volunteer gig, too.
The main takeaway here is to not start by blindly hunting for cyber-volunteer jobs on the internet. In fact, beginning your research isn’t until step #5.
In a nutshell, follow these 7 steps for finding the right volunteer opportunity:
- Self reflect (This one’s a big one that most people miss, so here’s a guide on finding clarity to help you – key questions included.)
- Understand your commitment level
- Clearly define how it impacts your goals
- List specific ideas from your learnings
- Begin your research
- Interview the organization
- Test it out first
While it may seem like a bit of extra effort, it’s a worthwhile effort.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve learned that people aimlessly try out a volunteer gig only to find that it’s not a good fit. And then it discourages them from trying another one.
The moral here is to take the extra time to find the right match.
You’ll up your chances of loving your e-volunteer job… which means you’ll experience more health benefits, you’ll stick with it longer and you’ll do a better job.
Here’s to exploring virtual volunteering
These days, you have more options than ever for tapping the power of volunteerism and giving back thanks to virtual volunteer opportunities.
Like with all worthwhile things in life, it takes extra effort to make sure it’s an opportunity that’s best for you.
- Giving back is one of the 5 Rings of Retirement for living your ideal retirement lifestyle and benefits your overall health and well-being.
- Today’s technology makes it possible to become a virtual volunteer, which is volunteering remotely using your computer and the internet.
- Your options for virtual volunteering are limitless and range across a wide range of roles and activities to fit your interests and background.
- Brainstorm virtual volunteer ideas by checking out 21 virtual volunteer ideas and sites that cover a wide range of interests and causes.
- Find the right remote volunteer opportunity by following 7 specific steps.
Ready to give back, virtually? Great, your cause awaits… in reality.
And if you want to live your ideal retirement lifestyle that’s active, healthy and engaged – I’m here for you.