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International Volunteer Day: A guide to volunteering amidst a pandemic

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Anne Ascharsobi

Nov 30, 2021

As we approach another International Volunteer Day in the context of a global pandemic, I’m conscious that volunteering still looks a little different. Many of the attributes that make volunteering appealing – teamwork, working closely with the public, getting out and about in the community – haven’t been as accessible as we contend with social distancing and other public health measures. 

While we’ve seen less uptake in volunteering globally in the last two years, non-profits are in need of support now more than ever. The good news is that a lot of non-profit organisations offer remote or ‘virtual’ volunteering opportunities, so you can still make a positive impact on your community from the comfort of your own home.

Plan your volunteering experience

Here are five things to consider when planning your own volunteering experience:

1. Think about the cause areas you want to support

Whether it’s prepping meals with a local food based charity or connecting online with a university or college student to do some mentoring, there’s so many ways your unique skills and experiences can help. Choosing a cause area you care about helps to create a sense of purpose and engagement in the volunteering work you do. It also helps you narrow down the organisations you might want to support with your time and energy.

2. Decide how much time and energy you can commit to volunteering

This can range from a one hour mentoring session all the way up to a few days a week for an extended period of time. It’s important to be realistic about the level of commitment you’re ready to make when it comes to volunteering. Every organisation that engages with volunteers is unique and needs a different level of support, so there’s most likely an opportunity out there to match what you can offer.

3. Look online for opportunities to volunteer

The last two years have proven that you don’t need to be face-to-face to have a positive impact. There are several great websites that list, and allow you to register for, remote volunteering opportunities. Here are a few you might like to check out:

4. Reach out to local non-profit organisations

Many non-profit organisations have existing programs for face-to-face and remote volunteering. Once you’ve identified which cause areas are important to you, jump online and find out which organisations work in your cause areas. From there you can reach out to each of them directly to see what kind of volunteer opportunities you can participate in. Some organisations might not have a formal program, but may be interested in setting up something just for you.

5. Share your story and have fun

It might feel a bit uncomfortable at first but sharing your experience with others can be a great way to highlight the important work the organisation you’re supporting does. It’s also a great opportunity to encourage your peers to get involved in volunteering too. You might even want to do one as a team – some employers (including Xero) allow their staff to take paid time off to volunteer.

Giving back to the community

Volunteering looks different for everyone – there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. But I think that’s the beauty of it. Finding a cause that you believe in, and investing your time and energy in engaging with a deeper sense of purpose is incredibly powerful, and has positive flow-on effects to the wider community.

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