Volunteerism in Today’s World
I just returned from a short vacation in Alabama. I watched my grandson play in a Global Baseball 14U World Series. I flew down to the site. You had to wear masks from the time you walked into the airport until you walked out of another airport. I stayed at a beach front condo. No masks were worn on the beach or at the condo. When I walked into a store with my mask on, half of the people had a mask on while the other half did not.
As I was driving, I noticed several nonprofits distributing food and water to those in need. Volunteers were used to assist in this process. Some were wearing masks, while others did not wear masks. This scenario made me think about the current great need for nonprofits to assist others using volunteers and the fear these volunteers must have during this time, especially if you are older and at risk. There are so many mixed messages!
An article by Volunteer Hub notes that volunteerism is an important component of providing relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers are needed more than ever to assist communities. Sectors that involve food, medicine, cause and cure, etc., are witnessing a need for more volunteers. Because of COVID-19, many protocols are in place, such as social distancing and health and wellness awareness strategies. It is important that volunteers stay home if they are sick. The CDC recommends practicing social distancing by staying at least six feet between volunteers. They must keep their work environment clean by cleaning surfaces and washing hands.
A recent Center for Evidence Based Medicine article points out that more than ever, volunteers, because of the health risk of volunteering, need to feel that what they do is likely to make a difference and that their service is valued. Many volunteers serve now because of a desire to give back to help others. Volunteers want to help those in need, especially ones that are separated from loved ones in isolation.
Volunteers during this pandemic, as noted through research studies, want to serve because it builds self-confidence, to learn new skills and to enhance social identity and social capital. Volunteering also improves one’s emotional health and well-being. Volunteers feel they are helping paid staff do their clinical tasks to help local communities stay well. To increase the number of volunteers and to improve volunteer’s perception of service, it is important to make volunteering matter. Volunteers need to be appreciated more than ever before.
Many organizations across the country are making changes to the way they conduct volunteer services as the demand for volunteers increases. Although in-person opportunities have decreased, services are being adjusted to utilize volunteers in different ways. Many organizations need volunteers in the areas of food donations, shelter needs and hygiene products. In many cases, volunteers are providing services through remote opportunities or virtual opportunities. Nonprofits are establishing innovative ways to use volunteers, so they are not exposed to potential health risks.
Love to Know encourages individuals with extra time to step up during this pandemic and volunteer. From making masks to giving blood, volunteers can help their communities now. According to this article, 10 ways to volunteer during a pandemic are as follows:
- Become a virtual companion to lonely seniors.
- Make masks for health care workers.
- Staff a crisis center remotely.
- Donate your time as a virtual student mentor.
- Give blood while maintaining social distancing.
- Make hand sanitizer for others.
- Drive or collect donations.
- Help pick up grocery orders and order essentials.
- Be the eyes for someone who is blind.
- Help with local virtual volunteering needs.
A Wild Apricot blog indicates that we are all experiencing a significant shift in lifestyle. This article provides ways one can volunteer and give back utilizing your talents and abilities. Seven virtual volunteer opportunities include VolunteerMatch, Points of Light Global Network, UN Online Volunteering, Crisis Text Hotline, Translators without Borders, Bookshare and Table Wisdom. Eight ways you can give back to your community include checking on high-risk individuals, donating personal protective equipment, donating blood, supporting local organizations, thanking frontline workers, delivering meals to others, shopping local instead of online to boost the economy and taking home a furry friend.
An important current fact to know, is many nonprofits are looking for volunteers as their numbers have dwindled because of COVID-19. A recent story from News 5 Cleveland Ohio notes that because of volunteer reductions, Greater Cleveland Volunteers is recruiting volunteers and matching them with nonprofit opportunities. A key issue affecting many volunteer-focused organizations is simply the fact that many older volunteers at high risk for COVID-19 are not comfortable volunteering, so organizations are looking to recruit younger, healthier people. These volunteer positions need minimal training. Station KFDX/KJTL from Wichita Falls noted that an area food bank needed volunteers and donations. This story can be multiplied many times around the country.
Volunteers and donations are greatly needed across the country at this time. The pandemic is still very much with us as cases nationally continue to increase. Presently, there are over 3 million confirmed coronavirus COVID-19 cases and over 136,000 deaths in the U.S. Older volunteers continue to be fearful of volunteering. Unfortunately, this situation will be with us for the time being.
The need for volunteers will continue to be front and center for nonprofits. Especially if you are older and at risk, volunteering is an individual decision. I do hope individuals will step up to volunteer, especially if their assignment is remote, virtual or one with pronounced social distancing. Good luck sorting through the mixed messages of mask usage and social distancing. The safe play is always to carry a mask with you and follow CDC guidelines. Thanks to all that volunteer or plan to volunteer in the future. Your service is needed and much appreciated.
F. Duke Haddad is currently associate director of development, director of campaigns and director of corporate development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division in Indianapolis, Indiana. In addition, he is also president of Duke Haddad and Associates, LLC in Fishers, Indiana.
He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the past 12 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also completed post graduate work at the University of Louisville.