With social distancing guidelines still in place across the country, many Canadians have turned to digital devices to clock in for work, sweat it out at virtual fitness classes or check in with friends and family.
Thanks to technology, we have more and more options for interacting with our communities, too —and that means more than just refreshing social media feeds 435 times in an afternoon. Believe it or not, there are even more rewarding ways you can put your energy to work online. Enter: e-volunteering.
Also known as virtual, remote or online volunteering, e-volunteering means contributing your skills, knowledge and time toward a cause you care about — without the need to physically go anywhere.
E-volunteering is likely to stick around, even after the pandemic is a distant memory. While most people find satisfaction in helping others, many simply don't have time for traditional volunteering. Between long days at work, childcare duties and much-needed "me time," it's understandable that many people struggle to fit in-person volunteer hours into their packed calendars.
For others, the benefits of e-volunteering are logistical. Many people don't have easy access to transportation, have health issues that prevent in-person commitments or may want to lend their time to organizations in other cities — or even countries.
In these instances, e-volunteering is the perfect solution. Hours are often flexible, as most roles don't require you to log in at a certain date and time. The location is completely up to you. All you need is a decent Wi-Fi connection. What's more, e-volunteering is one of the safest ways to help those around you without exposing yourself to health risks that are still an issue in many regions.
E-volunteering is becoming even more popular as more and more people find themselves living their lives largely online. Now more than ever, a number of charities and non-profits are embracing remote volunteers with specific skill sets to provide one-time, short-term or even long-term support.
And you don't need experience in non-profit work to lend a hand. Some skills that are especially useful for e-volunteering include writing social media posts and blogs, graphic design, photography, mentoring or tutoring, financial analysis, translations, project management and more, according to Volunteer Canada Opens in a new window..
Why volunteer in the first place?
Volunteering is powerful because it provides direct, measurable results. Contributing to essential programs and services not only empowers and supports people using those services, but it also helps bond communities detailed in this report (PDF, 410 KB) Opens in a new window.. This can lead to social and economic rewards in areas like education, health, labour and more.
And while self-improvement may not be your main goal with volunteering, there are rewards to dedicating your free time to helping others. Canadians who volunteer are able to build their networks, develop and refine professional skills and make themselves more attractive to employers — ultimately leading to a sense of fulfillment. Sometimes, those employers will pay it forward, offering to match volunteers' hours with cash donations or give PTO (paid time off) to workers who lend their time to a good cause.
Best of all? E-volunteering can be a way to achieve all this without ever stepping foot outside your front door. You can do it all from the sweet cocoon of home and the comfort of your smartphone.
One thing is for sure: it's certainly a better use of your time than doomscrolling.
Ready to help? Here's how
To find e-volunteering opportunities, turn to volunteer boards in your local town, city or province. Some of the larger volunteer boards have sections dedicated to virtual volunteering roles, with a wide range of options available.
For instance, as parents and kids learn the ropes of online schooling, there's a rising need for virtual tutors. Organizations like the United Way Cape Breton are looking to connect volunteers with families in the region so they can provide extra academic support and help students finish assignments Opens in a new window..
Other non-profits like Single Mothers in Progress, an organization that helps single mothers and their families with basic needs, education, employment and counselling services in the Greater Toronto area, need support operating and promoting their services. These groups often look for volunteers who can take on marketing and administrative tasks online. On the website for Single Mothers in Progress, they're currently looking for volunteers to assist with fundraising coordination, IT assistance, technical support and more Opens in a new window..
If you don't find a fitting opportunity on a job board, you can also be proactive by reaching out to organizations directly. If you're passionate about animal welfare, try reaching out to a nearby rescue shelter. You never know, your social media management or graphic design skills may help out a four-legged friend in unexpected ways.
Take your talents global
The great thing about e-volunteering is that you're not confined to volunteering at organizations in your own backyard. Many people take on volunteer roles that allow them to collaborate with other people from around the world to support important global initiatives.
For example, Amnesty International has a sub-division called Amnesty Decoders, which relies on volunteers across the globe. Volunteers use their computers and smartphones to help researchers wade through pictures, information and documents to help expose human rights violations Opens in a new window..
Another global effort that's attracted more than 1 million participants, or “citizen scientists," is Folding@Home's distributed computer project. Distributed computing allows scientists to access an incredibly large number of processors, so they can form calculations much more quickly. The hope is that by gathering this information, they can discover a cure for Covid-19 Opens in a new window..
Whether sharing your computer to help put an end to the pandemic or leveraging your marketing savvy to get the word out, there are endless ways to make a positive impact. All it takes to get started is the simple touch of your keyboard.