2020 ushered in two surprises—a global pandemic and nationwide protests against racial injustice—that shine a light on the disproportionate burden born by already-struggling communities. Charitable donations have poured in (a special coronavirus edition of “Giving Tuesday” raised over half a billion dollars), but many long to join the front lines.1 Unfortunately, even as some states re-open, social distancing will keep many volunteers sidelined. How can families who value volunteerism help from afar?
A Rising Spirit
Traumatic and troubling times tend to kindle compassion. Whether responding to a devastating hurricane, health needs during a pandemic, or religious or racial injustice, many individuals feel compelled to help. And while we’ve found workarounds for learning and seeing friends, serving others while social distancing appears less clear-cut. Below we suggest several ways to “virtually” roll up your sleeves.
Become an Advocate: Stand up for those who cannot do it alone. Don’t be silent—speak up when you hear a biased or unkind comment or report harmful speech on social media. The power of the pen persists, so write to your state and local government, sign a petition, or spread positivity through your social network.
Start a “Goods” Drive: Local communities have many needs. For instance, most food banks already faced capacity constraints before the crisis. Now, unemployment has skyrocketed, and so has food insecurity. Contact your local pantry, find out their needs, and distribute the list to neighbors with a bag that they can leave outside for you to collect. Or contact your local schools for a list of crucial resources that are in short supply. Some may require physical items—like books or computers—while others could use your time to tutor struggling students or organize online ceremonies. As with food pantries, you can enlist friends and neighbors to heighten your impact.
Befriend a Neighbor: Reach out to homebound individuals who may lack family nearby, especially the elderly. Delivering groceries or medicine might help, but often, they’re just starved for companionship. Make it a daily habit to phone or sit at a distance outside to lift the spirits of those living alone. They might also appreciate help tending to their yard or garden. Or get the whole neighborhood involved in a daily meal rotation. Online sites like SignUpGenius.com can help organize a schedule for regular meal delivery.
A Family Affair
Summer plans often include special family trips, but for some, this year’s vacation may become a staycation. Why not take advantage of the time together to involve the whole family in giving back? Many families wish to instill values like altruism, compassion, and goodwill. Today’s crises offer families an opportunity to explore causes and charities that align closely with each member’s passions.
Wondering where to start? Sites like Givingcompass.org or organizations like the United Way can help you find innovative ways to take action. Consider everyone’s likes and interests, and tailor participation to inspiring activities where they can witness firsthand how their contributions will make a difference (Display).
Necessity Is the Mother of Invention
We live in unsettling times, but many are reinventing personal interactions in awe-inspiring ways. This same creative thinking applies to volunteering. Gifts of assets, time, or your voice can all dramatically alter someone else’s life path. Vulnerable, at-risk communities still need your help—it just might look and feel different than before.
- Emily Neubert
- Director—Family Governance
- Anne Bucciarelli
- National Director—Family Engagement Strategy
- Vikram Prasad
- Analyst—Wealth Strategies Group
1. https://associationsnow.com/2020/06/daily-buzz-givingtuesdaynow-pulls-impressive-totals/. Accessed June 3, 2020