During the COVID-19 global health crisis, being there for one another is more important than ever. Even if it’s from six feet away, the only way we’ll get through this is together. As I discuss in Chapter 4, “Disrupting – An Essential Part of Success,” of my book, Dream Big! How to Reach for Your Stars, small actions can and do make a huge difference in the world as a whole. That’s why we need to support one another, especially those who are working tirelessly right now to keep us safe!
Giving back means that once this pandemic is over, we’ll be stronger than we were before. So get creative! While there are limits to what we can do in-person due to safety regulations, there are still plenty of ways we can give back. Keep reading for 50 fun actions you can do today to give back!
Make Donations to Give Back
One of the easiest ways you can give back to your community is by making donations. Collect things you no longer need or use and donate them. This includes items like shoes, clothes, books, canned food, and toiletries. Donating is important in ensuring that families in need stay healthy and prepared during every season of the year. Especially during the winter months, donating can help families in need stay healthy and warm.
Safety Tip: COVID-19 doesn’t stay on surfaces for long, but don’t donate if you think something has been exposed! According to CDC, “Coronaviruses on surfaces and objects naturally die within hours to days. Warmer temperatures and exposure to sunlight will reduce the time the virus survives on surfaces and objects.”
1. Donate Clothes
Instead of throwing away your old clothes, you can donate them to someone in need. There are many places that will take your old clothes and pass them on to someone new. Some take specific items, like winter coats and gloves, but others will accept a variety of donations. Here are some of my favorites:
2. Donate Food
Help people in need get a warm meal by donating food to food pantries. Food banks are often looking for canned goods and non-perishable items. Here are some resources to help you find a food bank in your area:
3. Donate Care Kits
Care kits are a great way to help out individuals experiencing homelessness. They often include socks, gloves, a water bottle, and a toothbrush and toothpaste. Having a variety of items can be impactful on a person for a longer period of time. You can make them yourself and keep them in your car to hand out, or you can donate to these groups:
4. Donate Blood
With blood donation events and drives canceled, the American Red Cross has had a severe blood shortage. During the pandemic, health officials are enforcing special safety protocols to limit the risk when going out to donate. If you are healthy and able, learn more about donating blood here:
5. Donate to Schools
Teachers need assistance getting supplies for their classroom projects. Projects are vital to helping students gain a more dynamic and fulfilling education. At Donors Choose, you can look up projects at local schools and make a donation. From flexible seating during COVID-19 to musical instruments or a large circle time rug, you can make a direct impact in the educational experience of the children in your community!
6. Donate Meals
Like to cook? You can go beyond donating canned goods and make meals for healthcare workers. Healthcare workers are working tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy, and this is a great way to thank them for all they do. This is especially significant during holidays, when healthcare workers may not get home to make a big meal. If you can’t get a meal directly to someone, these groups also accept donations, and they will send a meal on your behalf:
7. Donate Masks
We’ve all learned the importance of masks during the past year! However, there is currently a shortage of medical masks in the United States for healthcare workers. To help out, you can make your own mask and help others mask up, too, with non-medical masks, to free up those for frontline healthcare professionals.
Places in need of mask donations:
How to make a mask:
Your time can make a world of difference. Volunteer opportunities during the pandemic look especially different, but numerous organizations have adapted and are calling for virtual volunteers to help out entirely online. See below how you can volunteer your time and directly help others.
8. Connect with Seniors
Seniors are at especially high-risk during the pandemic, which means that they are spending a lot of time in isolation. Connecting with them will make them feel less lonely and more cared for! You can also offer to help teach seniors how to use technology so that they can better connect with their families remotely. Check out this source to learn more:
9. Become a Tutor
Online school can be tough, so volunteer your time to help kids transition! Practically anyone can be a tutor; you don’t have to be an expert or have a PhD in a subject area to make a real difference. Reach out to students taking classes you’ve taken before. There are many online resources available to help you find the right program for you.
10. Volunteer at a Non-Profit
Find a non-profit dedicated to something you are passionate about. You can edit videos, help with social media, help with data entry, phone bank, fundraise, and so much more! Not sure how to find a non-profit? Start by searching for non-profits that are about an area of interest. Then, reach out via email or phone call to see how you can get involved! Also, you can leverage your social media connections to see if any of your peers are involved!
11. Teach English
While the United States has no official language, the majority of people speak English. That makes knowing English an almost essential skill when it comes to attending school or obtaining a job. If you are a native English speaker, volunteer to teach English to others with the help of these organizations:
12. Help the Visually Impaired
The program “Be My Eyes” connects the visually impaired with volunteers in real-time. The visually impaired person can send the volunteer a video or picture, and the volunteer will help guide them through the situation. Learn how you can volunteer today by checking out their website:
13. Expose Human Rights Violations
You can help researchers sift through photos and videos and discover human rights violations right from your own home! In this important work, you’ll search for patterns and differences in media on various predetermined projects. Visit this source to see how you can get started:
14. Contribute to Wikipedia
Wikipedia is a leading source for people looking to learn about anything! Sources like Wikipedia are really important in education efforts, and you can be a part of it. Pro Tip: Consider volunteering, especially if you are a woman, as only 8.5-16.5% of contributors are women.
15. Become a TedTranslator
TedTalks are speeches and presentations by leaders in their fields. You can help improve access to these amazing ideas and stories by translating the live presentations. That way, they can be available online to a wider audience! Learn more about how you can get involved with these important education efforts here:
16. Help People with Reading Disabilities
You can scan and proofread books that don’t have audio files with Book Share. Book Share formats different books so that they are customizable and suitable for the needs of people with reading disabilities. Check out how you can get involved:
17. Help Find Technological Solutions
Have tech skills? Consider donating them for DemocracyLab projects. Be a part of these innovative, predetermined non-profit projects that help social good and politics, and meet a whole new community of people online. You can read about different projects on their website here:
18. Shelter a Pet
In the pandemic, many animal shelters are being shut down, and people who may be sick or struggling financially are unable to take care of their pets. Head to your local shelter and see if there is anything you can do! If you can’t adopt, see if they need foster homes for animals in need! Or you can make donations to support pets at this source:
19. Volunteer to Landscape and Clean Up
Cleaning up a living space makes being in isolation there a bit easier. For instance, you can help people – especially your elderly neighbors – clean up their yards. In the winter, you can shovel snow, in the fall, you can rake leaves, and in the spring, you can plant flowers! You can also serve at community centers, like lakes and town squares, and see how you can clean up your community.
20. Make an Audiobook
By working with Learning Ally, you can make an audiobook to help improve literacy rates and assist students who struggle to read. Reading is often a barrier to some students to gain a higher education, and this organization is on a mission to help.
21. Tag Wildlife with ZSL Instant Wild
Tagging wildlife is helpful in conservation efforts and protecting different species. With this virtual source, you will go through images to help scientists identify certain wildlife species. This is a great citizen science resource!
22. Help Kids Reach Their Dreams with this Volunteer Career Fair
Career Village offers an online career fair in which you can sign up as a professional in an area you have knowledge in. Kids will submit their questions on how they can “be you,” and then you answer them. Learn more about how you can help kids reach their dreams by visiting their website:
23. Volunteer for a Hotline
Volunteering for a hotline is more emotionally challenging, but it is incredibly important during this time. After attending training, you will connect with people struggling firsthand and guide them through their crisis, over text or over a phone call. Here are some hotlines currently looking for volunteers:
24. Looking for More Places to Volunteer Your Time?
There are countless more ways you can volunteer your time. These sources will help you find places you can volunteer at that may be more specifically aligned with your interests, commitment, and location.
Politics are a major way to get problems solved and make changes within your community. Your voice is important, and your opinions and experiences matter. By sharing them with others, you can be a part of important conversations and efforts for change and give back to other members of your community – especially those most negatively affected by the problems.
25. Spread the Word About Issues on Social Media
Awareness is incredibly important and can make a significant impact. You never know who needs to hear something or what you can teach someone. An easy way to give back to your community is by leveraging your following on social media and speaking about issues to make positive change. There are so many amazing creators online who design and make infographics to help inform the public about social issues in a condensed and far-reaching way. Take advantage of these resources right at your fingertips!
26. Reach Out to Your Representatives About the Issues that Matter
You can push for change at a higher level by reaching out to your representatives. By calling, emailing, or signing petitions virtually, you can hold government officials responsible for fighting for the issues that matter. Check out this source to find out who your representatives are and what their contact information is. Beginner Tip: Don’t be shy to reach out! Remember, these representatives are working for you. It’s their job to listen to your voice and opinion!
27. Lend Your Voice in the Legislative Process
Not sure what bills are in progress right now? Sign up for email lists of organizations you care about! They’ll let you know whenever there is a legislative bill that’s going to be voted on. By educating yourself on current legislation, you can voice your opinion when the time comes for the bill to be voted on! While many states have restricted members of the public from speaking and showing support at hearings, you can still indicate your support digitally via state government websites.
28. Volunteer for a Campaign You Care About
Campaigns often need volunteers to help phonebank for them (this is where you call up current or potential supporters to make asks and get them involved). Don’t worry: phone banking isn’t as scary as it sounds! Organizations will provide you a script of exactly what to read and how to direct the conversation. You can volunteer for campaigns not only in your local area, but across the country!
29. Write an Op-Ed
Your opinion matters and your knowledge and experience can impact more people than you would imagine. Use that to write an opinion piece or letter to the editor! These are short (less than 200 word) persuasive pieces showing your belief in a certain action. Remember: When you write an op-ed, you don’t have to just submit to major publications. You can send your writing to local newspapers too! First-time writer? Read about how to write an effective op-ed here.
30. Serve on a Local Town Committee or Board
Often, you only need to be 18 to serve in local town organizations. Apply to join the committee for sustainability, education, transportation – whatever issues matter the most to you. Local legislation might seem lackluster, but you might be able to create real change in your surrounding community that directly impacts you and the people around you. If this is something you are interested in, check out your town’s website!
31. Register to Vote and Vote if Applicable!
I don’t know about you, but I was so excited when I was finally able to go to my first ballot box and submit my vote! Not only do you get the chance to voice your own opinions, but by casting your vote, you are lending your voice to others who are unable to vote themselves. You can be a part of making real change at the government level that will impact larger communities. You will be helping your own communities and the entire country, so register to vote here.
32. Become a Social Ambassador for Girls Inc
Did you know about social media ambassador programs? It’s where you can volunteer your own social media networks to help give voice to a good cause! One good example is the ambassador program at Girls Inc. Girls Inc is a program dedicated to helping girls develop, grow, and find opportunities. Girls are underrepresented in STEM fields in particular, especially young girls of color. You can be a part of the mission to change that and inspire girls to reach for their stars by volunteering with Girls Inc for just five minutes a week.
Build Your Community with Virtual Events to Give Back
While we may not be able to travel during the pandemic, we can grow and still have fun in our own community. These kinds of events foster connectedness, even while six feet apart! Around the world, people have been reimagining community events, and you can too. Check out my ideas on how you can hold virtual events below.
Within Your School
33. Connect with Other Students
While you may not be able to connect with other students at school, you can create fun, virtual activities to participate in together. You can hold trivia nights, watch movie parties (Netflix party!), or make funny PowerPoint presentations to present to each other over Zoom. One of the events I did with my friends was a pet night, where we all brought our furry friends on camera to meet the others!
34. Reach Out to New Students and Offer to Give Guidance
New students always appreciate having someone reach out to them so think about volunteering with your student admissions office! For instance, at Wellesley College, my alma mater, students are creating individual welcome videos for newly admitted students! You can also connect using Facebook groups for your school and even make some new friends.
35. Create Study Groups with People in Your Classes
Online learning has affected everyone’s learning style differently, and it is a change everyone has had to adapt to. There’s no doubt about it: online classes are tough. However, by making study groups with your peers, you can all get through your Zoom classes together.
Other Community Events
36. Connect with Other Bookworms with a Virtual Book Club
In the free time, more people have been reading, so plenty of people have books to share! This is a great way to deal with isolation and talk about something you are passionate about. This is also a great chance to read books on important topics and educate yourself.
37. Host a Game Night
Play games with your friends online! Some of my favorite virtual games are Bingo and Skribbl. There are also many kinds of word games that can be fun for all ages. Turn it into a more social event by having your friends on Facetime while you play. You can also spice things up by making a fun competition out of it!
38. Build a Social Media Community
Start a social media page and share resources, opportunities, and more about these you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. Are you an amazing cook? Share recipes for your followers to enjoy and learn! Are you a fitness guru? Share easy workouts for people to follow! Let the world know just what you’ve been up to in quarantine, and share what you know with others.
39. Host an Online Concert
You can bring together local singers, songwriters, musicians and hold a concert over Zoom! Music is especially important in isolation and has the power to bring together a community. An online concert will be such a memorable experience to look back on in the future, too.
Support Small Businesses to Give Back
Local and small businesses have been especially suffering during the pandemic. For many business owners, their business is their only source of income and something they work tirelessly for. Keep reading to hear how you can help your neighbors keep their businesses alive!
40. Purchase from Locally-Owned Businesses
Lots of small businesses are facing challenges during the pandemic. While they might not have two-day shipping like Amazon, the quality, customer service, and uniqueness of small businesses are still unparalleled! Search for locally owned businesses in your area here to help give back to your community:
41. Purchase Handmade Goods on Etsy
The talent of creators on Etsy is sure to blow you away! Maybe it will even inspire you to start your own project. Support small businesses, artists, craftsmen as they pursue their passion by making a purchase today.
42. Purchase someone’s art on Redbubble
Redbubble is a unique source where anyone can sell their art. You’ll find clothing, phone cases, masks, stickers, bags, and more! This is another awesome way to support young aspiring artists as they save money to pursue a professional career.
Connect With Others to Give Back
Lastly, you can give back to others just by reaching out! Isolation has been tough, and it is now much more difficult to maintain relationships. Humans are naturally social creatures, and by connecting with others, we can get through these tough times together.
43. Reach Out to People You Haven’t Spoken With In A While
A simple text can go a long way! See if people need anything, like groceries or even just someone to talk to on the phone. Hearing from someone you haven’t spoken to in a long time can really make your day! Like I said before, the only way we are going to get through this pandemic is by helping each other out – and that starts by connecting!
44. Check-in with High-Risk Neighbors
Elderly people and people with pre-existing conditions are feeling more isolated as they have to take extra precautions. Send flyers around or use the Nextdoor app and ask if they need help shoveling snow, getting groceries, or picking up medications. You can help out by taking a worry off their plate and making their day a bit easier!
45. Stay In Touch with Your Friends
It can be easy to lose contact with the people you’re closest to when you stop seeing them every day; that has been a struggle for many people during this time. Mental health conditions can worsen during isolation, so be sure to check in with your friends and offer support to each other. You can send a text or write to them on social media, but without a doubt, both you and your friend will be happier connecting again.
46. Write a Letter
Show you’re thinking of someone by writing a letter. This is simple but incredibly meaningful – especially when it is handwritten! Your receiver will be able to keep and look back at your letter for years to come. This is also a fun opportunity to get creative and add some personal flare (personally, I’m the proud owner of a comically large 4,000 fun sticker book). Many groups are also looking for volunteers to write letters to soldiers, nursing home residents, and incarcerated individuals. Check out these resources to see how you can help:
47. Call on the Phone
Phone calls are so impactful! Reaching out to someone and hearing their voice goes a long way, and sometimes it is just easier to call on the phone than to text. You can even partner with lots of different organizations to call people of certain groups (like a pen pal) and meet new people beyond your typical social circle.
48. Facetime, Zoom, or Google Meet
While talking to someone is nice, being able to see them is even better. Luckily, we have FaceTime and Zoom to help us do so! You can connect with multiple people at once and throw a little virtual party. Many services also have the opportunity to share your screen, so you can do lots of fun things together from one device. People may have a tough time reaching out, so you can take the first step and set up calls for others to join and participate in. Others will appreciate your efforts!
49. If You’re Part of a Religious Community, Join Their Virtual Events
Support and be supported in a community you really care about. Within your religious community, you can connect with other people who have similar values to you and participate in virtual activities they have put together. Many groups also set up volunteering opportunities that you can get involved in and help out people in need.
50. Turn a Virtual Birthday Party into a Fundraiser
Facebook has an amazing feature that allows you to set up a fundraiser for your birthday and invites people to donate to a cause you care about. This is a great way to simultaneously connect with others and give back to a community or organization you care about. What a great birthday present!
What Will You Do?
This pandemic has taught us just how important our small actions are and what a world of difference they can make. We are all in this together, so I encourage you to use this list of ideas to give back to your community today. If you want to learn more about the significance of our small actions and how they relate back to our big dreams, be sure to check out my new book, Dream Big!: How to Reach for Your Stars, today!