COVID-19: How to Volunteer During the Pandemic

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This blog post was provided by Cara Eaton, Director of Strategic Communications, Volunteer Toronto.

It’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic has placed the majority of Canadians in various lockdown states, changing the way we live and volunteer. Despite new restrictions, there was an overwhelming response of kindness and altruism from people who wanted to help in any way they could. In fact, Volunteer Toronto hasn’t seen anything like it in our 40-year history. Our Response Team, which connects interested volunteers with urgent and upcoming community needs, is 10,000 people strong and continues to grow every day. As Canadians, the pandemic has taught us we are ready to help one another when we need it most.

Woman wearing a mask with an outstretched hand holding out a mask to the camera man.

How COVID-19 Has Affected The Volunteer Landscape

Just like every sector, the volunteer landscape has been radically altered this past year. The demand for volunteer roles has never been greater, yet the key enablers of volunteerism in our country—non-profits—are facing some of their darkest days. Unpredictable funding, increased demand for services, and open and close lockdown measures mean that volunteers aren’t being engaged in the same numbers and places they were pre-pandemic. Organizations are adapting, but the number of roles available at non-profits are outnumbered by interest from the public. That’s why there are so many stories of volunteers stepping up to help their neighbours directly—waves of grassroots and mutual aid groups are shaking up our community for the greater good.

In reality, it can take a lot of work to help get people involved, engage volunteers, and facilitate volunteering. Volunteerism enablers  spread the word about opportunities and make it possible for anyone who is interested to participate. For example, volunteer managers are skilled professionals that know volunteer engagement is more than just recruitment. And volunteer centres, like Volunteer Toronto, are critical to managing the supply and demand of volunteer participation to ensure support is funnelled where it is needed most. The good news? Volunteers are still needed across Canada. And we will continue to need more volunteers in the future. We are committed to providing avenues for Canadians to give back, whether it be in person with the proper COVID-19 safety guidelines in place, or virtually at home. 

Women wearing a mask putting groceries into the trunk of her car.

Volunteering Can Benefit You And Your Community

Volunteering can benefit you and your community in several ways. Individually, volunteering can help you learn new skills and gain valuable experience. It can serve as an important networking opportunity for professionals, students, and newcomers in Canada. Volunteering has also been known to reduce the effects of social isolation. Meeting people in person is a challenge during COVID-19 times, but there are many virtual volunteer opportunities out there to get involved in. On a community level, volunteering is beneficial when it comes to building a sense of social responsibility in your city and neighbourhood. In turn, this will only strengthen your understanding of the needs within your community. It’s one of the best ways to meet your neighbours, which can inspire grassroots responses and more caring communities when they are needed most. 

Man wearing a mask walking down the street holding a delivery bag.

Volunteers have been supporting many of the essential services happening across the country right now. For example, organizations who depend on Volunteer Drivers need our help urgently. Volunteer Drivers are essential for COVID-19 response as Drivers transport patients to and from medical appointments, get groceries to seniors, conduct wellness checkups, and much more. With more seniors and other vulnerable community members isolating at home, demand has only skyrocketed. One of the most meaningful ways to give back right now, is to become a Volunteer Driver.

Woman wearing a mask handing off bags of groceries in a parking garage.

Tips To Consider Before Volunteering

  1. Do some reflection and think about the time you have to offer. Do you want an ongoing role, a short-term role, or a one-time role?
  2. Think about the skills you could offer to an organization or individual in your community and find your areas of interest.
  3. Think about what you most want to learn and will gain from volunteer work – this will help you on your journey towards finding an organization that is a perfect fit.
  4. Consider your access to technology, particularly for a volunteer role that is conducted virtually.
  5. Apply to more than one role as there is a high-volume of interest in all formalized positions.
  6. Be patient after applying – volunteer staff cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic may impede an organization’s ability to respond quickly to every inquiry.
  7. Ask safety questions to yourself and your potential volunteer manager. Does this position require PPE? Will PPE be provided? Are the appropriate COVID-19 safety policies in place?

Without doubt, the role of volunteers in our society is being reimagined right now. Our communities are looking for different and intensified support from volunteers, and grassroots groups are popping up all the time as new ways for individuals to get involved. Volunteering is a rewarding and noble pursuit for many, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen how the power of volunteerism has brought out the good in all of us as a nation. 

In celebration of National Volunteer Week 2021 from April 18th-24th, Volunteer Toronto would like to thank the 1.6 million volunteers in Toronto, and volunteer managers and community organizers across the nation, for your commitment and resiliency. At Volunteer Toronto, we envision a Toronto that is caring, inclusive, and engaged. A city where volunteering is an important avenue through which everyone has the opportunity to participate and contribute meaningfully. Toronto needs volunteers, and volunteerism enablers, now more than ever.

How Volunteer Toronto Helps

Our mission is to increase the positive impact that volunteering has on the City of Toronto through innovative initiatives that inspire, inform, and connect volunteers to the organizations that need them. 

During our COVID-19 response, Volunteer Advisors have been available through phone and email to help members of the public navigate the search for safe and rewarding volunteer roles. We make recommendations based on your skills, interests, and goals and provide advice on the application process for each role you are considering. 

Learn more and make a donation in support of Volunteer Toronto today. Visit volunteertoronto.ca to get involved.

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