Living in this “new normal” can be a real source of anxiety, but it’s also created limitless opportunity for community and charitable giving. It’s beyond my abilities to survey all of them, but I’m sharing a few that have struck me as being particularly relevant and/or creative. I’ve divided these opportunities into two sections: one for those in the position to make in-kind donations, and one focused on time and service (because giving back is about more than just money). The bottom line is: if you’re doing okay during the COVID-19 crisis, there are a million ways to help those who aren’t.
I hope you enjoy the list below. As ever, this list is meant to be shared widely, so feel free to pass it on, and comment below if there’s anything you think I missed. No matter what your motivation and your means, giving to charity right now is a personal and emotional decision, so good on you! And remember, the big donations are great, but the little gestures are just as important. Offer to do some non-contact shores for your elderly neighbor. Smile at your grocery check-out attendant. Call or send flowers to someone quarantining alone. And call your mom back!
If you want to donate your money:
Given the many global safety measures in place right now, an in-kind donation will be the easiest and safest way to donate. A few considerations for your cash donation:
- Start with giving guides. Giving guides are the best place to start. You can find them for Singapore and the United States here, and a simple “where to donate in YOUR COUNTRY” Google search will yield comparable results.
- Think about emerging health systems. Consider looking outside your own country, too. Building the health systems in emerging nations will of course take decades, but there are ways to donate that can improve the outlook, however slightly. You can donate to the Center for Global Development, the Global Health and Development charitable fund, or the Innovation in Government Initiative.
- Consider the knock-on effects. Organizations in everyone’s direct line of vision certainly need our help (e.g., support for healthcare workers), there are a ton of groups doing good work right now for those experiencing the knock-on effects of COVID-19. Consider these groups—the small businesses that you’d normally frequent, the performers whose work you’d normally enjoy in a night out on the town, the radio jockeys and journalists working hard to bring you news coverage— when thinking about your donations.
- Don’t forget about the other crises. COVID-19 is the obvious humanitarian crisis on everyone’s minds right now, but unfortunately, many of the problems that plagued us before COVID-19 still plague us now, and that other, non-COVID charities like food banks and blood centers need support, too.
- Look toward the future. IMHO, research and investments that help prevent the next pandemic are a very worthy investment. The Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Open Philanthropy Project, and the Gates Foundation funds for COVID-19 all check out.
- Check the facts. Be sure to check the effectiveness of the charity you’re planning to give to before donating, using a tool like Charity Navigator.
If you want to donate your time:
- Review cover letters and resumes. I recently saw a post on a colleagues’ LinkedIn with an offer to review cover letters and resumes, which I thought was a great idea. Feel free to use this template:
- “We are living in a global crisis and many of us are struggling. I have friends who have been laid off or had internships cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak and I know this is happening everywhere. I want to help out in any way I can and would love to edit resumes or cover letters. I currently work in ROLE at COMPANY but have experience in SKILL 1, SKILL 2, and SKILL 3. Please direct message me if you’re interested and share this with anyone you know who might want to chat.”
- Be a volunteer translator. If you are fluent in at least one language other than your native language, you can volunteer with Translators Without Borders to translate medical texts, crisis response communications, or for other roles such as project manager, graphic or web page designers and fundraising.
- Proofread e-books. Project Gutenberg is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, to encourage the creation and distribution of e-books. Volunteer by donating eligible materials, transcribing books into a digital form, or proofreading others’ work.
- Record audiobooks.
- Lend your eyes. Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers and company representatives for visual assistance through a live video call. Also, the founder’s TedX Talk is excellent. It didn’t make me cry, I swear…I just had dust in both of my eyes.
- Become a United Nations volunteer. UN Volunteers connects you with organizations working for peace and development in need of skills like research, writing, art, and design.
- Join Amnesty Decoders. Operated by Amnesty International, Amnesty Decoders is a platform from volunteers around the world to use their computers or phones to help researchers sift through pictures, information and documents to identify human rights violations.
- Support the Smithsonian Museum. Digital Volunteers can take on important assignments with the Smithsonian Museum to expand access to its massive collections, and participate in a variety of research programs. Some roles require special knowledge or skill, but many do not.
- Participate in research of all kinds. Super cool opportunities here from Zooniverse, from classifying galaxies to counting penguins to transcribing manuscripts. Whatever your interest, there’s a project for you.
- Provide learning encouragement for children. The Granny Cloud consists of 100+ dedicated volunteers from around the world who Skype into remote locations to chat with children. Don’t be fooled by the name; volunteers over 18 are welcome.
- Become a virtual counselor. Organizations like Basildon Mind in the UK, 7Cups and the Crisis Text Line in the US promote good mental health and respond to mental health crises (Crisis Text Line trains volunteers ages 18 and older to support people in crisis). There are organizations like these available around the world, so search for one in your area if you’re interested in this line of volunteerism.
- Write a letter. Search for a senior center, memory care center or nursing home in your area and contact them to let them know you’d like to write some letters. They can let you know any specific requests, and where to send the finished product. This works even better if several people participate, so grab a group of friends (metaphorically…social distancing, people!) and put pen to paper.
- Code against COVID-19. CodeMentor recently launched ‘Code Against COVID,’ an initiative that aims to connect organizations in need directly with mentors and freelance developers who can help.
- Donate your expertise. Whether you’re a human resources professional, a social media strategist, or an app designer, there’s a pro-bono group that could use your help, especially now when hiring has come to a halt. Websites like Catch a Fire, Idealist, Empact, and Halogen+ can help match you with the right opportunity. Health coaches can contribute by joining Health Coaches Without Borders (thanks to Nicole F in Singapore for this suggestion).
- Support migrant workers. I’ve gotten a few inquiries about this from readers in Singapore. Here are my suggestions:
- Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) and It’s Raining Raincoats both have donation drives to raise funds for the online topping up of prepaid SIM cards for migrant workers. You can find their donation drive sites at https://www.giving.sg/twc2/topup and https://www.facebook.com/pg/itsrainingraincoats/
- Additionally, Project Chulia Street is raising funds to prepare and distribute their Coronavirus Prevention Care Packets to 38,000 migrant workers in Singapore, that include essentials like shampoo, soap, hand sanitizers, masks, and top-up prepaid phone cards. Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) is looking for cash donations to support its efforts to prepare cleaning supplies, sanitizers and masks for migrant workers. Their sites are https://www.facebook.com/projectchuliastreet and https://www.home.org.sg/donate.
Happy volunteering! Let me know how you get on with these opportunities, or others. Stay happy and healthy everyone,