During the pandemic, many of us are greatly restricted in our ability to work and socialize. At the same time, nonprofits are trying to meet increased demand for services, while losing funding and volunteers. Fortunately, there are lots of options for those who have the time and the means to give back to the community, ranging from "rounding up" in stores to picking up groceries for a neighbor.
DPL librarian Maryanne Flynn has been volunteering from home for Mile High United Way (MHUW), and we asked her about her experience. Below are her insights on being a virtual volunteer, and some suggestions of other ways to contribute to worthwhile organizations.
1. Tell us about what you do for MHUW
Currently, I do Quality Assurance calls for the MHUW. About a month after someone calls 211 for assistance, I'll call back the individual (only those that gave us permission to call back), and ask them if they had a chance to follow up on the resources 211 provided for them. This is important so that if 211 is giving out referrals, say, to a Food Pantry that has closed down, this is one way to find out and stop giving out "bad" referrals. We also ask about the quality of the conversation the customer had with the 211 operator when they called, to ensure the call center folks are providing a high level of compassionate service.
2. Why did you choose this organization?
MHUW is, to me, the heartbeat of the nonprofit community in Denver and the surrounding areas. They use data (much of it gathered from 211 inquiries) to take the pulse of the needs in our community, and then they support nonprofits based where the highest needs are. They also do a tremendously effective job of fostering Corporate Social Responsibility by bringing in local businesses into their fold and leveraging them as volunteers (and donors) around town where help is needed. And, another hat I wear is Chair Emeritus of the City Year Denver Board. MHUW has granted money to City Year and that grant also came with free consulting on how to better engage and retain our nonprofit employees. They really care about the nonprofits' organizational health.
Also, Christine Benero, their CEO, is a member of the Junior League, and I heard her speak several years ago and she inspired me. She's my Shero.
3. What's the most rewarding aspect of donating your time during the pandemic?
I'm practicing strict social distancing. I don't go out except to walk my dog around the neighborhood and an occasional masked 6-feet-apart walk with friends. So I've been lonely. I miss the library and interacting with customers and co-workers in person. The most rewarding aspect of this volunteer gig from an emotional standpoint is that I have the opportunity to talk with people outside my household and check in on them, make sure they're doing ok. I've had some really fun conversations and that human interaction brightens my day. On an intellectual level, I also love this because I'm getting the chance to directly interact with people who are most affected by this pandemic, and it's bringing me a more detailed understanding of the challenges they are experiencing. This helps me be a better librarian so I can help figure out more effective ways to assist them.
If you'd like to give back by volunteering remotely, here are some options:
- Linkedin has a large selection of opportunities, many of which will allow you to use professional skills such as brochure writing, logo design, or creating an organizational chart.
- Volunteer locally or globally using Volunteer Match to find projects that are virtual or are social-distancing-friendly, such as doing some gardening for Animal Assisted Therapy Programs of Colorado.
- Power Of has some interesting and fun things to do, such as holding a virtual baby shower for military babies or being a radio announcer.
Easy ways to help:
- Round up when making a purchase.
- Give to your favorite nonprofit by making a digital donation. For example, you can help a kid get a computer for at-home learning by donating to organizations such as PCs For People.
- Send a gift card for coffee to a front-line worker through PayPal or Venmo.
- Support local businesses by buying gift cards for future purchases or by purchasing deliveries or curbside pickup of meals for yourself or someone in need.
In response to the current health emergency, we are currently not providing in-person services. But we're here for you—please contact us through our online chat service Ask Us! or by email.