How to volunteer from home

Elderly man peeking out window to find groceries being delivered.

Sarah Marinos

Posted May 07, 2020

Sick of Netflix? Here’s how to volunteer from home during the COVID-19 crisis.

If statistics reporting the number of men, women and young people who volunteer their time and skills are an accurate barometer, Victoria is a generous and kind-hearted state.  

The last Census found that more than 931,000 Victorians had a formal volunteering role, while a further 560,000 volunteered on an informal basis. Most are helping organisations involved with welfare and community, education and training, health, sports and recreation or religious-based groups. And their contributions are diverse, ranging from fundraising, mentoring and counselling to food preparation, administration, first aid and environmental protection.

The good news is that volunteering doesn’t just help those in need. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest it also helps the volunteers, with studies linking volunteering to everything from better life satisfaction to healthier blood pressure. The OECD Better Life Index points to what is unofficially called the ‘helper’s high’ – the release of feel-good brain chemicals like oxytocin that make you feel more generous and positive about the world.

While strict social-distancing measures have curtailed many traditional volunteering activities, there are plenty of opportunities to volunteer from your own home, says Scott Miller, chief executive of Volunteering Victoria. “We are seeing more informal volunteering at the moment – you don’t need to be part of an organisation,” he says. 

“There may be people in your street who need help getting their groceries, they may be lonely and need someone to call for a chat, or someone may need mentoring. At the moment, informal volunteering is a great thing to do.”

So if you have some spare time and the inclination to help others, here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Look at SEEK Volunteer and you’ll find requests for people to volunteer expertise in IT and web development, marketing, and to Skype Australians in aged-care facilities wanting someone to talk to. Some charities are searching for volunteers who can help with accounting, and tutoring young people with learning difficulties. The World Literacy Foundation, for example, is looking for a marketing volunteer and an SEO volunteer, while AMES, which helps refugees and newly arrived migrants, is looking for mentors. 
  • Vollie puts volunteers with a range of skills in touch with non-profits and charities, and all voluntary tasks are done online. The Australian business encourages volunteers to sign up, list their skills, search for suitable volunteer projects and apply. Charities then contact applicants directly. 
  • McAuley Community Services for Women supports women and children who have faced family violence and homelessness. “Our clients have been disconnected from their usual support network and part of our role is in providing connection and support,” says CEO Jocelyn Bignold. Volunteers collect and transport goods and food supplies to be distributed to families receiving help. 
  • ‘We’re all in this together’ is the catchcry of ViralKindness – a national movement of community care groups supporting neighbours during COVID-19. You can find a group in your local area, or start a group of your own, and you can offer help or ask for it. Get shopping for a neighbour, cook them a meal and deliver it to their doorstep, mow their front lawn or put a card in their letterbox to let them know you’re thinking about them. 
  • Become a digital doorknocker for this year’s Red Shield Appeal on behalf of The Salvation Army. Volunteers can’t knock on doors this year to raise vital funds because of COVID-19 and social-distancing rules, but the charity is hoping Victorians will get behind a digital door-knocking campaign instead. “You can door-knock via email, social media or text,” says Major Bruce Harmer, public relations secretary for the Salvos in Victoria. “We are currently working on new and innovative ways to support the community during this time. When volunteer opportunities become available, they will be hosted on our website.
  • If you’ve always wanted to be a hero but don’t know where to start, now might be a good time to become a Crisis Hero. Crisis Heroes is a free community platform created by a web-development agency in Melbourne. People can offer help or seek it – from picking up shopping and delivering mail to dog walking. The site has now gone global with users in Europe, central Africa, Malaysia and America.