If you want to gain volunteering experience – an excellent addition to any college application portfolio – summer 2020 seems like the worst time to do it. The COVID-19 pandemic has made many traditional forms of volunteering impossible. However, organizations around the world need volunteers more than ever. But how to do it safely?
This month, we at myKlovr are examining virtual volunteering opportunities in a two-part series. In this article, please review some virtual volunteering basics. In Part II, we’ll look at one organization, Best Buddies International, which has made virtual volunteering an integral part of its mission to help people with intellectual disabilities.
What is Virtual Volunteering?
As the name suggests, virtual volunteering allows you to help an organization without interacting with other people directly. How does it work? Well, that depends on an organization’s needs. Here’s are some typical examples:
- Making calls to raise money
- Writing or editing documents
- Developing educational materials with a team of volunteers
- Creating a video
- Creating a website
- Making social media posts to raise awareness
How Do I Get Involved?
When you visit an organization’s website, first determine whether they have a virtual volunteering program and if your talents match their needs. If so, send an email to introduce yourself and describe how you can help. Form your email like you would a cover letter.
If an organization does not have a virtual volunteering program, you can still contact them and see if they could use your services. Many organizations that rely on in-person volunteers are struggling right now, and they may bring you aboard if you have a convincing pitch.
How Do I Do a Good Job?
Virtual volunteering resembles the WFH (work from home) many professionals have been doing these last few months. The tasks are approximately the same, but working from home has its challenges. There are plenty of fun distractions, many of which exist on the very computer you use to volunteer.
Virtual volunteering success is two-fold. One, ask your contact to provide you with a solid deadline for your work. Second, create a schedule that provides some break times that are away from the computer or phone you use for volunteering. Until the workday is over, you want to keep your electronics – or at least some of them – for work only.
Another challenge that WFH poses to both employees and volunteers involves communication. If you receive an email or text that you don’t quite get, always clarify. It may feel a bit embarrassing, but many adults – me included – make mistakes when juggling emails with the tons of other things we’re doing online.
Can I Get a Reference?
Before we discuss references, let’s briefly talk about another advantage that virtual volunteering can bring to your college application portfolio. As you volunteer from home, keep track of all work you complete, especially if you’re creating products such as website copy or illustrations. A sample of one of these can make a great addition to a college application.
Back to the references. Just like asking your teacher for a reference, do so as politely as possible. To increase your odds of a great reference, make sure you communicate with your contact person effectively throughout your volunteering experience. Respond to emails in a timely manner and turn in work on time.
As your volunteering time wraps up, make sure to ask nicely and let them know that you’ll be in touch with details once you know which colleges you’ll apply to. In the meantime, send an email every so often to keep them person updated, and maybe ask if you can do anything else for them.
COVID-19 has made volunteering incredibly complicated but far from impossible. If you offer your talents to an organization that does some good in the world, they’re likely to accept your help. If you’re forthright and do your best every day, you’re likely to have a positive virtual volunteering experience that will set you up for college admission success.