All posts by Jason Barnes

6 Remote Volunteering Opportunities That Are Perfect for the Pandemic

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Volunteering doesn’t just do good for the world; it’s also good for a team. 

Giving back reminds everyone to be grateful for the opportunities they’ve been given. It also gives them something to talk about other than work. Volunteering is a great way to bring a team together around a shared purpose.

Over the last few months, teams have had to find new ways to bond. No longer can they eat lunch together, work side-by-side, or meet up for an after-work happy hour. 

Unfortunately, the same goes for volunteering opportunities: You can’t simply waltz into a children’s hospital to read to kids during the pandemic. But if your team wants to help, there are still plenty of ways to do it. 

Giving Back From Afar

If you’re willing to get creative, you’ll see that there are almost as many opportunities to volunteer remotely as their are in-person:

1. BeMyEyes: Lend your sight to people with visual impairments.

As long as your team members have their eyesight, they can volunteer for BeMyEyes. People with vision impairments use BeMyEyes to check expiration dates, read instructions, look for lost items, and more.

Start by downloading the BeMyEyes app. Once you’re matched with a user who needs to see something, you’ll receive a video call. All you have to do is describe what you see on the screen in order to help them out. From the comfort of your own home, you can join over 3.8 million volunteers in giving a gift it’s entirely too easy to take for granted. 

2. Amnesty Decoders: Dig into international human rights violations.

With easy access and tons of opportunities, Amnesty Decoders makes it easy to become a digital activist and do meaningful human rights work. To get to work, all you need is internet access and a smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

Amnesty Decoder volunteers help researchers sift through large data banks of social media messages, images, video, and other documents for evidence of human rights abuses. Decoders help researchers avoid information overload so they can focus on the root issue. 

Since its release in June 2016, Amnesty Decoders has tackled seven projects for the betterment of humanity, including digitizing a large data bank of oil spill investigation reports, identifying misogynistic social media content targeted at female Indian politicians, and more. 

3. Crisis Text Line: Support people experiencing mental health crises.

If you’ve never experienced a mental health crisis before COVID-19, odds are that you have a better sense of how difficult they can be. Turn that into positive energy by volunteering on behalf of Crisis Text Line. 

Remember, a crisis doesn’t necessarily mean someone is thinking about ending their life. In many cases, it means that someone simply needs an attentive ear to listen to their challenges. Just be prepared to talk about tough topics, including abuse, anxiety, suicide, loneliness, bullying, and self-harm. 

With just a four-hour-per-week commitment and free training — valued at over $1,000 per volunteer — you can change someone’s life. You’ll become a more compassionate, empathetic, and understanding person, not to mention learn strategies for addressing your own mental health needs. 

4. Project Gutenberg: Transcribe print literature into digital documents.

Project Gutenberg is a free digital library with more than 60,000 e-books and cultural works. To improve access to information around the world, Project Gutenberg has a range of volunteer opportunities available:

  • Proofread an e-book.

Joining as a member of the Distributed Proofreaders team means that you can proofread as few or as many pages as you want. That way, readers don’t have to deal with transcription errors. 

  • Procure eligible paper books.

Producing new e-books for the site means getting a hold of paper books with expired copyrights. Because most content published before 1923 is no longer under copyright, the site mostly contains older works of literature. 

  • Burn CDs and DVDs for people without internet access. 

Even within the U.S., not everyone has access to the internet. Share information and materials with those who otherwise might not have it. 

5. Ancestry World Archives Project: Build a publicly accessible genealogy database.

Genealogy sites like Ancestry are not only fun and sentimental, helping people find long lost relatives and learn about their family’s history, but they also benefit society. Family history data can be used by detectives to solve crimes, while medical experts can leverage it to understand a person’s predispositions to certain diseases. 

Ancestry’s World Archives Project houses free searchable records gathered from historical documents. Volunteers review scanned documents and make the material searchable by typing out its contents. They not only get a firsthand look at historical documents, but they may also be eligible for discounts on Ancestry’s premium services.

6. CareerVillage: Answer students’ career questions and share work experiences.

Landing a job is all about who you know. Unfortunately, a lot of talented students don’t have industry connections. Worse, some of them don’t even know what working in the field is like.

CareerVillage volunteers give promising students that leg up. Ranging in intensity from full-on mentorship to casual question-answering, volunteering opportunities come with no specific commitment or training requirements. CareerVillage’s network of volunteers advise more than 4 million learners, including those from underrepresented backgrounds. 

Just because teams have to work together differently during the pandemic does not mean that they can’t still come together to do good. Try it: There’s never been a better time to get involved. 

7 Questions to Ask Before Accepting Drop-Ins During COVID-19

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When you run an appointment-based business, scheduling clients beforehand is key to your efficiency. At the same time, you’ll inevitably have to contend with drop-ins. 

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, accepting drop-ins had its pros and cons. They may have netted you more business, but they might also have upset your staff. It was a question of how drastically drop-ins affected your efficiency. 

Now, however, drop-ins are also an issue of safety. Even if your state’s prohibitions have been relaxed and everyone is wearing protective equipment, drop-ins could still pose a danger. Not only can they make social distancing more difficult, but they increase the chances that you’ll accidentally interact with someone who’s sick. That can make customers feel uncomfortable, whether they tell you or not. 

These days, you can’t decide on a whim whether or not to allow drop-ins. There’s a lot more to consider than your bottom line. To choose, ask yourself the following questions: 

1. What are the conditions in my community?

In the U.S., the federal government’s approach to managing COVID-19 has been to put state and local governments in charge. So, before deciding whether or not to accept drop-ins, be sure you consider the conditions in your city and state.

There are two parts to this: laws and cases. First, you’ll want to look into what’s allowed in your community. Are there occupancy restrictions you might run afoul of? Must everyone wear masks in public places?

The second piece of the puzzle is active cases. Rather than checking any one day, look at trends for the truest picture of conditions on the ground. Across the last three days, week, and month, have cases generally been rising or falling? 

2. How much space do I have?

Your operating capacity has to factor into your decision. Even if you’re nowhere close to fire-code limits, you may not have enough room for people to stay 6 feet apart. 

If that’s the case, it’s important to serve the people who booked an appointment first. Customers will feel cheated if they’re denied entry because someone off the street stole their time slot. 

The larger your space, the more likely it is you’ll have room for drop-ins. If you’re working in cramped quarters, don’t take the risk. 

3. How much do I rely on drop-ins?

For some companies, denying drop-ins is no big deal. If your customers are religious about making appointments, there’s no reason to take the risk of letting random people in. 

If you’ve been keeping track of your traffic, you can get a good idea of how many drop-ins you’ve had in the past. Compare that with data from your scheduling software. Determine what proportion of your business comes from each source. 

What if your customers are mostly drop-ins? You may need to encourage more people to use your scheduling software. Offering a slight discount for booking online is a good way to do it. 

4. How much do my clients value a drop-in option?

Some clients are more likely to drop-in than others. Know your regulars, but realize that things may change due to the pandemic.

In order to gauge your clients’ feelings, send out a survey. Offer a gift card to encourage responses. In your survey, ask about:

  • How frequently they plan to come in during the pandemic
  • How concerned they are about safety
  • Whether they’re able to make appointments using your software
  • How much they care about flexibility

Surveys are great for at-a-glance feedback, but you may want to get your top clients on the phone. Set up feedback calls to get more detailed insights. Your customers are critical to your business, so they should have a say. 

5. Do I have a drop-in policy?

If your company already has a drop-in policy in place, take a moment to review it. It may be time to start enforcing it. What if you haven’t set guidelines on drop-ins? Now is the time to create them. 

Drop-in rules run the gamut. Some companies accept them unconditionally, while others forbid them entirely; most fall somewhere in between. 

An “in between” answer might be a waitlist. That way, if someone cancels an appointment, a drop-in customer could  take their slot. 

Figure out how much time drop-ins will have to wait if they show up.  Set expectations with a sign on your door. You don’t want to surprise people with an hour-long wait. 

6. How will I publicize my policy?

If you have a drop-in policy, it’s important that customers can find it. A sign on your door isn’t sufficient because some of your customers likely drive dozens of miles to do business with you.

Be sure to post your drop-in policy online. Add it to your social media sites. Consider using a business SMS service to share it with your most loyal customers. Proactively informing people of your policy doesn’t take much time, and it’s important for a sticky customer experience.  

7. Should I do it immediately?

Just as states are reopening in phases, so are many companies. It’s up to you: You could choose to disallow drop-ins until cases drop to a certain level, or until you can look deeper into your foot traffic. 

For financial and personal reasons, you probably want to get back to normal as soon as possible. The trouble is, throwing caution to the wind could make things worse than they already are. It may not seem like a big deal, but how you handle drop-ins could have big consequences for your company.

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