For all of its challenges, COVID-19 has brought out the best in Canadians. From coast to coast to coast, media is filled with inspiring stories of people who are compassionately supporting their circles of family, friends, and neighbours with check-in calls, grocery deliveries, virtual visits, and sewing face masks. Many have been volunteering through non-profit organizations to provide essential services to vulnerable people. How can we sustain this level of care for the long-haul, as the different stages of the pandemic response unfold?

If you are looking to volunteer with a non-profit organization, you may be wondering what to expect. Maybe you have already approached a non-profit and are waiting to hear back. As we head into the next phase of our pandemic response, here are eight things non-profits would like you to know.

  1. Non-profits are continuously assessing the risks and the needs in our communities figuring out the safest, most effective ways to deliver their programs – Just like businesses, non-profits are trying to figure out if and how they can modify their programs and services within social distancing restrictions, how long these changes will need to be in place and when they will need to be re-adjusted.

  1. This may mean we don’t have a volunteer role for you, yet – Be patient with organizations as they continue to adjust to an ever-changing and unpredictable situation. They may be waiting for clearance to engage volunteers, developing the necessary training, acquiring the needed personal protective equipment, and creating systems to ensure the safety of volunteers and those they are helping.   

  1. The opportunity you have heard about may have been filled – There are some opportunities that are getting a lot of media attention and organizations providing these services may be overwhelmed by the response from Canadians who wish to help. To get other ideas about current COVID-19 response volunteer opportunities, check out Volunteer Canada’s website under “I Want to Volunteer”.

  1. Look beyond the frontlines to other non-profits that need your help – Beyond direct support to mitigating the impact of COVID-19, there are an enormous number of other non-profits that need help. These include organizations that support cancer patients and those with other illnesses, the arts, environment, education and many, many more. They still need to raise money for research, serve the vulnerable, and provide information and support. Check with your local volunteer centre or the Volunteer Canada COVID-19 page for your most up-to-date ways to help.

  1. The opportunity you are interested in has screening processes which may require a police check – Support to the most vulnerable populations, including seniors and youth, will most often require a police or vulnerable sector screening check. These take time to process and, in some communities, these security checks are not being offered at this time by police departments. Some non-profits will consider checks done previously for other volunteer positions.

  1. Look for ways to help those you know – A resilient community response requires us to look out for our family, friends and neighbours. Check in on those you know and ask how you can help out. Picking up groceries while you’re at the store, delivering a meal, playing games together virtually using your computer or simply having a chat can do so much, especially for those who are feeling alone.

  1. Always keep health and safety top of mind – However you choose to serve and help others, always prioritize your health and safety, and the health and safety of others. Volunteer Canada’s website has health and safety tips on volunteering during COVID-19 to support you.

  1. Donating may be your best way to help a non-profit – A thin sliver of organizations is experiencing a surge in funding and trying to ramp up operations to match needs to new resources. Most non-profits are struggling financially as fundraising and fee-for-service programs have come to a halt and loans are out of reach. Skilled and experienced staff are also being taken from operations by social distancing, illness, child and family care. In part because of this, many have had layoffs and significantly reduced human resources. And while many non-profits are short on person power, more willing volunteers doesn’t solve all of the challenges. Consider making a donation or fundraising. A virtual fundraiser, like a virtual talent show, can be a fun activity with a team of colleagues or friends.

Building a resilient Canada will depend on a strong non-profit sector – thanks for doing what you can to be a part of recovery in your community!