Serve anywhere, anytime through a virtual volunteer opportunity! Some of these opportunities allow you to begin immediately, while some require an application and ongoing commitment. Review the links below for complete details, and contact the Center for Civic Engagement & Learning (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have other suggestions of nonprofits to add to this list. Check out a recording of CCEL's Navigating Virtual Volunteering info session for additional tips on navigating this page and first-hand experiences on serving remotely.
I. Opportunities Related to COVID-19
Below are options of grassroots community efforts to assist with the COVID-19 pandemic remotely. Because the situation is rapidly evolving, we encourage you to research these opportunities more in depth to ensure they are being requested by community agencies, healthcare professionals, and others on the frontline of the crisis. We will continue to update this page as we are alerted to more opportunities.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the White House and a coalition of leading research groups have prepared the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19). CORD-19 is a resource of over 44,000 scholarly articles, including over 29,000 with full text, about COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, and related coronaviruses. This freely available dataset is provided to the global research community to apply recent advances in natural language processing and other AI techniques to generate new insights in support of the ongoing fight against this infectious disease.
Community members have started a Facebook group - Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies - to bring people together to evaluate, design, validate, and source the fabrication of open source emergency medical supplies around the world, given a variety of local supply conditions.
CWRU MedWish is also looking to fund individuals with 3D printers to make open-source masks for healthcare providers due to COVID-19. If you have access to a 3D printer while in social isolation, please fill out this form. If approved, CWRU MedWish will fund the purchase and shipping of the materials required for printing the mask/respirator and request photos of your 3D printer to walk you through purchasing filament/material. The group is open to funding various face mask designs but will be using this design as the default. Contact email@example.com with questions.
Volunteers are needed to sew medical masks for high-risk populations to try and minimize the spread of some communicable diseases. Explore the Masks Now Coalition Facebook page, instructions and kits available from University Hospitals, a tutorial from JOANN about making masks and gowns, Cleveland Sews, and Face Mask Makers Ohio for details.
In March and April 2020, several virtual hackathons launched to bring together participants to brainstorm and innovate solutions to challenges caused by COVID-19. While most of the below hackathons are now over, volunteers may be interested in browsing resources generated through the projects to connect with further:
II. General Short-Term and/or Available for Immediate Start Opportunities
Help Missing Maps from your computer with disaster relief efforts around the world by mapping missing buildings, roads, and other distinguishing features in a community onto a satellite map in order to assist first responders in their disaster response decisions.
Free Minds, a nonprofit based in Washington, DC, uses books and creative writing to empower incarcerated artists who were sentenced to adult prison as youth with the tools to transform their lives. Volunteers are needed to comment on poems posted on the Free Minds Writing Blog, and this feedback will be shared with the poets. Free Minds also hosts a monthly virtual write night to hear from speakers and comment on poems in real time; stay tuned to its homepage for alerts on upcoming write nights.
You can volunteer to be a text corrector for CWRU’s own digitized student newspapers. Nine newspaper titles with over 6,000 issues featuring over 300,000 articles have been digitized and OCR’d. While the optical character recognition (OCR) technology is very good, it is not perfect. Volunteer to correct errors and learn about CWRU’s history and the experiences of students before you. After you register as a text corrector, there is a brief tutorial. Contact CWRU Archives (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
Support researchers at the University of Minnesota with mapping racial covenants, which contributed to structural barriers by stopping many people who were not white from buying property and building wealth for most of the last century. Volunteers are needed to review deeds and other historical documents to flag them for racial language. Researchers will then use the data to map historic structural racism and its present day consequences. For further learning, watch this short video on the history of redlining.
The Mapping Prejudice project also hosts occasional real time, virtual work sessions; stay tuned to its Facebook page for dates to be listed.
Project Gutenberg converts hard copy texts now in the public domain to eBooks so that all may enjoy them for years to come in a freely available form. Volunteers are needed to proofread scanned pages of text before they go to Project Gutenberg’s archives to ensure they have converted properly to eBook format. After you register and review the instructions for how to begin, you can volunteer as much or as little as you’d like. Proofreading at least one page a day is recommended.
LibriVox volunteers read and record chapters of books in the public domain (i.e. - books no longer under copyright; primarily those published before 1923), and make them available for free on the Internet. Recordings (including yours!) are also donated into the public domain so that others may enjoy them in audio format. Books are recorded in a variety of languages, and volunteers may join to read just a chapter, individual poems, a full book, or listen and edit others’ readings.
Zooniverse is an online platform for people-powered research, allowing researchers to analyze their information more quickly and accurately than would otherwise be possible with the help of virtual volunteers. There is no minimum time commitment, and volunteers can start immediately on one of the many projects, such as tagging penguins in remote regions, transcribing handwritten correspondences between anti-slavery activists, or searching gravitational waves.
- Library of Congress By the People volunteers transcribe documents online to make them word-searchable in the Library of Congress catalog. Many of these documents have never been transcribed before. Read the instructions, and begin immediately supporting a variety of campaigns, such as Rosa Parks: In Her Own Words, Letters to Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony Papers, and more.
- Through the Citizen Archivist program, you can contribute to the National Archives Catalog by tagging, transcribing and adding comments to records, making them more accessible and searchable.
- Become a Smithsonian Digital Volunteer and help make historical documents and biodiversity data more accessible. Join 14,791 "volunpeers" to add more to the total 516,426 pages of field notes, diaries, ledgers, logbooks, currency proof sheets, photo albums, manuscripts, and biodiversity specimens labels that have been collaboratively transcribed and reviewed since June 2013. No set time commitment is required, and volunteers can begin immediately. Browse opportunities online, and read a guide and FAQs on transcribing.
The Saturday Tutoring Program provides free tutoring to northeast Ohio youth in Grades 1st-12th on a variety of subjects. While the program usually takes place at Church of the Covenant on campus, it has transitioned to an online format this Fall 2020 semester. Interested tutors complete once during the semester a registration form indicating the Saturdays they are available to tutor between September 12 to November 14, 2020. Tutors can sign up for as many or as few Saturdays as they wish, and tutor spots will be filled on a rolling basis throughout the semester. They will then be matched with a youth for a 1-hour tutor shift on those Saturdays sometime between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. More information about this semester’s structure is available online (including a short information video), and prospective tutors can contact email@example.com with questions.
III. General Ongoing, Specialized, and/or Application-Required Opportunities
There is significant need this school year for virtual tutors to area youth as many schools will begin the semester remotely. CCEL is working to identify nonprofits hosting virtual tutoring and will keep this list of opportunities updated:
- The Provost Scholars Program is a partnership between CWRU and East Cleveland City Schools. The program matches East Cleveland middle and high school Provost Scholars with CWRU faculty and staff mentors to improve the Scholars’ academic and career outcomes. The Scholars are also paired with a tutor (that's where you come in!) with whom they meet (virtually) every Thursday afternoon from 2:30 to 3:50 p.m. EST. Interested tutors should complete this application and also register to attend a virtual tutor training on Thursday, September 10, 2020 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. EST. Contact Kate Klonowski (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions.
- A new CWRU student club, Students for Refugees, is forming to provide awareness and engagement around the experiences of refugees. The club is recruiting for students interested in serving as a virtual tutor to youth who are refugees (ranging in grade from elementary to high school) for a minimum of 2-3 hours once per week this Fall semester to provide extra support to families during the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s remote start to the school year. Tutor recruitment will conclude at the end of August 2020, and tutoring will begin in early September 2020. If you are interested in serving as a virtual tutor or learning more about the club, please complete this form.
- The Saturday Tutoring Program provides free tutoring to northeast Ohio youth in Grades 1st-12th on a variety of subjects. While the program usually takes place at Church of the Covenant on campus, it has transitioned to an online format this Fall 2020 semester. Interested tutors complete once during the semester a registration form indicating the Saturdays they are available to tutor between September 12 to November 14, 2020. Tutors can sign up for as many or as few Saturdays as they wish, and tutor spots will be filled on a rolling basis throughout the semester. They will then be matched with a youth for a 1-hour tutor shift on those Saturdays sometime between 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST. More information about this semester’s structure is available online (including a short information video), and prospective tutors can contact email@example.com with questions.
United Nations Volunteers apply to work on virtual projects for UN affiliates across the globe on either a short-term or ongoing basis. Projects are in the areas of writing and editing, translation, research, teaching and training, art and design, technology development, and more. Browse opportunities online.
Crisis Text Line is the free, 24/7 text line for people in crisis in the United States. The service is powered by volunteer Crisis Counselors who work remotely — anywhere with a computer and secure internet connection works. After completing a 30 hour training, Crisis Counselors commit to volunteering 4 hours per week until 200 hours are reached. Ideally, it is expected that you fulfill your commitment within one year.
AIM2Flourish is a globally used program of CWRU’s Fowler Center that teaches students about the positive effects that business can have on society and the environment by having students interview business leaders and write stories about their innovations. Each story is reviewed by volunteer AIM2Flourish Editors to check for grammar and clarity. Editors serve about 1-2 hours a week reviewing stories virtually, and students interested in learning more about the role can find additional details online.
Connecting Champions asks kids & young adults with cancer, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and connects them with a mentor for the cancer journey. The nonprofit is currently looking for mentors, including students who are at least sophomores and above in college, to serve as a virtual friend to a youth receiving treatment at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital or at another pediatric hospital in the country while the program is expanding. Volunteers should be able to commit to a minimum of six months, with at least monthly virtual visits (volunteering schedule is typically flexible and is projected to be all virtual for the immediate future). Those interested in being considered are asked to complete an inquiry form and will then be sent an online application to be entered into the mentor pool. Placements are not guaranteed and dependent on the youths’ interest areas and matching criteria, so the experience is not designed for students looking to satisfy a specific volunteer hour requirement in an allotted timeframe.
Bookshare volunteers can either scan book files into an online library or proofread scanned files to ensure they have formatted correctly so that individuals who have reading barriers may more easily access books for school, work, or fun.
Operation Photo Rescue seeks volunteers with experience (in Photoshop using: Levels and Curves Adjustments, Layer Masks, and working in Channels) to restore photos that have been severely damaged by natural disasters back to the original picture.
Create Circles, is a nonprofit dedicated to engaging older adults and promoting brain health through meaningful conversation and activities. Interested volunteers can complete an application and watch a training video to be matched with a senior to provide virtual visits, which are especially critical during this time of physical distancing in preventing social isolation and promoting well-being.
IV. Additional Resources:
Visit the below sites to research additional ideas. Most of these sites have search functions to browse “remote” or “virtual” volunteer opportunities. When identifying opportunities, please be sure to follow all COVID-19 protection measures.
- All for Good, a service of Points of Light
- American Red Cross, Youth Virtual Engagement guide
- Business Volunteers Unlimited Resource Center (Cleveland)
- Catchafire, skills-based volunteering
- CCEL’s resource page of popular in-person service opportunities with student clubs or area nonprofits
- HandsOn Northeast Ohio volunteer calendar
- Idealist.org, resource to locate nonprofit jobs, internships, and volunteering
- Taproot, skills-based volunteering
- We Care For CLE, collaboration of Cleveland nonprofits to highlight ways to support the social sector during the COVID-19 pandemic
Important Note Regarding Opportunities:
Please note that the Center for Civic Engagement & Learning alerts students to a range of community-based opportunities—posted opportunities are a sampling of options, not endorsements. Students should independently research opportunities carefully to make sure the program is a good match for their interests. Additionally, posting of opportunities and events does not constitute an endorsement by Case Western Reserve University or CCEL of a particular political issue, candidate, political campaign, or election. During the COVID-19 pandemic, CCEL supports all measures to protect yourself and others by following state and national guidelines and restrictions. You can view CDC information and resources here.