The Boomer generation is on the verge of making a huge difference in the world as volunteers. Based on U.S. Census data, the number of volunteers age 65 and older will increase to more than 13 million in 2020. This number will keep going up as the youngest boomers reach age 65 in 2029.
Boomers will make a huge difference not because of sheer numbers either. The power of technology will magnify the scope of their volunteer work.
Volunteer Work from the Comfort of Home
Remote volunteer work is a fantastic option for busy boomers. Those who are looking for ways to “give back” will have many opportunities to fit their lifestyle. Online volunteer work is flexible. With internet access, volunteers can work from anywhere. Many online opportunities are also flexible when it comes to time commitments. Volunteers decide without pressure when and how much to give.
There are so many online volunteer opportunities available. This list doesn’t begin to cover them all. Some virtual volunteer projects and positions have specific requirements for experience and education. The ones listed here are easy to start and open to anyone. All you need is a computer, internet connection, and in some cases some free software, or a microphone or scanner. And there is one volunteer program that requires the use of a smartphone and app.
Most of these volunteer projects let you start right away. Some require a little training which you can start immediately.
Find something that interests you. Volunteer at your own pace. Make a difference from the comfort of home or wherever you want to be.
18 Online Volunteer Opportunities
Ancestry.com (World Archives Project)
Help people find their family history. Ancestry’s World Archives Project involves thousands of volunteers all over the world. You’ll be helping to find and preserve the stories and memories of people for generations to come. Here’s how it works. Ancestry.com gets historical records and scans them into their system. Volunteers enter the facts from these records to create a searchable index. Ancestry.com adds this index to their database. It’s available to everyone for free. Now people will find more hints and better search results about their family history.
Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind and visually impaired people with sighted helpers through a live video connection. How it works:
1. A blind person requests assistance in the Be My Eyes app.
2. The volunteer helper receives a notification for help and a live video connection is established.
3. The volunteer guides the blind by answering the question they need answered.
Join this community of volunteers and make a difference for people with sight loss all over the world.
Help people with print disabilities read by expanding access to books. There are two ways to help.
1. Scan books with your scanner and OCR software.
2. Proofread scanned files, in other words, clean up scanned RTF files that other volunteers have created and format them.
OCR stands for Optical Character Recognitions Software. It works with your computer to digitize the text of a book. The digital camera captures the text and transforms into editable and searchable data.
Save history by joining forces with other volunteers to convert Public Domain books into ebooks. All you have to do is register. You’ll be on the way to learning how to use the site and proofread scanned books.
If you enjoy birdwatching, you’ll like this. Record what birds you see and turn in your information. That’s it! You’ll be adding to one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence. Your information adds to the growing knowledge of a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists. Go here to create an account.
How do you like the sound of being a citizen environmental scientist? Download the GLOBE app, start photographing clouds and recording sky observations, then compare them with NASA satellite images. GLOBE is “the major source of human observations of clouds.” It provides more information to scientists than automated systems.
Lend your voice to creating free public domain audiobooks for anyone to enjoy. You’d think that you’d need experience, but you don’t. Everyone is welcome to volunteer. All you need is your voice, some free software, your computer, and maybe an inexpensive microphone.
The Mutopia Project offers sheet music editions of classical music for free download. There are 4 ways to help:
• Typeset music that they don’t have
• Proofread/check music for errors
• Update LilyPond syntax to the latest LilyPond for better quality output and easier updating
• Contribute music via GitHub or e-mail
National Archives Catalog
Register as a Citizen Archivist for the National Archives Catalog. You’ll be helping to make all the records of the U.S. National Archives available online. Once you’re logged in you’ll be able to tag, transcribe, or add a relevant comment to items in the Catalog.
National Archives Photos on Flickr
The National Archives joined Flickr to share images of their archival photographs and documents in a new way. It’s a resource for researchers and the public. Start by reading the National Archives’s Photo Comment and Posting Policy in the About section. Next, go to the National Archives’ photostream on Flickr. and start sharing your knowledge, insights, and experience by adding tags, notes, and comments.
NYPL Map Warper
Map Warper is a tool for digitally aligning (“rectifying”) historical maps. All maps are from the New York Public Library's collections. Volunteers work to match these maps with today’s precise maps. To join the NYPL Map Warper Team create an account, find a map to rectify, and go for it. Watch this video for a tour of the site and a tutorial of Map Warper.
Old Weather | Whaling
In order to understand what the weather will be like in the future scientist need to understand the weather from the past. Help scientists recover Arctic and worldwide weather observations made by U.S. ships since the mid-19th century by transcribing ships’ logs. These transcriptions will contribute to climate model projections. This will improve our knowledge of past environmental conditions. Also, historians will use this work to track past ship movements and tell the stories of the people on board. Take a brief tutorial. Choose a voyage. Start marking or transcribing.
Here’s another virtual volunteer option for bird lovers. All you do is put up a bird feeder, count the birds, and enter your data.
Smithsonian Digital Volunteers
Make historical documents and biodiversity data more accessible for research. Volunteers work online to transcribe and review field notes, diaries, ledgers, logbooks, photo albums, manuscripts, etc.
This is an online crowdsourcing mapping project. Volunteers edit structures in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Structures include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations, cemeteries, and other important public buildings. By updating and verifying this data, volunteers are making significant contributions to USGS National Structures Database, The National Map, and U.S. Topo Maps.
Sign up for an account and start editing articles. It’s best to include detailed information on your sources. Work and contribute when and as much as you like. No deadlines. No minimum or maximum contribution requirements. For some people editing Wikipedia is a life mission but most editors enjoy it as a hobby.
World Memory Project
Ancestry.com and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) have teamed up to create the World Memory Project. The USHMM has millions of documents containing details about the survivors and victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution during World War II. With the advanced technology tools of Ancestry.com and the help of the public these records are made searchable online for free. With these resources families of survivors and victims can discover what happened to their loved ones.
Anyone can be a researcher here. Powered by volunteers, Zooniverse is “the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research.” Choose from a wide variety of ever-expanding projects. Volunteers study and answer questions about things like images of faraway galaxies, historical records and diaries, or videos of animals in their natural habitats. Zooniverse volunteers have made “scientifically significant discoveries.”