The Boomer generation is on the verge of making an even more significant 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 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 options are also flexible when it comes to time commitments. Volunteers decide without pressure when and how much to give.
So many online volunteer opportunities are available. This list doesn't begin to cover them all. Some virtual volunteer projects and positions have specific requirements for experience and education. Most listed here don't require any special qualifications. All you need is a computer, internet connection, and in some cases, free software, an app, a microphone, or a scanner.
Most of these volunteer projects let you start right away. Some require a little training which you can start immediately. When you find something that interests you, you can get started whenever you like and work at your own pace from the comfort of home or wherever you are in the world.
The Baby Boomer's A-Z List of Online Volunteer Opportunities
Share important information about cancer advocacy, online petitions, and fundraising needs using your social media and online skills. Volunteers do everything from emailing their state legislature to participating in the virtual Relay For Life.
Two programs that frequently offer online volunteer opportunities are:
- American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
- The Society in Second Life
Second Life is a 3D virtual world that the American Cancer Society uses to host virtual community events. Tutorials are available for those who are new to Second Life.
You can support the mission of the Red Cross virtually. They have a wide range of remote volunteer opportunities. To find these volunteer-from-home positions enter your zip code, search for "NHQ" or "virtual" in the search field.
Become a digital volunteer by helping to research and expose human rights violations. Volunteers around the world help researchers by sifting through pictures, information, and documents. You can work from your computer or mobile device.
Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind and visually impaired people with sighted helpers through a live video connection.
How it works:
- A blind person requests assistance in the Be My Eyes app.
- The volunteer helper receives a notification for help, and a live video connection is established.
- The volunteer guides the person by answering the question they need answering.
Join this community of volunteers and make a difference for people with sight loss all over the world. To get started, install the Be My Eyes app.
Help people with disabilities read by expanding access to books. There are two ways to help.
- Scan books with your scanner and OCR software.
- Proofread scanned files. In other words, clean up scanned RTF files that other volunteers have created and format them.
OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition Software, which works with your computer to digitize a book's text. The digital camera captures the print and transforms it into editable and searchable data. Bookshare volunteers must use their own scanner and OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software. The scanner may have built-in OCR software, or the person scanning may have the OCR software as part of a computer program.
AARP maintains a database of volunteer opportunities. To find online volunteer positions, select "show only home/remote opportunities." You'll find exciting ways to support a range of organizations.
Crisis Text Line is a free 24/7 national crisis-intervention and counseling service conducted exclusively through SMS text. Volunteers provide emotional support to people dealing with issues like bullying and self-harm. All volunteers are screened and go through 30 hours of training to provide active listening, collaborative problem solving, and safety planning. You can work from any computer that has a secure internet connection.
Save history by joining forces with other volunteers at Distributed Proofreader. Distributed Proofreaders provides "a web-based method to ease the conversion of Public Domain books into e-books." The workload is divided into individual pages, so many volunteers can be working on one monograph simultaneously.
Volunteers may contribute in several ways:
- "smooth reading" pre-released e-books to check for errors
- managing projects
- providing content
- develop improvements to the site
Volunteers may also assist by participating in online discussion forums. To get started:
- Register as a volunteer.
- Confirm your registration by email.
- Read the introductory email for basic instructions on how to log in and use the site.
Once you follow these steps, you're ready to start. Spend as little or as much time as you like "preserving the literary history of the world in a freely available form for everyone to use."
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? GLOBE Observer invites you to make environmental observations that complement NASA satellite observations to help scientists studying Earth and the global environment. By using the GLOBE Observer app, you are joining the GLOBE community and contributing important scientific data to NASA and GLOBE, your local community, students, and scientists. More information is provided to scientists this way than through automated systems.
- Download the app.
- Register with an email address or with a web form.
- Go outside and follow the prompts in the app to observe your environment.
The GLOBE Observer App currently includes four primary tools:
- Mosquito Habitat Mapper
- Land Cover
You can learn more about this program by reading this one-page summary of GLOBE Observer.
Are you a professional? Recent retiree? If you answered yes, consider becoming an online volunteer tutor with Learn To Be.
Fill out the application, and they'll notify you once you've been accepted. This application should take about 10-15 minutes to complete. You'll need to be able to record a short selfie video.
Once you're accepted, start visiting student profile pages to find a student to tutor. Meet the student and their family via email and work out a tutoring schedule. Work with your student in the virtual classroom for an hour a week.
Sign up to become an LAI volunteer and start spreading joy to seniors in the US, Canada, the U.K., and Australia with handwritten notes. Volunteers get a spreadsheet every other week, showing where they can sign up to send correspondence. Write as many letters as you like. All cards or messages need to be transmitted in physical form so that seniors get something special in the mail.
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 a microphone.
The Mutopia Project offers sheet music editions of classical music for free download. There are four 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 pieces via GitHub or email
If you register as a Citizen Archivist for the National Archives Catalog, you'll help 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.
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.
- Read the National Archives' Photo Comment and Posting Policy in the About section.
- Go to the National Archives' photostream on Flickr.
- Start sharing your knowledge, insights, and experience by adding tags, notes, and comments.
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 plans. To join the NYPL Map Warper Team:
- Create an account
- Watch this video for a tour of the site and a tutorial of Map Warper.
- Find a map to rectify and go for it.
Here's a beautifully simple virtual volunteer opportunity for bird lovers. All you do is put up a bird feeder, count the birds, and enter your data.
The nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization is called RAINN, which stands for Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. RAINN runs the National Sexual Assault Hotline in partnership with over 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the United States. It also operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense.
The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline provides live, secure, anonymous crisis support through text messaging volunteers.
Requirements and expectations of volunteers:
- Have a U.S. Social Security Number.
- Pass a criminal background check provided by RAINN at no-cost to you.
- Work at least 10 hours a month.
- Serve for a minimum of 18 months.
- Uphold all policies set by RAINN.
Steps to take to be a volunteer:
- Complete and pass online training (20 hours).
- Participate in three live learning sessions.
- Attend a three-hour debriefing session after the live learning sessions.
- Have a supervised session with a licensed supervisor for final approval of volunteer status.
All training is provided for free.
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.
TED Talks needs translators to subtitle TED Talks to "enable the inspiring ideas in them to crisscross languages and borders." If you don't know a second language, you can still help spread the ideas in TEDx talks by transcribing them, which makes them available to:
- People who are deaf or hearing impaired
- Search engines for indexing
- TED Translators for language translating
This is an online crowdsourcing mapping project—volunteers edit structures in all 50 States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Facilities include schools, hospitals, post offices, police stations, cemeteries, and other important public buildings. By updating and verifying this data, you can contribute to USGS National Structures Database, The National Map, and U.S. Topo Maps.
This non-profit organization offers language and translation support for humanitarian and development agencies and other non-profits. Volunteers fluent in a second language can translate medical texts or crisis response documents. Professional translators are encouraged to apply.
Translators without Borders depends on volunteers to run the organization as well. They're always looking for volunteers with a variety of excellent skills and knowledge outside of translation services.
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.
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 public's help, these records are made searchable online for free.
You can contribute to this effort from wherever you are; a few minutes, a few records can help families of survivors and victims discover what happened to their loved ones.
Getting started is simple:
- Downloading the free software program.
- Choose a collection of digital images.
- Type the details from an image into a database that will then become searchable online.
Instructions are shown on the screen to help you "key" information from a collection, one document at a time. Experienced keyers will review the data you entered. All the docs you work on will become searchable on Ancestry for free once the collection is completed.
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."
ZSL's Instant Wild needs volunteers to help with vital conservation work. Volunteers view live images and videos from cameras worldwide and virtually tag the animals they see.
No unique expertise is needed. You'll find any help you need in the online Field Guides, and a tutorial is available. All you have to do to get started is sign up. Your involvement will contribute to conservation research, and you'll enjoy viewing some beautiful places and amazing animals.