Written by Michelle Gold

Have you considered volunteering?  Despite the restrictions of covid, there are many opportunities that you can begin to explore right now.  Volunteering is in the process of reinventing itself.  There are appealing new options that have expanded the variety of ways you can contribute to making a difference in the lives of others. 

Take Stock of Yourself First

It’s important to think about yourself first so that you’re clear about what you have to offer, your interests, and what type of volunteer options are likely to be a good fit for you.  Here are some questions that can help narrow down the wide field of volunteering, into a more directed search for you. 

  • What needs, issues or causes are meaningful to you?
  • Do you have existing skills and experience you wish to use?
  • What are your personal strengths?
  • Do you want to contribute in interaction with others, or do you prefer to do something on your own?
  • What type of time commitment can you give:  long-term, project-based, short-term or on-call?

Here are 6 volunteering options to consider, that contribute to social good.

Formal Volunteering

  1. Traditional Volunteering 

The original approach – usually involving you making a longer-term commitment to support the work of local non-profits and charitable organizations, agencies or faith-based institutions; and they, in turn, make a commitment to organize your work and be responsive to you. Sometimes, they’re interested in recruiting individuals who can make skills-based contributions.  For example, recruiting someone with particular expertise for a board.  Given the necessity of physical distancing during covid, it’s possible there are currently opportunities to virtually volunteer for these community services.  All you have to do is find out.  Contact a specific provider, or use the internet to search by causes of interest to you.  Alternatively, search online using websites that compile volunteer opportunities in the community.  Volunteer Halton and Ontario 211 post volunteer positions that Hamilton area providers are seeking to fill.

2. Micro-Volunteering

These are opportunities to complete specific tasks on a short-term basis, that are usually done online. The key here is ensuring that the organization has clearly defined the offered activity and how they will support you in your efforts. You can now find diverse global micro-volunteer opportunities, where you can virtually volunteer from home.

Examples:  United NationsBe My Eyes, Distributed Proofreaders

3. Emergency / Crisis Relief

Organizations that coordinate responses to emergencies, including natural disasters, are often looking for volunteers who are available on-call.  Some organizations are seeking volunteers to support people in need as a result of the current pandemic.  

Examples:  Canadian Red Cross and Spark Ontario

4. Citizen Science

Often focused on the environment or natural world, these are opportunities to assist researchers to collect and analyze data, both on-site and online.  Anyone can become a citizen scientist – you do not need a science background. These types of opportunities will most likely appeal to people who have strengths in attention to detail.

 Examples:  Ontario Nature and Zooniverse

5. Civic Participation

You may be interested to get involved in activities that improve community conditions or shape your community’s future.  The City of Hamilton regularly posts opportunities for citizens to participate on citizen panels and committees.  

Other opportunities originate as a result of grassroots organizing.  Cause-focused collectives and neighbourhood groups are usually interested to bring in more local residents to voluntarily contribute to their collective work.  Follow the news and social media, check notice boards and ask your friends and neighbours – to find out what’s happening in your community, that also matters to you.  Examples Hamilton Victory Gardens and Central Neighbourhood Association


Lastly, consider opportunities to assist or support someone not related to you.  Sometimes this can involve assistance with practical activities; but also consider the value of providing friendly social support.  Usually, these types of unmet needs are not obvious and depend on you getting to know someone well enough to offer them support. Have conversations with your neighbours, including both peer and intergenerational connections.  Also, think about the people in your network, and ask them about others they know when looking for opportunities to informally volunteer your time.


Michelle Gold is a lifelong volunteer, and a modern retirement coach and speaker.  She shares insights and strategies through ‘Into Prime Time’ to navigate into a fulfilling next chapter.