Seven reasons to volunteer right now

by May 18, 2020

During a society-wide upheaval volunteering might not be front of mind. But here are some reasons to consider volunteering right now. 

Photo courtesy of Addison Road Community Centre, Gurwinder Kaur, Rosanna Barbero and volunteers.

Gurwinder Kaur, Rosanna Barbero and volunteers. Photo credit: Addison Road Community Centre.


Volunteering is an essential service. The NSW government has classed volunteering as essential work. Over 5.8 million people in Australia volunteer with around 600,000 (mostly small) not for profits and charities. These are the food banks, education services, emergency services and arts organisations which keep Australian society functioning and connected. 


You can volunteer online. Volunteering exists well beyond face-to-face events – you can volunteer from home. A wide variety of organisations operate volunteering completely online, e.g. Citizen Science, and community programs who have pivoted to online delivery. 


Demand for volunteers is higher. With social distancing requirements many regular volunteers (including retirees, who are at higher risk) have had to self-isolate. At the same time corporate volunteer programs have stopped running. Organisations like Meals on Wheels have lost up to 50 per cent of their regular volunteer base, while The Cancer Council have lost volunteer drivers to take cancer patients to required medical appointments. 


Community need is greater. COVID-19 is hitting a lot of people very hard. Between lost work, extra caring responsibilities, ineligibility for government supports and increased social isolation, demand for community services is growing. 


It is legal to leave the house and volunteer face to face. We all need to be home as much as possible, but some things must be done face-to-face, like packing food boxes or delivering medication. In recognition of that in NSW the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) definition of ‘work’ includes work done as a volunteer. Volunteering is a legitimate reason to leave the house and engage in the community 


Organisations are implementing social distancing for volunteers (in some simple & clever ways). Organisations are getting creative – modifying their operations, limiting the size of volunteer groups, increasing space and providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – to maintain social distance while doing good. (Just be sure to keep up to date with the latest government advice). 


Volunteering is good for your mental health (and future!). This is a mentally draining and difficult time. Even asking you to consider something else to add to your plate might feel like added pressure. However, especially in a time of upheaval, there are benefits: 

If you are a volunteer, keep it up if you can! If you’re considering how to spend this time and make a positive impact on the world and yourself, volunteering is a great way to do it.   

Something to note 

While volunteering is great, you must consider your personal circumstances and take every precaution to look after your health and wellbeing. 

Volunteers are under no obligation to continue to volunteer if they do not feel comfortable doing so. Volunteer Involving Organisations have an obligation under Work Health and Safety Laws to provide protections around health and safety. If the role isn’t right for you, don’t feel obligated to stay. Particular care should be taken in volunteer interactions with vulnerable people – especially children, seniors, people with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness. 

For more information on how to engage volunteers or volunteer during the COVID-19 crisis contact the NSW Volunteering peak body for guidance documents and advice

Where to find volunteering opportunities

NSW emergency volunteer website

NSW Centre for Volunteering

Volunteering for the UTS community 

UTS has developed a crisis response volunteering page for staff and students to connect with community needs and link to supports.

If you are a UTS student you can join the UTS SOUL Award for guidance and recognition for your volunteering 

If you are a UTS staff member you can take advantage of Social Justice Leave to volunteer up to 5 days per annum. 


Originally posted on the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion’s news page.

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Alex Connor

Volunteering and Training Coordinator, Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion