What is a time of joy for many women was my darkest hour.
Hey, y’all, welcome back. I hope everyone is doing well. This week I want to talk about ways to give back when you’re not in the position to support things financially.
I have always found it extremely frustrating not to be able to contribute money to all of the causes I care about. Whether it's Planned Parenthood, the ASPCA, or local women’s shelters — so many causes desperately need the funds I just don’t have. The other thing I generally don’t have is enough time to spend volunteering.
So what do we do when we want to help but aren't really able to in the usual ways?
Lucky for all of us and the causes we care about, we live in the future and the Internet is a thing. Given that a lot of us have access to the Internet, we're going to talk about supporting the causes and people you care about online.
Signal boosting is the most obvious thing. Try dedicating some time once a week or even every couple of weeks to finding things you care about. This is especially good if you have a blog. On my blog(s), I post what I call link salads. I gather up a bunch of links, and then briefly talk about them and why I care briefly — then, boom, link.
You don’t have to be limited to straight up charity. If you know indie artisans, writers, musicians etc., promote them. Believe me, they will greatly appreciate it.
You can also use social media for good.
Reach out to people who are doing things you like. Let them know you like them and would like to promote them. Ask if there are any specific graphics or links they’d like boosted. If you make a habit of doing this, you will find yourself in a position to use your skills to do some good for an organization or person.
Maybe you can code, maybe you can offer someone a discounted website revamp, or maybe you’re great at business letters and can write some e-mails for them. The possibilities are pretty wide open. All you have to do is ask.
Now is a good time to talk about volunteerism. Volunteering doesn’t have to be feet on the ground. This is the glorious future where you can volunteer from the comfort of your own home.
Now, why would somebody want to do this? There are many reasons to think of volunteering via the Internet. You might have a disability that makes it difficult to do stuff in person, or maybe you don’t drive and don’t have a great public transportation system. Maybe you are super broke or have a whole lot of anxiety. It doesn’t matter why — it matters that you have some opportunities. Volunteering is for anybody who wants to full stop.
The first thing to do is decide who you want to volunteer for. You can try large organizations or — my personal preference — small, homegrown operations. Hell, you can start your own.
What kinds of things can you do? That will vary by what sort of organization and who you’re volunteering for.
For things like a forum for instance, first you should participate and be cool. Don’t be a jerk to other users, know the rules, and be awesome. A lot of forums I have participated in tend to need a solid squad of moderators. If you are good with dealing with folks or mediating, give it a shot.
If you are into things like graphic design or typesetting, try volunteering to create graphics or design for folks. This is something that can be mutually beneficial, especially for those who are just building a portfolio. You get the props, the folks you care for get their graphics, and everyone is happy.
You all are smart, you see where I’m going here.
I do not believe that acts of kindness or volunteering aren’t real just because they are on the Internet. That idea is ableist and, frankly, gross. However you can get this stuff done is good and it counts.
Let’s go back to using social media for good.
I use my personal platforms to provide a lot of information. I have pages listing women writers and I have pages where I have collated resources for beginning short fiction writers and offered them free of charge. Sometimes I dedicate entries to questions I see around. I do this for a few reasons: I would have liked to have had someone do it for me when I was just getting going and it just makes me feel good.
One of the most effective uses of my social media is that if I spot services happening, I can post it on tumblr and request other people signal boost it. Pro tip: If you are posting something going on right now, put the time and date on it.
Word of mouth is a powerful thing. I have helped folks find places to sleep and I've given directions to shelters all through the often-vilified tumblr. I think that is freaking awesome.
That’s what we’re really talking about here.
We all know that one of the big reasons humans do nice things is because it makes us feel good about ourselves. I’m into that. I fully support the need to be of service in life, and I believe that because we live in the world as it is right now, we have so many opportunities to do some good. And it costs us nothing.
Look at you, folks. Over the course of this series, we’ve seen exchanges of recipes and budget tips. We've seen support for those of us who are having a hard time. There has been an enormous outpouring of resources being offered up. I’ve even seen some of you exchange information to talk to each other.
Now let’s get creative.
If you are good at organizing and are into crocheting or knitting, why not get together a group of like-minded folks to make blankets, shawls, or hats for preemies, folks undergoing cancer treatments, homeless people, or anyone else you can think of? Make it fun. Host virtual stitch and bitches via technology. Turn it into a knit or crochet-along. There are thousands of free patterns that are appropriate for many skill levels. Everyone can pitch in, and at the end, you’ll all have done something really cool for people who need it.
Are you good at finding and collating information? How about putting together a little website or blog dedicated to providing specific resources for something you care about? There are lots of platforms available for free and you are really only limited by how much time you have to dedicate to it.
Here's the thing: It doesn’t matter how you want to work or how you’re able to. Do what you’re capable of at the moment and you’re doing it.
Taking some time to treat other people well and be of service is deeply important to my self-esteem and self-worth. Even when I’m flat broke and I can’t write a check to Planned Parenthood or the local shelters, I know there are things I can do.
I crochet scarves and hats and leave them for people on the street to find and use. I make the item and put it in a gallon Ziploc bag with a note that says something like: If you’re cold, please wear me and stay warm.
If I have food that I might not eat, I will also sometimes leave that where people who need it can get to it. Or give it to people when they ask me for money on the street.
Online, I will always offer resources. Sometimes I help people look for those resources. But I also answer silly questions. When I get anonymous requests for advice, I help if I can or I turn it over to folks in the know.
In that spirit, and as usual, now I will turn it over to you fine folks. How are you? Do you have ideas about volunteerism? Want to chime in about how it makes you feel? Not sure how to start? Speak up. We’d all love to hear your ideas.