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We’re updating this article daily with new ideas for how we can stay generous, helpful, and connecting during COVID-19.

how to help during covid19

It’s a scary and uncertain time. But here at Give and Take, we’re going to shift our focus over the next few weeks to amplifying generosity, connection, gratitude, and requests for help.

There are lots of ways to help others during COVID-19, and we want to share some of them with you.

Ideas for Helping Others During the COVID-19 Pandemic

To kick us off, I crowd-sourced ideas for ways we can help others during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bestelling author Daniel Pink has a Givitas community of his followers and subscribers (if you’re a fan of his, feel free to join. It’s free.)

I posed a question asking for ways that we can safely offer our help to others during this time of social distancing and isolation.

After all, Adam Grant’s research shows that kind, generous people do better in almost every realm. (Listen to his interview on Dan Harris’ 10% Happier Podcast for a good primer on the research.)

So here are 12 ways you can still help out others during the COVID-19 crisis if you’re mostly staying inside. Use your own caution and judgement about which of these makes sense for you.

1. Donate staples to those in need.

Do a Google search for local food banks, women’s shelters and homeless shelters. These populations are the most vulnerable when resources are scarce and the economy is under strain.

You can buy these supplies yourself (go to the grocery store early to avoid crowds) or even have Amazon or your local grocery delivery service deliver them for you. However, it feels really good to make that drop off yourself, and most shelters will allow you to drop things off without having to get too close to other people. Just call ahead and ask what their procedure is.

My kids and I are taking a load of supplies to our local YWCA women’s shelter later today, and I want them to feel some involvement and ownership.

Here’s what to buy (better yet, check the website of the specific charity to which you’re donating, because they may have some specialized needs:

  • Nonperishable, easy-to-make foods (mac’n’cheese, rice mixes, cereal, protein bars, etc.)
  • Canned fruits and vegetables
  • Peanut butter, jelly
  • Toiletries (soap, shampoo, razors, toothpaste, toothbrushes, lotion)
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Diapers, baby wipes, and infant formula
  • Supplies like toilet paper and paper towels, hand sanitizer and Lysol (if you can find it!)

If you donate, please post about it and tag is @giveandtakeinc! We’d love to see your acts of generosity!

ways to help during covid19

2. Donate gift cards

Any charity that takes care of people or animals is going to be very grateful to have gift cards. If you send a gift card, then they can buy whatever they want with it.

Some organizations prefer to have gift cards in small donations so they can hand them out to individuals who need them. Some will be using them to buy supplies for the facilitiy. Call ahead or check their website to see their preference.

Gift cards to big box, general retailers like Walmart, Target, and grocery stores will be most useful, but if you have a local business you’d like to support, that’s fine too. Just make sure that local business is on the bus line, so that whoever gets your gift card can take advantage of it.

3. Donate blood

The American Red Cross reports an urgent need for blood donations in light of COVID-19. You can make an appointment at a center near you on their website.

Donation centers are among the cleanest and most well-sanitized places in the world. The Red Cross is making special accomodations to ensure the safety of donors.

ways to help during covid 19

4. Drop off or send books, toys, and games to children’s charities.

My kids are out of school for 2-4 weeks, and I’m very lucky to have older kids and a good support system. But imagine kids who are in a homeless shelter or foster care who can’t go to school and have nothing to do. 

You can order online and have things shipped directly to the facility, or you can have them shipped to you and drop them off. Call the facility or check their website to get guidance on what to get (for example, most facilities won’t take used stuffed animals). 

Some shelters have restrictions on games that involve a lot of shared pieces, so that’s something to consider, too. 

Get your kids involved in this one, or any of these ideas. If they can donate even a few dollars, it will make them feel part of the solution.

5. Surprise a friend or neighbor by leaving flowers or a treat on their doorstep.

We shouldn’t forget simple acts of kindness for our neighbors. 

Here’s a kindness mission for Ding Dong Ditching from Patience Salgado, aka KindnessGirl. She lists lots of ideas for things to drop  off at the front door. The beauty of this mission is that it is anonymous, and you run awaybefore you can get caught. So no germ exchange!

ding dong ditch

photo by Patience Salgado

6. Drop off or send treats and essential supplies to nurses, police, and first responders.

Our medical staff, police, fire fighters, and emergency personnel all have to work just as hard as ever, and they can’t self-quarantine at home. 

Consider sending over a token of appreciation. Lots of online retailers will deliver fresh fruit or snack mixes. Cookies and candy are usually also appreciated. Stay away from the homemade stuff for now, since there is so much concern about the virus spreading. 

Kimberly Siegert from Dan Pink’s Givitas community also suggested dropping off wipes, antibacterial soap, toilet paper, and hand sanitizer. Since people are hoarding these supplies, our first responders may have a harder time finding them. 

Rachel Radway also suggested that we shouldn’t be hoarding anything we don’t absolutely need. “Think of your neighbors and leave something on the shelves for others.”

7. Share your skills.

Michelle Bailey offered this suggestion in Dan Pink’s Givitas group: 

Consider ways to share skills you may have that can be comforting to others like:

  • Leading guided meditation
  • Helping tech-naive folks to manage social isolation via video chat,
  • Sharing poems, prose or inspirational quotes to increase positivity

Rahne Alexander shared a Google doc where music teachers are offering their services via video chat to kids who are out of school (some for free and reduced prices). If you are a musician, consider signing up. 

8. Offer to walk dogs, run errands, and check in on neighbors in a high-risk group.

This suggestion comes from Dawn Sawyer. You may have neighbors who are at risk because of their age or a health condition. 

The current thinking is that it is perfectly safe to go outside, so this quarantine doesn’t mean you actually have to stay in your house. Getting outside to walk a dog would be good for both of you. 

Sheila Norris added that you can also offer to run errands for people who cannot go out for safety reasons. They can leave money for you in the mailbox and you can leave groceries on their front stoop, so you don’t have to come face to face. 

If you have a neighborhood watch, someone may be willing to organize a way for healthy, low-risk neighbors to run errands and get groceries for neighbors who need it.

J. House also suggested that we can offer just to do phone calls with elderly or shut in neighbors who may be lonely. J. also suggested we ask people what they actually want and need, instead of assuming, which I thought was great advice.

dog walking

9. If you can afford it, don’t ask for refunds from local, small businesses.

Maureen Schlosser suggests that f you were scheduled to attend an event, a play, or a show that is now cancelled, don’t ask for a refund if you can do without the money. Small businesses, local venues, artists and musicians are being hit hard by the social distancing recommendations. 

If you are a member of a yoga studio, a gym, or take any kind of classes or lessons that can’t go online, think about donating your membership fees to the teacher to supplement their income. 

Benjamin Light added, “in general, think about things that are already in your budget, that you may not use for a little bit, and do not cancel those! There will be so many people hurting financially, and so we need to remember that and take care of those in danger of losing jobs/money/etc. because of closures.

how to help others during covid-19
10. Order tickets or gift cards to use later in the year.

Maureen also suggested buying tickets for things happening later in the year (perhaps in the summer, when the quarantine may be likely to be lifted). 

Supporting art, theater, music, and other performances will give those artists a way to have some income coming in now even if they aren’t working. 

Bethany Krom added the idea of buying restaurant gift cards to support local restaurants.  If you give the gift card away, you’re doubling the power of the gift because it benefits the local business owner and the recipient of the gift!

11. Help working parents

Marie Gemelli-Carroll pointed out that so many kids are out of school around the country, and many parents are struggling to find time to work from home. You could offer to guide their children through school assignments via phone, Skype, Zoom, or Google Hangouts.

If you’re comfortable with it, there are also many people opening their homes to children during the day so their parents can work. Proceed with extreme caution, since this would involve increased risk of spreading the virus.

12. Tip often and tip generously.

Many restaurants are no longer allowing dining in but are still doing takeout. Kelly Sattler reminds us to tip generously during this time, since “restaurants will suffer as people hibernate and fear contact. A lot of wait staff survive on tips and their income will be highly affected.”

If you have a cleaning service or any other kind of service performed regularly for you, tip as generously as you can afford.

13. Offer your advice, help, and support online and via video.

For people who don’t feel comfortable with any of these ideas, remember you can still maintain some sense of community online.

Zoom accounts (useful for video chatting) are free if you use it less than 45 minutes at a time, and allows groups of friends and family to connect. You might even be able to figure out a way to play games remotely.

Google hangouts and Facetime are also good for seeing other people’s faces.

Don’t forget about online networks and communities.

We have a number of free networks for professionals in different areas, but there are a zillion groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, and elsewhere.

Ours are nice because they tend to be a lot kinder and calmer than general-purpose social media, but we also don’t have a group for everyone that needs it. So find it where ever you can!

Ellen Schwartz adds that we should be sure to stay in touch with our work networks, too, especially when everyone is staying home.  “ Send individual texts, start a group chat, or schedule a video chat coffee break among working-from-home friends at a set time this week!”

14. Be extra nice and kind to everyone you meet.

Kurt Jegermanis notes, “Special attention needs to be payed to grocery story workers. I would suggest buying goods for staff every time you visit during this epidemic. They are essential personnel during this time and are not paid nearly enough.”

The same goes for customer service workers, delivery personnel, letter carriers, people on the street walking their dogs, healthcare personnel . . . everyone!

Please send us your ideas!

I’d love to keep this post updated with new ideas as the situation changes and as new ideas come in. Please send your ideas for how to help others during COVID-19 to sarah.allen-short@giveandtakeinc.com.

We’d also love to hear if you do any of these ideas! Please tag us on social media (@giveandtakeinc on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter). Share your photos or stories.

We’re also going to use our social media channels 100% for this purpose. For the immediate future, we won’t be promoting our demos or solution sheets. We’re just going to be sharing stories of people who are helping, people who are asking for help, and people who are grateful.

Please help us collect these stories by tagging us @giveandtakeinc on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn so we can share these examples far and wide.

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