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How To Save The World When Going Out Into the World Is The Last Thing You Want To Do


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By Hyphen Parent

Recently, a friend shared her frustration about the need for information on social activism for introverts. People who are introverts and those who suffer from social anxiety often want to help, but don’t know how to get involved when the thought of getting involved is overwhelming.  She explained that her efforts may seem small, but are often extremely costly to her. Many of the same arguments can be made for those who are homebound and/or disabled. If you can’t get out there and debate face-to-face, but you want to make a difference, what can you do?

I’ve been involved with various non-profits for decades (both as hired staff and as a volunteer). So I compiled some ideas based on my experience and observations.  If there are readers who have expertise in this area, please feel free to comment with tips, tricks, or what has worked for you.

You may actually be exactly what an organization needs. Don’t think you’re unnecessary or unwanted because you would rather do some work quietly in a small group or alone rather than take up signs and go door-to-door.

Often, the biggest needs of an organization are behind the scenes and involve little interaction.  People tend to sign up to volunteer with the vision of being right in the middle of the action. They get excited at the idea of helping others. What they don’t realize is that the biggest need is often office work like stuffing envelopes or sorting items.

Although there’s been an influx recently of people signing up to volunteer with various groups, many of those people will never get involved because they want something more glamorous and direct than what the group actually needs. So if you want to work quietly behind the scenes, you can actually help save the day.

Organizations need help with planning and prep work.  This is often done from home via phone calls or e-mails. If you’re homebound or not comfortable in large groups, this is something you may be able to do.

If you help with office work or prep work at the location, it could be helpful to schedule the same time and day each week/month. That will make you more likely to meet the same staff whenever you’re there. Volunteering at the office or facility may be more comfortable if you’re around people you know rather than strangers.

Sorting donations is volunteer work that can be done from home/Hyphen Parent - SpokaneFAVS
Sorting donations is volunteer work that can be done from home/Hyphen Parent – SpokaneFAVS

Social media creates a unique opportunity for volunteering.  Some organizations have a team of social media representatives who all post.  Those may be paid positions or volunteer.  Ask a non-profit if you can help. See what they need. There are a range of ways you can get involved there from being a moderator and posting to providing information to those who do.  Is there an event coming up? Maybe they could use help submitting it to online event lists.  Were you there when a large donation came in? E-mail their social media team and tell them about it.  It could be a great update for their Facebook page. Do they need pictures of events to post on their website? Some people find a camera allows them to be present, but detached so that they can limit their interactions to what they’re comfortable with. Some events are more active and require quite a bit of movement. Some are smaller and slower-paced, so if your mobility is limited, you can still help take pictures without having to move around much.  Don’t assume you can’t help. Ask. Something like a charity marathon may sound too active for someone with limited mobility, but maybe organizers really need pictures of the starting line or finish line. That would allow a volunteer photographer to stay in one place and to even stay seated.

Do you have a skill you can do from home? Graphic design? Editing? Research? Writing? E-mail an organization and ask if there’s a need for that skill. If you’re not comfortable e-mailing, ask friends if they know of any non-profit that could use your skills.

Are you comfortable babysitting? I’ve seen many people lament that they want to get involved, but they have small children. Most organizations don’t allow children to volunteer and don’t have the space to keep them safely contained. Someone who’s comfortable babysitting could indirectly help an organization by offering childcare so a friend can volunteer.

Recently, former congress staff Emily Ellsworth posted on twitter explaining that calling your representative is the most effective way to have your voice heard.

Many people are calling their representatives lately to relay their feelings or fears. For some people, the idea of calling strangers, especially about such troubling discussions, is torture.  Many organizations know this and so some have provided a script to help you better prepare for those calls. Practice that script beforehand to help you feel more comfortable. Remember, political staffers don’t need to relay your whole life story. They only need to receive calls on the topic. So you can keep your comments brief and prepared.

How to call your reps when you have social anxiety is a comic and collection of resources with a transcript. If someone wants to make phone calls, but the thought of doing so is difficult if not impossible to handle, this may be a great place to start.

Meeting in person is another way Emily Ellsworth advocates for getting your point across to your representative. This is also true for non-profits.  Showing up at town hall meetings allows you to discuss with your local politicians. If a non-profit group schedules an event, they need people to attend or they risk canceling the event in the future or even losing funding.  Ms Ellsworth suggests organizing a large group of people who can ask questions and make their point at a town hall meeting. Non-profit organizations often coordinate community events.  You can publicize a town hall meeting or non-profit event and organize a group of people from home. You don’t even have to be in attendance. If you are comfortable and able, you could go. You don’t need to ask questions at political events if you’re not comfortable. You don’t need to take the lead and be in charge. Sometimes simply being in attendance can help. Although, if you can, please do speak up, especially in political forums. Sometimes you’ll have an opportunity to speak directly with your politician if you’re not comfortable asking questions or making statements in front of the group. Even going directly to the person and saying, “I’m opposed to X,” can help.

A bake sale is a great way to help from home too!/Hyphen Parent - SpokaneFAVS
A bake sale is a great way to help from home too!/Hyphen Parent – SpokaneFAVS

Your skill or hobby could prove very useful. Do you knit? Draw? Create? Bake? Some organizations can use your creations directly for the people they help. Others may put together baskets to raffle and raise funds.

Ask your friends. Maybe your friend from college is hosting a refugee family and needs funds to buy them a washing machine. You could send funds without having to leave home. Maybe your neighbor’s son is having a bake sale at school to raise funds for an organization. You could donate a plate of cookies. Maybe a friend just started volunteering for an advocacy group and wants to make sure there are enough people at an event they’re planning. Maybe you could help organize a group of people and even go yourself. It can be much less daunting to get started when you’re doing so with friends.

One doesn’t need to be loud and instantly comfortable around new people to help. The needs and limits of introverts, those who are disabled, and those who are homebound actually line up perfectly with many of the needs of various non-profits. Yes social action groups need people on the front lines loudly advocating. So too do they need people working behind the scenes to keep things running.  The need for help behind the scenes is actually much greater than anything else. Being an introvert, disabled, and/or homebound and socially active are not contradictory. There absolutely are ways you can create and enforce change without wanting to crawl out of your skin.

Hyphen Parent
Hyphen Parent
Dorothy-Ann Parent (better known as Hyphen) is a writer, a traditional Jew, a seeker of justice, a lover of stories and someone who’s best not left unattended in a bookshop or animal shelter.

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7 years ago

Thanks for these great ideas Hyphen. It’s true that FāVS is always looking for writers, but we’re also always looking for volunteers willing to help us from home, behind the scenes! If that’s you, email [email protected] and we can discuss!

7 years ago

Thank you for sharing these practical tips for introverts who want to help.

Neal Schindler
Neal Schindler
7 years ago

Great article. Very positive.

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