7 Things You Can Do to Help Others During the COVID-19 Pandemic

When all you want to do is help, it’s hard being stuck at home. Here’s how to pitch in, right from your living room.

woman typing on laptop

Updated on March 25, 2020.

In times of crisis, helping others gives us a feeling of purpose, a sense of contributing toward the greater good and, honestly, a way to keep occupied. And while official stay-at-home orders and social distancing may limit your options during the COVID-19 outbreak, there are still numerous ways you can make a meaningful impact on peoples’ lives. Here's how to get started.

Give to charitable organizations

From small nonprofits to large humanitarian agencies, charities across the globe have been strained for resources and forced to cancel fundraisers just as they’re facing their greatest challenge. If you have the means, you can help ease their financial stress with a donation.

Consider starting with charities you’ve given to in the past, or ones that have special meaning for you. Or, find new organizations using websites that evaluate and review charities, such as Charity Navigator and Charity Watch; both have special online areas dedicated to COVID-19.

You may want to consider food banks in particular, as they’ll likely be under increased pressure in the coming weeks. National programs like Meals on Wheels and Feeding America help keep thousands of people all over the U.S. from going hungry each day, and local food banks can use your donations—and volunteer hours, if possible—to provide for those close to home.

One important tip: Do a little research before giving to an unfamiliar charity, as scammers often take advantage of crises. Take care to read reviews and scan the organization’s official website and social media. And remember: Never reveal your credit card information to representatives of unfamiliar charities who email or call you out of the blue; you can donate online later or call someone back if you’re interested in giving.

Support small businesses

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, many local businesses have shuttered for the time being. Provided you’re able, you can help them get through the next few weeks and months by:

  • Shopping on their websites whenever possible
  • Buying gift cards for future use
  • Choosing a rain check or credit instead of a refund for canceled plays, concerts and classes
  • Writing a positive online review or sharing business information on social media

To support local restaurants, try ordering takeout or delivery via their websites or platforms like DoorDash, Grubhub or Uber Eats. Ask drivers to place food on your doorstep—and leave a little extra tip, if possible. Check websites, Facebook pages or even local chambers of commerce to see which restaurants around you are currently taking orders.

Some restaurants are even providing free meals to healthcare workers and others in need; call to see if they accept donations. You may be able to reach out to a local hospital and order a dinner delivery for the staff, too; just make sure it’s okay with the hospital first.

Don’t forget independent workers

It’s not just small businesses hitting hard times. People who work solo or provide one-on-one services are out of jobs, too. Think hairstylists, home cleaners, nail technicians, babysitters and coaches. Some, like personal trainers and music teachers, may be able to continue their work via video chat. Others won’t be as lucky. If you have the resources, consider sending payments to individual workers with whom you would normally have appointments, perhaps via Venmo, Square Cash or another person-to-person payment app.

You may also want to think about signing up for an online class or hiring someone for home tasks that don’t require social contact, such as yardwork or outdoor handyman jobs. And if you have a larger home project coming up, like a bathroom renovation or roof replacement, the Better Business Bureau suggests committing now to a contractor for the future.

Donate blood

With blood drive after blood drive being canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the American Red Cross is facing a severe shortage. Eligible donors are badly needed to make up for the loss. Head to the Red Cross website or call 1-800-RED-CROSS to find donation centers, make an appointment and learn how they’re protecting donors from the novel coronavirus. 

Check in on others

While everyone could use a text or phone call during the pandemic, people in high-risk groups, such as older adults and those with chronic medical conditions, may require additional assistance. If you have a friend, family member or neighbor at greater risk for severe illness, check in and see what they need. Buying groceries, picking up prescriptions or setting up a video chat can all be done while still following the rules of social distancing. If you don’t personally know someone in a high-risk group and still wish to help, reach out to a nearby house of worship, social service group or local department of health and human services for opportunities to pitch in.

Look out for others who could use a hand, too. Know someone working overtime to supply essential services, such as a healthcare provider or supermarket cashier? Ask if there’s anything you can do for them at home, like walk the dog, collect the mail or mow the lawn. Cooking a meal or ordering takeout may be an appreciated gesture, as well.

Share online resources

From brand-new homeschoolers to people working from their kitchens for the very first time, millions of Americans have had to overhaul their day-to-day routines in a relatively short period. It’s a steep, occasionally exhausting learning curve, and every resource helps.

If you’ve found something particularly useful online, whether it’s a cache of printable math worksheets or a TED Talk about home office productivity, let others know. Even if it seems frivolous to you, that YouTube series about penguins may be just what a tired parent needs to get their kids through the day.

Take preventive measures

The best way to help others during the COVID-19 outbreak is to take steps to help slow the spread of disease. Stick around your house or apartment as much as possible, and don’t leave at all if you’re sick; if you think you have COVID-19, call a healthcare provider for advice.

Wash your hands frequently; scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60 percent alcohol. When you must go out, keep at least a 6-foot distance from others.

By following these rules, you may be saving lives. And ultimately, that’s the most valuable way to pitch in, no matter where you are.

Article sources open article sources

Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn and Laura Daily. “How you can help during the coronavirus outbreak.” Washington Post. March 21, 2020.
Charity Watch. “Coronavirus (COVID19) Pandemic.”
Charity Navigator. “We're In This Together: Charity Navigator's Response to COVID-19.”
Feeding America. “No one should go hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Meghan Holohan. “7 things you can to do help people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.” TODAY.com. March 12, 2020.
Kevin Simpson. “Stuck at home during the coronavirus outbreak but want to help here in Colorado? Here’s how.” Colorado Sun. March 18, 2020.
Meals on Wheels. “Keeping Seniors Safe Amid COVID-19.”
Federal Trade Commission. “Before Giving to a Charity.”
U.S. Department of Justice. “COVID-19 Fraud: The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force.”
Better Business Bureau. “BBB Tip: How to Support Small Businesses during Coronavirus.” March 18, 2020.
Jeanne Sahadi. “How to help your favorite small businesses survive the coronavirus crisis.” CNN.com. March 15, 2020.
DoorDash.com. “Protecting yourself and others from the Coronavirus (COVID-19).”
Uber.com. “Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources & Updates.”
GrubHub.com. “COVID-19 Impact, Delivery Safety and Supporting Local Restaurants.”
Jaya Saxena. “Some Restaurants Are Channeling Their Hardships Into a Way to Feed Health Care Workers.” Eater.com. March 20, 2020.
Eric Rosenberg. “The 6 Best Payment Apps of 2020.” TheBalance.com. November 20, 2019.
American Red Cross. “What to know about the Coronavirus and Blood Donation: Critical Need For Blood and Platelets.”
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): How to Protect Yourself,” “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): What To Do if You Are Sick.”

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