IT professional volunteering using keyboard

How to Volunteer Your IT Skills

Updated April 2, 2022 . AmFam Team

Are you an IT professional looking for ways to give back? Consider IT skills-based volunteering to work with a cause you’re passionate about & use your skills!

If you’ve got a knack for IT and are seeking to use your personal and professional skills and talents to serve others, consider online IT skills-based volunteering — it’s an opportunity to work with a cause you’re passionate about, while using your best skills.

Take it from Todd Micholic, an American Family Insurance IT career management advisor and longtime volunteer. Todd shared his experience with skills-based volunteering and how he’s been able to leverage his tech savvy IT skills to help others. Here’s what you need to know about online IT skills-based volunteering and how to get involved.

How to Volunteer Your IT Skills During Social Distancing

In general, volunteering has undeniably changed since the pandemic hit. Since social distancing is encouraged, you may wonder how you can still offer your time to those in need. Todd says that staying safely apart is not a problem!

“Actually, the pandemic has been great for IT volunteering. I’ve volunteered for icStars and Maydm in the same day — no travel time needed in cyberspace.” Prior to 2020, Todd volunteered primarily in person. Now it’s all virtual, which has given him the opportunity to do more.

Since your skillset is primarily computer based, you can still be of service to nonprofits and other organizations without seeing them in person through online IT volunteering.

Todd does say that human interactions can be challenging when volunteering virtually, especially with kids. “You can’t high five a kid who breaks through with new coding challenge or give them candy for figuring out how to code a loop. So, it helps to take time off of a rigorous curriculum and just talk.”

He goes on to say that it’s important to build a relationship first, if possible. “If you can relate to someone about the food they like, the video games they play, the sports they watch, the art they like or the books they like to read then the teaching or mentoring is much easier.”

Whatever the case, don’t let social distancing stop you from finding an IT skills-based opportunity to help others. Now more than ever nonprofits need the support of volunteers like you!

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Support for Your Dream

Let’s admit it. Volunteering your time and effort to a worthy cause simply feels good. Knowing you’re helping someone in need can bring joy to your life and others.

And, while volunteering at a local shelter or animal shelter is a meaningful and worthy way to give back, donating your tech talent or a specific skillset to a good cause is a great way to grow as an individual and professionally. You never know what dream volunteering could spark!

Feeling inspired? There are other ways to support dreams. Check out our guide to giving back for other opportunities to contribute to your community!

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    How to Volunteer as a Respite Caregiver

    There are amazing people out there who dedicate so much time and energy to taking care of the ones they love through sickness, old age and life’s other challenges. But who cares for the caregiver?

    That’s where you can step in! If you’re looking for a way to help out in your community, and would prefer to donate your time instead of your money, then volunteering as a respite caregiver is a great way to help someone in need — while also filling your life with a sense of purpose and philanthropy.

    For Debbie Tahany, a recently retired testing engineer specialist at American Family Insurance, volunteering as a respite caregiver was the perfect fit. “I love people. I love my community. I love my faith, which teaches me to care for others,” she explained. When she started volunteering through her parish in 2018, she was looking forward to giving back to her community — but quickly discovered she got even more than she gave.

    Let’s take a look at Debbie’s experience as a respite care volunteer to learn more about how this small act of giving your time can make an impactful difference to other’s lives.

    What Is a Respite Care Volunteer?

    A respite care volunteer is someone who provides temporary relief to a primary caregiver of a sick, aging or disabled person, typically a family member. This allows the caregiver a break while the care receiver still has safety, supervision and companionship.

    Primary caretakers are usually a spouse or a family member who are on duty 24/7. Being a primary caregiver can be exhausting and sometimes emotionally tolling, so offering your time as a respite care volunteer provides the caregiver the opportunity to recharge and have balance in their life. “I’ve seen the need for respite,” Debbie says, whose grandparents lived with her and her family. “It brings me joy to ease the heaviness that caretakers bear. I reap the reward, too.”

    By volunteering your time as a respite caregiver, you’re not only helping the caregiver you’re relieving, but you’re also bringing companionship to someone who might not have the opportunity to see many people. You’re providing the care receiver with a change in their routine and offering a new presence that can bring a sense of excitement and joy to their life.

    Debbie volunteers her time with elderly folks and says, “In my experience, a lot of these people don’t have many visitors, they don’t see many people. So, my visits provide another input for the person who is being visited.”

    Debbie spends time with an elderly woman named Mary — who turned 100 in 2020! — whom she now considers a dear friend. Debbie stays with Mary a few hours every month so Mary’s daughter and live-in caretaker, Sister Pat, can spend some time outside of the apartment to revitalize or run quick errands.

    When you really think about it, being a volunteer for respite care is a way of becoming a dream champion. By giving the primary care person time to themselves, they’re able to focus on pursuing their dreams. And maybe seeing your friendly new face will give the one needing care the spark they need to explore their dreams. AND you get to fulfill your desire to help others and make the world a better place. We’d say that’s a win-win-win!