Responding to COVID19 as a Community

These are uncertain and scary times. We hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe!

This situation is constantly evolving and will continue to impact our communities at different times and in different ways. Yet, we know that all the incredible people like you in the world who are compassionate and resilient will help everyone, especially the most vulnerable in our communities, endure.

To help you help others, we have compiled information and ideas based on the best scientific advice available, with a particular focus on those likely to be the most affected by the current situation.

Remember: there is a lot of misinformation online. Seek information from reliable sources.



Organizing Mutual Aid Groups

Vulnerable Communities

Service Opportunities

Digital Community

Read info from the World Health Organization (WHO):

Plan to communicate timely and accurate information from credible sources

Plan dedicated lines of communication

Identify and address potential language, cultural, and disability barriers to communication

Help counter stigma and discrimination

Update your existing emergency operations plan (or decide who will be responsible)

Consider the needs of vulnerable people in your community

Establish relationships with key community partners like local public health department, other community leaders, local businesses and educational institutions

Review your community’s COVID-19 plan and participate in community-wide preparedness activities

Identify services which might be limited or discontinued during an outbreak (e.g., school lunch programs, senior medical transportation services, etc.)

During an outbreak:

Create a phone tree to distribute information. Make sure to include backups for the people at the top in case the designated point person gets sick.

Stay informed about the local situation from public health officials

Communicate with your organization members and community partners

How is your organization responding to the outbreak?

What operations and services are affected and how?

Distribute health information and address potential fears and anxieties from misinformation.

After an outbreak:

Discuss lessons learned.

Update and expand your emergency plan.

Look for ways to expand community partnerships.

Also see:

Organizing Mutual Aid Groups

We need to help each other and rely on each other during this pandemic. Times of crisis can feel like each person needs to look out for themselves, but in reality most people step up to help during times of crisis. Everyone has something to offer and everyone has something they need.

There are many ways to do this and there might be specific resources or needs in your community that require a different system, but here is a place to start.

Create an email account specifically for your mutual aid group that all coordinators have access to.

Create a form (Google Forms is a good free service for this) that autofills to a google spreadsheet. Make the spreadsheet public so anyone can reach out directly to people who have a need or have made an offer.

Note: make it very clear that the form information goes to a public spreadsheet. Any information someone doesn’t want public should be shared privately by email or phone. Coordinators should take extreme care to keep private information private by keeping that information separate and limit access as much as possible.

Example questions for form

  • Name
  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Address (do not make this a required field and make sure people filling out the form know their answers will be public)
  • Are you or anyone in your home medically high risk for COVID-19?
  • What can you offer?
    • For example: cooking, buying/delivery, petcare, internet subscriptions (like netflix, disney +, hbo), storage, conversation, housecleaning, legal representation (employment and housing only, professionals only), social services guidance...
  • What do you need?
    • For example: grocery shopping/delivery, rent/utilities/grocery support, rides
  • Is there anything you can contribute to a communal pool? Please be specific and include quantity. 
  • Can you contribute money to individuals or a communal pool?
  • Can you offer short or long term housing?
  • Do you have a car and are open to driving?
  • Can you be a point person? (for example: reaching out to neighbors directly, coordinating group chats, resources sharing)

Make a separate public spreadsheet for specific needs matching that coordinators can work to advocate to meet.

Spread this info through social media and direct contact with people who may not be on social media like the elderly

Consider starting a communal Venmo account that people can contribute to support the community. Coordinators will all need access and all usage should be discussed and recorded coordinators. No unilateral decisions.

Some of our neighbors are more vulnerable to illness and financial hardship during this public health crisis and may need community support. These include:

  • Older adults

  • People who are immunocompromised

  • People with chronic medical conditions (like heart disease, diabetes, lung disease)

  • People living with disabilities

  • People experiencing homelessness

  • People living at or below poverty line

  • People who work in service industries

  • Refugees and asylum seekers detained at the border

  • People incarcerated in the prison system

  • People living with abusers 


Donate to a Local Food Bank

Donations are down and need is up.

Search for a Feed America food bank in your area.

Check with your local food bank to find out their specific needs before donating.

Donate to Local Homeless Shelters

Shelters are not closing during this crisis. Most are taking aggressive measures to make sure their clients, staff, and volunteers stay safe.

Many are asking for essentials like toilet paper, soap, and hand sanitizer. Contact your local shelter and find out their specific needs.

Donate Blood

Hundreds of blood drives across the country have been canceled and the blood supply is low.

If you are healthy, have not traveled to the COVID-19 hot zones in the last month, and have not had contact with anyone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, consider making an appointment to donate.

Support Students Who Depend on School Lunches

Many schools are working to provide meals to students through pickup or dropoff. Contact your local public school to see if you can help with preparation or distribution.

Check in on Vulnerable Neighbors and Volunteer to do Tasks

Grocery shopping, helping with errands.

Donate to or volunteer with Meals on Wheels America. Meals on Wheels has adjusted their programs. Volunteers are no longer entering homes and are delivering more shelf-stable or frozen meals to allow for a less frequent delivery schedule.

Form a Mutual Aid group

Everyone has something to offer and everyone has something they need.

Start a neighborhood/organizational mutual aid shared Google Doc, social media group page, or Google Form for people to share their needs and how they can help.

See “Forming a Mutual Aid Group” for more info.

Remember that the internet is not accessible to everyone. Include plans that include the elderly and others without internet access or acumen.

Support Small Business and Low-Wage Workers

Low-wage workers are going to be among the first to suffer from a COVID-19 economic downturn.

If you use a service that includes tipping, tip well.

Consider purchasing gift cards now for businesses you know you will use in the future.

Organize an Online Fundraiser

Many of our usual fundraising events are not possible while we practice social distancing. Here are some ways to fundraise without gathering in large groups.

  • Virtual 5k

    • Instead of an in-person gathering, ask participants to register to walk or run a certain distance in their own neighborhoods or on a home treadmill. Do NOT encourage people to violate local social distancing or quarantine/shelter-in-place guidelines to participate.

  • Online game-a-thon

    • Organize an online tournament where the registration fee for the tournament supports your chosen cause.

  • Online read-a-thon

    • This is a great way to get kids who are stuck at home involved. Have people sponsor the amount of time or number of books read (just be sure to set age- and skill-appropriate guidelines ahead of time). 
  • Organize a knit/sew-a-thon

    • Much like a read-a-thon, you can ask people to sponsor the time spent on a project. 
    • Alternatively, pick a specific project to auction off. Post videos or do livestream videos while working on it. Auction off the right to make decisions as you proceed--what color should I use next?
    • Check with local shelters to ask if homemade blankets would be useful at this time.
  • Beard/moustache growing fundraiser

  • Online talent show.

If you don’t have a paid account for a digital meetup space, you’ll likely not be able to accomodate the number of people you’ll need. But you can have a dedicated Facebook group where people can take turns doing Facebook live videos. This can be at a designated time or over the course of several days.

Digital Activism Can be an Alternative to In-Person Events:

Ways to Meet Together While Apart:

  • Check Out American Atheists' Online Events Platforms: Crash Course in Social Distancing
  • Join the American Ethical Union's online community: AEU Connections
  • Google Hangouts - Free video chat for up to 10 people. Paid plans available for more participants.
  • Zoom - Free video conferencing for up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes. Paid plans available for longer meetings and more participants.
  • Jitsi - Multi-platform open-source video conferencing. To skip all the fancy customizations and just start a meeting, go straight to Jitsi Meet.
  • Microsoft Teams - Software for remote working. Free basic plan includes video conferencing up to 10,000 participants
  • Skype - Free videoconferencing. Participant limit depends on your device.

Virtual Volunteering:

Citizen science, humanities, and service projects you can do from home:

  • Zooniverse - The Zooniverse enables everyone to take part in real cutting edge research in many fields across the sciences, humanities, and more. Participate in research of all kinds, from classifying galaxies to counting penguins to transcribing manuscripts. Whatever your interest, there's a Zooniverse project for you.

  • Smithsonian - Smithsonian Digital Volunteers help make historical documents and biodiversity data more accessible by transcribing field notes, diaries, ledgers, logbooks, currency proof sheets, photo albums, manuscripts, and biodiversity specimens labels.

  • Project Implicit - Project Implicit is a non-profit organization and international collaborative network of researchers investigating implicit social cognition - thoughts and feelings that are largely outside of conscious awareness and control. Help researchers learn the best ways to break down stereotypes by taking tests about attitudes, stereotypes and other hidden biases that influence perception, judgment, and action.

  • United Nations Online Volunteering - Volunteers contribute directly to the work of development organizations, working from a computer, tablet or mobile phone anywhere in the world. Organizations collaborate with people of different backgrounds from all over the world, and become part of a global online community of peers who all share the goal of advancing human development.

  • CitizenScience.govThis official government website is designed to accelerate the use of crowdsourcing and citizen science across the U.S. government. The site provides a a catalog of federally supported citizen science projects and a gateway to a community of hundreds of citizen science practitioners and coordinators across government.