How we can help during challenging times

Spring desert bloom in central California

As business owners, we’re advised to post content that’s helpful to our targeted readers yet promote our products and services. But given our current situation with COVID-19, is promoting our businesses really helpful? Our messages might sound insensitive, like we’re taking advantage of a terrible situation.

Everyone is facing challenges from this pandemic in different ways. But in general, we’re all scared. We’re worried about the present and future. We need comfort, support, and hope.

At the same time, we can help each other get through this professionally and personally. Here are a few ideas, some of which many of my professional colleagues and friends have adopted.

Share knowledge and skills

What’s your expertise? Can you share some tips on a useful, relevant topic in a video, social media, and blog posts? What could you turn into a mini-course or tutorial?

Lately I’ve seen free and deeply discounted courses on photography, self-care, career development, social media, playing a musical instrument, cooking, drawing, painting, and knitting. Offering courses for free, pay-what-you-can, or deeply discounted helps others learn new skills, improve existing skills, or simply have a fun diversion during a tough time personally and financially.

We can also share knowledge by helping others directly. This week, I attended some virtual write-ins and readings hosted by fiction and non-fiction writers who have never used Zoom. Whenever they needed help with the software, attendees who knew how to use it jumped in.


Many performing arts organizations are hosting free streams of concerts, operas, plays, and other performances until they can reopen. They’re struggling, because ticket sales usually account for at least 50-75% of their annual revenues. Donating whatever we can in thanks for these free performances can go a long way. Some organizations, such as the Seattle Symphony, have generous benefactors matching donations for a certain timeframe or dollar amount.

Many musicians are hosting free virtual concerts on Facebook Live, YouTube, and Zoom. A few have hosted free live concerts where they can practice social distancing. This week, I received an email newsletter from Tony Starlight, a singer and songwriter from Portland, with a video clip from a concert he hosted for his neighbors from a boat. He floated around the lake, playing his guitar and singing while everyone watched from shore. After the show, his neighbors gave him tips, which he didn’t request but appreciated. They were grateful for his generosity and wanted to do something in return.

Food banks and homeless shelters desperately need cash donations to support growing demands on their services.

We can also donate our time virtually. Here are some ideas:

Many organizations in our communities need volunteers, too. I volunteer on the marketing and events committees at Animal Aid, an animal shelter in Portland. There’s a lot of help I can provide remotely, such as writing newsletter articles, writing posts for social media, and editing.

Find more virtual volunteer opportunities at Catchafire and VolunteerMatch.

Dot relaxes in her teddy bear bed at Animal Aid in Portland, Oregon.

Promote others

The Grocery Cocktail & Social in Vancouver, Washington, is closed until our state’s restrictions from COVID-19 lift. On Friday night, they hosted a Virtual Cocktail Hour via Zoom. They posted invitations on Facebook and Instagram, welcoming anyone to make their favorite beverage and log in for a chat.

I wanted to help promote Virtual Cocktail Hour, so I shared their announcement on my Facebook profile. I also wrote a post on my travel blog and tweeted it. I replied to their announcement on Instagram with a link to the blog post. After the event, they posted a thank-you reply on Instagram with a screenshot of the post.

I’ve scheduled more posts to promote virtual events for businesses and organizations in the Vancouver-Portland metro area, where I live. It’s a small way I can help spread the word about them and show thanks for their contributions to our community.

Everyone can help their local small businesses and organizations by sharing their announcements on social media and recommending them. It makes a huge difference.


We can continue networking despite sheltering in place. Be proactive. Text or call someone. Check in on colleagues via LinkedIn messaging. Pick a topic and set up a video discussion, or just hang out in a Zoom session. Host a virtual dinner or happy hour via Zoom or other media.

What are some other ways we can help?

What have you done? What have you seen others do in your community? Do you have more ideas? Please contact me with your comments.