Matthew Goldstein on Ways to Give Back: How We can Volunteer during COVID-19 and Beyond

By The Pelotonia Team|April 23, 2020

This past week Pelotonia LIVE! hosted Matthew Goldstein, founder + CEO of Besa, for a special conversation during National Volunteer Week. National Volunteer Week is an exciting time of giving back and celebrating all the individuals who selflessly donate their time.
Volunteering in 2020 brings up some new questions, though. To start, how can we volunteer when we are trying to stay socially distant? Or what if we’re sick or immunocompromised and can’t leave the house? Matthew shared with us some great ideas on how to give back in person or from the comfort of your couch.
Learn more through our conversation highlights below and be sure to check out givebesa.org to discover upcoming volunteer opportunities or ways to donate. You can also watch the full Pelotonia LIVE! conversation on YouTube.

Doug Ulman: Start by giving us the quick snapshot of what motivated you to start Besa and what you guys do at your core.
Matthew Goldstein: We are a Columbus-based nonprofit. We launched in 2012 with this whole idea of how to make it easier for people and businesses to connect with the community in these powerful ways.
Much like Pelotonia, right? Like, how do you create these powerful experiences around giving back so that people can plug in and be part of making our community brighter, stronger, more vibrant? We launched it in 2012 and it’s been eight years of doing good, primarily through volunteerism.
We work with about a hundred plus nonprofit partners, everyone from homeless shelters to food pantries, to community gardens, to diaper banks. You name it, Besa’s there. And it’s all about how to increase capacity for our partners so that they can do more good. So over those eight years, it’s been, 50,000 volunteers and over a hundred thousand hours of service and about $20 million of impact within our community.

Doug Ulman: I think one of the challenges right now for people who are watching this, and I feel this, is this desire to do as much as you can and balancing that with this idea that we’re supposed to stay at home and limit our mobility. I think psychologically that’s a real struggle for a lot of us. What can we do?
Matthew Goldstein: The beautiful thing is there are so many people in our community that during this crisis are raising their hand and saying, ‘I want to help.’ And so there are a lot of ways to help, be it safely at home, virtually, as well as in real life.
Just this past weekend, I was at a food distribution site with Franklin County Public Health, and they were distributing food to hungry families. And these are people that are every age, every background, young families with kids to senior citizens with a handicap placard on their car.
All there because they needed food and the health department depends on volunteers to help distribute that food. They can’t do it without the volunteer power. And so there are a lot of opportunities right now to get involved. If you go to our website, givebesa.org, we list them all out. There are easy ways to get involved in real life to support places from Franklin County that would help people who are hungry or need shelter.
There are also virtual opportunities, right? There are ways to give back from home. So we have a supply drive. There are a lot of nonprofits that are low on supplies, be it the PPE, be it food. A lot of the shelters, the kids aren’t in school, they’re at the shelter during the day, and so they need activities to keep the kids engaged. So there are supply drives to get activities to the kids at the shelter.
And so there are virtual opportunities that you can do from the comfort of your home to support our community. We all know about the “little free libraries” that are around town. There are also “little free food pantries.” And so if you go to our website, you can see a map of where those are and see one in your community and be able to just drop off toilet paper or some food in one without interacting with anyone.

Jill Londino: Is there anything that we as a community can do to help your staff right now?
Matthew Goldstein: One is just feedback. If there’s any insight into if you see need out there and you think Besa can help fill that need, reach out to us. We’re always open to conversations.
Also, participate in the gratitude challenge Besa is hosting. Usually a program like the gratitude challenge takes months to plan. And it was an idea we came up with last week because we see we’re doing all this good. And then we see that there’s so many other people who are raising their hand and want to help. And within a week, my team activated and rallied to put this program together. It’s just a response to a need out there. When we see a need, we want to try to help fill that need.
Then, as your community is out there, seeing the landscape, wanting to help… if they have any ideas of how best to plug in or any organizations they think we should be connected with, we’re all ears. This work isn’t done in silos. It has to be done through collaboration and partnership.
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