Ways to Use Your (Vocal) Gifts to Give Back
Updated on Nov 15, 2018 – Originally published on Dec 7, 2017
There’s no doubt about it: the human voice is a powerful force of emotion.
As a voice actor, your performances can move listeners to tears, or fill them with unbounded hope. Your voice has the ability to provoke thought and inspire action no matter how it is delivered – whether through an audiobook, a corporate message, an inspirational commercial, or even an online course.
So if you’ve ever wondered if there was a way to use your vocal superpowers to give back, you’re not alone. Over the years, many voice actors have shared how they have donated their performance skills to communities, individuals and organizations that they believe in.
Warning: While the best gifts are given with no strings attached, don’t be surprised if these altruistic performance ideas give you warm and fuzzy feelings too.
1. Provide a Live Reading for Children
According to the US Department of Education, research supports the fact that reading to children offers them a tremendous advantage in life.
Children are an exceptional audience. They love a good story, and will let you know when a performance captures (or doesn’t capture) their attention. Giving kids the gift of a live reading means that you’re supporting the development of the next generation of well-rounded citizens who (hopefully) love to read… Plus, it’s a great way to finally use that ‘Big Red Dog’ voice you’ve been working on!
There are many opportunities to read for kids, including at schools, libraries, community groups, religious institutions, after school programs and more. It simply comes down to reaching out.
2. Give Back With Voice Acting Services for the Visually Impaired Community
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in 2014, over 50 million Americans were considered to have low-vision, and 39 million people worldwide were considered blind. However, visual impairment also impacts those who are dyslexic, as well as those who have visual processing disorders.
By providing voice over services to organizations that support the visually impaired population, you’re helping to give the gift of access to a world of useful and entertaining content, that would have otherwise been inaccessible to this huge group of people.
From performing live readings, to recording audiobooks, you can have an incredible impact for the visually impaired. Additionally, there is a growing movement to create accessible video games, where voice over plays a crucial element.
If you’re not sure where to start, voice actor Ripley Johnson recommends visiting your central library and asking about the local Books for the Blind program. The library will be able to connect you with program coordinators who greatly appreciate you lending your voice to create much needed audiobooks, or provide live reading sessions.
[When finding work in the accessibility space], you start off with doing some projects for free. But that lets you practice and learn about the community you’re trying to serve.
Though this type of outreach could result in a paid project in the future, the motivations for starting out in this type of voice over should always comes from the heart, first and foremost. Ripley explains that, while she, along with everyone else, needs to make money, there are ways to accomplish both goals, all while giving back to your community.
“I am here to make money, I’m not going to lie. But that’s why I don’t mind helping to sell soda, doing HR videos, etc. Those jobs are fine too, but what I really love is knowing that there’s someone out there who’s [able to enjoy stories and literature], or reading better because I helped give them the tools.”
Providing Voice Over for Accessibility Purposes Extends Beyond Audiobooks and Live Reads for the Visually Impaired
Ripley believes that, when it comes to providing voice over for accessibility projects, there is so much more within the realm of possibility.
“I think the opportunity for voice actors in the accessibility space is absolutely limitless, because as wonderful as medical science is, we’re going to continue to have people with differing abilities who will need to access things in different ways. And because there’s so much content – so many blogs, articles, digital streaming, etc. – there’s not going to be enough voices to keep up with it all.”
Ripley’s first project in the accessibility space had such an impact on her, she says she wishes it could be 90% of her work!
My very first accessibility project was teaching kids to read. I loved doing that. It is so much fun! Jobs like that are labor intensive, but they’re a labor of love.
Though not all of the voice over work in accessibility is done for free, committing your voice to a project with a higher purpose – one that you believe in – is an amazing way to feel fulfilled by your work… Which leads us to the next way in which you can give back with your voice over skills.
3. Give Back by Narrating for a Charity or Organization You Believe in
It’s no secret that the organizations that are seeking to do the most good, are also those that tend to be strapped for cash. The need to pour every donated dollar back into the cause can present quite a challenge to charities, which also rely on marketing to get the word out.
But, as a voice actor, you can literally lend a voice to those causes that need support, and there are almost endless ways to do so. For instance, voice actor, Amy Weis, shared that she’s given vocal performances to her local museum, narrating the descriptions of the displays and recording them into a podcast.
Additionally, Ripley Johnson also recommends getting involved in your community to network with local benefactors and philanthropists. They can either refer you to causes that they know require your services, or they may use your voice over in one of their current projects.
“They’re trying to help people in their area,” Ripley explains. “Start asking about what they need, because they don’t just need donations, or people to walk 5 miles [in a fundraiser]. They also need someone to provide voice over.”
Charity materials that might benefit from voice over include:
- Information booklets/materials
- Explainer videos
- Radio ads and PSAs
- Documentary-style videos
- Event marketing materials
- And many more!
How Will You Give Back with Your Voice?
Do you have plans to donate your services to charities over the holidays – or throughout the year?
If you have ideas to share, or a story of inspiration from a rewarding voice over job you’ve completed, please tell us in the comments below.
You can also share your stories of warm and fuzzy, rewarding work, with the Voices Facebook Group!