Last year, as the global pandemic intensified, nonprofits found themselves rushing to restructure the ways in which they serve. In 2021, we are still facing many of the same challenges we did last year—but we are constantly creating a new “normal” as we navigate the changing volunteer landscape.
As nonprofits faced challenges such as deciding whether or not to reduce available services and cancel important events, we saw that there were a few questions that we could help answer: How do we continue to garner support when we cannot be physically present? How do we maintain volunteer engagement throughout a global pandemic?
During the beginning of 2020, things took a major shift and many nonprofit organizations had to make critical decisions to keep rolling with the punches.
Some nonprofit organizations had to seriously reduce their services—including community outreach events, educational programming, and more. Nonprofit organizations provide an array of services spanning from arts, cultural, and education to advocacy, civic, health, and human service.
As the pandemic continues to pick up, we are also witnessing increased demands for many of the services that nonprofit organizations offer. Folks around the country are in dire need of meals, financial assistance, and employment assistance and career readiness training. Nonprofits have had to pick up the challenge of helping meet social, health, and economic needs virtually.
Volunteering goes virtual
Exploration, adaptation, and compassion have been constant themes throughout the pandemic. As the volunteer workforce was shaken by COVID-19, many organizations pivoted and gravitated toward more technological means in order to keep working towards their missions.
Last year, the number of supporters on Mobilize exceeded 4 million. As folks faced needs that were exacerbated by COVID-19, mission-driven nonprofit organizations answered the call by moving the fight for issues like hunger, homelessness, racial justice, mental health, educational disparities, and economic opportunities to the digital space.
Thoughts about volunteerism during COVID-19
According to VolunteerMatch, nonprofit leaders were concerned about how their current recruiting, engagement, and monitoring of volunteers would hold up during COVID-19.
68% of nonprofits reported that they were experiencing heavy cancellations and sought support. Coupled with the fact that more folks are compelled than ever to volunteer and serve their communities amidst the pandemic, there appears to be an issue of volunteers not knowing where to find opportunities.
44% of volunteers want to volunteer virtually while 50% are interested in helping in-person. With 85% of volunteers in fear of getting sick or unknowingly affecting others, it has become clear that nonprofits need to gravitate towards more centralized destinations for supporter activities and opportunities. Teaming up with volunteer management platforms like Mobilize is the perfect way to begin this work.
Now is the time to begin crafting creative ways to acquire help and ensure a smoother volunteer process. Continue reading for our 8 tips on how to best engage with volunteers during COVID-19.
How to keep your volunteers engaged during COVID-19: Considerations and tips
1. Adapt and adjust.
Continuing the work while remaining healthier apart can be challenging. It is important that you implement health standards to keep your staff and volunteers safe while they serve their communities. Continue to wear face masks, provide hand sanitizer, and think of ways to execute against your organizational goals while staying safe.
Does your organization work to combat hunger? Organize volunteers to perform contactless meal deliveries around the community. Maybe your organization works to educate your community on important issues. There are plenty of opportunities to host virtual town halls and meetings online to uphold a level of connectivity while disseminating important information.
Last year, we created Volunteer from Your Couch to support organizations providing assistance during the pandemic.
2. Communicate with your volunteers. Expect workplace shifts.
Communication is more important now than ever. As we ride out the ebbs and flows of COVID-19, it is crucial that you conduct outreach to your volunteers regularly. Ask about their needs, their plans, their interests and ability to continue advancing the mission in the digital space, and how they plan to stay involved with your nonprofit organization.
Communication is especially important as we navigate the digital event space. The Mobilize group chat feature has played a pivotal role in helping organizations foster community while communicating important logistical information.
3. Engage new volunteers in existing roles.
There are tons of people that are interested in becoming involved and doing their part throughout the pandemic. This is a good time to review your existing opportunities and to identify where new volunteers can fill any gaps that your organization may have. Recruiting and retaining volunteers may seem to be more difficult during the pandemic—but the key is to have your opportunities in the right place where they can be discovered by those eager to get involved.
As supporters begin to grow with your organization, entrust them with roles like event hosting. Volunteer-hosted events are one of the exciting event types on Mobilize that helps organizations get their supporters more involved while widening their reach.
Want to learn more about volunteer-hosted events? Check out our eBook!
4. Create new volunteer opportunities.
It is critical that you identify new opportunities to engage folks that are new to your organization as well as seasoned volunteers, too. As the needs of the populations that you serve continue to change, it is inevitable that the opportunities necessary to help will shift, too.
Do folks need virtual visits? Do they need PPE equipment delivered to their homes? Think about the services you currently provide, consider the changing needs of your community, and adapt accordingly.
5. Optimize your workflow for remote volunteering.
Virtual volunteerism has risen in popularity. Just in 2020, we saw over
4 million supporters take 14 million actions using our platform. As we gravitate towards more online actions, it is important to create new policies that address working remotely, staying safe online, database usage, etc.
Doing this will not only protect your organization but give your supporters the confidence and knowledge they need to help your organization thrive.
6. Make training fun!
Now is the time to make your training more interactive! Your usual live training and video recorded training may not hold up well against the Zoom fatigue that your supporters are facing. Create interactive online training sessions that include fun games and activities. Themed events are always fun, too!
Need tips on structuring your training sessions? Check out these strategies and best practices.
7. Prioritize and measure your impact.
The work that you are doing matters and is needed now more than ever. Are you tracking and measuring your impact? How about measuring, learning, and adjusting? There is software available that helps you measure your impact by tracking your supporters’ actions. Mobilize provides you with the data you need for even more strategic supporter management.
Knowing where you are currently can help your organization get to where you dream of being!
8. Be there for your colleagues, supporters, and most importantly, yourself.
Sometimes we need to take a break, breathe, and take a moment for gratitude. As we deal with the uncertainty of our current “norm”, it is easy to get wrapped up in thoughts that detract from your purpose and your vital role in helping to make the world a better place. As you aim to fill your cup, look for ways to fill the cups of your coworkers and dedicated supporters, too. We could all use a drop of positivity!