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4 tips for organizing volunteers amid COVID-19

By Eric Burger
April 10, 2020

Photo by Adam Nieścioruk on Unsplash

There is a good chance your nonprofit is scrambling to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic within your community. There has never been a more important time for organizations to provide support and needed essentials. Whether your organization has already responded or is planning to respond, now is the time to make sure that your volunteer program can support your nonprofit’s COVID-19 response goals.

Most organizations that are providing support during the pandemic are facing serious challenges, including volunteer shortages, program restructuring, and incorporating safety protocols to protect staff, volunteers, and clients. Focusing on developing an organized volunteer program can help your nonprofit overcome some of these challenges and make the biggest impact.

Here are four tips to consider as you adapt your program to the current crisis.

1. Streamline your recruitment process

Your organization needs to make it easy for volunteers to identify and register for opportunities. Currently, many organizations are experiencing a volunteer shortage. Your nonprofit can mitigate a shortage by optimizing the registration process for volunteers and sharing your list of opportunities across multiple channels (email, social, website, paid advertising).

Has your organization considered allowing volunteers to self-register? Organizing and streamlining your recruitment and registration process will allow your nonprofit to quickly track opportunity enrollment and identify major areas of need.

2. Make safety the main priority

Responding to COVID-19 is challenging nonprofits to put safety protocols into place to protect staff, volunteers, and clients. Is your organization making safety a priority when planning and executing your program’s response to this pandemic? The measures that your nonprofit puts into place should go beyond normal safety best practices and include social distancing. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 6 feet (1.83 m) between people.

Here are some additional steps your organization can take to protect your team:

  1. Limit the volunteer opportunities your organization is filling to only essentials.
  2. Send home volunteers or staff who are sick.
  3. Require volunteers and staff to wash hands for at least 20 seconds (before, during, and after shifts).
  4. Provide volunteers and staff with essentials and resources (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes).
  5. Be mindful of volunteers and staff in high-risk categories (seniors, people with pre-existing conditions).
  6. Offer virtual volunteer opportunities, activities people can complete online from the safety of their homes.

3. Communicate transparently

Communicating often and effectively is crucial during the pandemic. Your nonprofit should be transparent and provide supporters with information about how your organization is responding, the safety protocols you have put into place, and opportunities for community support (fundraising, volunteerism). Being transparent with internal and external stakeholders during times of uncertainty is one way that your organization can build trust and keep up momentum.

Here are a few tips for communicating with volunteers amid COVID-19:

  1. Communicate your organization’s crucial needs and how fulfilling those needs will better the community during the pandemic.
  2. Provide your supporters with impact metrics (both positive and negative).
  3. Communicate across multiple channels (be where your supporters are.)
  4. Provide a clear and concise call to action.
  5. Reinforce what your organization is doing to protect stakeholders.
  6. Be responsive.
  7. Share key resources.

4. Provide support to volunteer managers

Keep in mind that this is a stressful time for volunteer managers trying to navigate how their programs can respond quickly, efficiently, and effectively to the pandemic. Your organization’s volunteer manager (and all staff) are also human and may be concerned about their own safety during this time of crisis. It is important for nonprofits to realize that this is an emotional time for everyone, and we all need support to get through it. Make sure that your organization is providing support, tools, and resources to volunteer managers. Providing resources for volunteer managers can help alleviate their stress and concerns and improve program response rate.

Here are a few tools that can make your volunteer manager’s job easier:

  1. Volunteer management solution (recruitment, registration, communication)
  2. Teleconferencing software (remote communication tool)
  3. Calm (app for reducing stress)

Takeaways

Making sure that your volunteer program is organized and efficient can improve and increase your response to COVID-19 within your community. Make sure that your organization focuses on recruiting quality volunteers, incorporates safety requirements into your volunteer program, communicates with stakeholders transparently, and provides support to staff.

Tags: Novel coronavirus (COVID-19); Volunteers