Virtual Volunteering: How Can We Help?

by Amy Podlesak
 
It’s no secret… a LOT has changed over the last three months as the coronavirus pandemic suddenly shut down “normal” daily life. As we all shift priorities, adapt to new routines, and navigate the challenges we face, one thing has remained constant—our desire to help our community. As Minnesotans, we are proud of the philanthropic, community-centric values that we embody locally. This continues to shine through as our colleagues and neighbors band together to lift one another up during a difficult time. 

Our CVC-TC members bring this passion to life everyday by promoting the valuable impact of volunteerism as we collectively work to improve our city. A transition to living our lives in a virtual setting has not altered this commitment; therefore, CVC-TC has come together twice over the past few months to connect with one another and share best practices. Through “Zoom” discussion groups, corporate and nonprofit members have discussed how they are approaching the world of virtual volunteering. Here are some key points to remember:
 
1. There is still a need for volunteers!
While nonprofit operations may not look the same right now, organizations are still operating and still need support from their community partners. Many are getting creative in how to engage volunteers in a meaningful way online, or safely in-person. Additionally, many nonprofits have taken a financial hit and could benefit from new funding streams through programs like “dollars for doers”. Companies can connect directly with their nonprofit partners to discuss how they can help out or even lighten the load by offering ideas of how their employees can get involved.
 
2. Companies can take things one step at a time
Group volunteer activities are always popular but given public health concerns it is tricky to continue operating at the same level as before. Leading with individual volunteer efforts based on people’s comfort levels is a good place to start, and may also alleviate stress for nonprofits who are trying to figure out what virtual volunteering looks like for a group. Also, depending on company policies, it may be easier to inform people how to get involved in the community and allow them to act if they choose (instead of actively recruiting volunteers). Consider increasing volunteer PTO (also known as VTO) to provide added flexibility for employees as they look to support immediate causes that are important to them.
 
3. Try out pro-bono volunteering
This is a time of pivoting, innovation, and collaboration. Many nonprofits are finding their programs completely up-ended and could really use expert support in making change happen. Corporate partners can help their community partners by offering pro-bono services, leveraging the power of skills-based volunteering to make a difference. While these types of projects can require more time and effort, they can result in a deeper impact. 
 
CVC-TC is here to support our members during this time and help facilitate connections across the organization. As you think through what virtual volunteering means for your organization, check out the slides from one of our recent programs to learn more (https://www.cvctc.org/sites/default/files/CVC_Virtual_Volunteering_4.30....). Additionally, our CVC-TC Partner organizations, Hands On Twin Cities, Propel Nonprofits, and Greater Twin Cities United Way, have become a wealth of knowledge and resources for both corporate and nonprofit members as we all work together to prepare for the future.