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Coronavirus has for now changed what corporate volunteering looks like. Yet the need for volunteers hasn’t stopped. Nor has our desire to help.

Volunteering boosts employee pride, decreases turnover, increases team connections, assists in developing soft skills, and boosts employee health. Not to mention the tangible benefits for non-profits who rely on the contribution from their communities. One bright spot in these otherwise dreary news days is how much volunteering is happening around the globe.

While balancing business needs with employee desire to do good, it is important to know that volunteering can be part of your COVID-19 response. Rather than social isolating, connect your employees with a global community of non-profits that are providing vital services.

Here are some ideas on reimagining volunteer programs so you can still offer all the benefits that come from volunteering while keeping your employees safe.

Focus on helping without harming

It is important to remember that there are still risks involved with volunteering in-person during COVID-19. With the scarcity of protective equipment, it’s important to not use up valuable items needed by health workers, or organisational staff that need them daily.

However, you decide to volunteer and support organisations, make sure you are helping and not harming. If you are passionate about an organisation, call them and find out the best way to support them virtually during this time. Keep checking as the situation changes to see how their needs evolve.

Remember that this too shall pass, and we will be able to go back to hands-on volunteering in the future.

Consider volunteering leave

While not every company can change their leave policies at this time, may do still have that flexibility. Consider giving employees an allowance of paid time off annually that they can use for volunteering at a charity of their choice. This allows your staff to make a difference in little pockets of time, like a couple of afternoons, without adversely affecting a workday.

How much time off is up to you. But know that volunteering can improve the mental health of your employees by reducing stress and combating depression.

Virtual skills-based volunteering

Rather than volunteering in person, consider how you can provide skills-based support virtually. Take the expertise your teams use daily to support and assist your favourite non-profit. Think outside the box.

You could assist with advice on contingency planning, or deeper strategic planning for meaningful projects for the future. Your marketing team can assist with a fully planned and executed social media campaign. Look at opportunities to coach via video calls. There are so many opportunities to strategically assist without being face-to-face.

You don’t need to be tech-savvy for virtual volunteering

Many online volunteer positions don’t require technology-specific skill sets. Non-profits can benefit from a wide range of skills such as translating, research, writing, or providing phone-based assistance. Don’t discount less “techy” employees. Instead, call your non-profit to find out all the areas your employees can help.

Help a small business

Non-profits and charities aren’t the only people who need your assistance right now. Many small businesses do too as they face this challenging time. If you have expertise in finance, HR, marketing, or sales you can act as a thought partner to a small business owner.

If you’re looking to provide monetary assistance consider buying gift cards now to use later for coaching services, team lunches, or employee recognition and birthday gifts.

Acts of kindness as volunteering

Volunteering doesn’t always need to be tied to a specific cause or organisation. Look at areas where volunteering can be a small act of kindness. Most can be done virtually or in a contactless safe way. For example:

  • Do contactless collection of food donations from doorsteps and deliver them to food banks
  • Coordinate a virtual book reading, exercise or entertainment hour for children of employees (to help out parents who may not have childcare)
  • Take part in digital support groups Join an adopt-a-senior Facebook group and support someone as a team
  • Check on elderly neighbours and offering to run errands or grab groceries
  • Raise money for a charity by donation for a 5km run – inside or outside as your city advises
  • Foster cats or dogs from local shelters – they have the added benefit of providing company to isolated people

Even if your teams have tight schedules, remote volunteering can be a great flexible solution that gives big returns. It takes as little as 5hrs a month volunteering to make a difference in someone’s life.

Keep employees informed so they can help

However, you reimagine your volunteer programs, let your teams know. Send a company email and notification through communication channels advising how you are planning on helping as an organisation. Remember to ask people to express their interest so you can put them in contact with the right person. If you’re expecting a large response, put a team in charge of managing your virtual volunteering activities.

We’re in this together

Without volunteers, much of what must get done would go undone. Meals would have no wheels. Seniors would miss medical appointments. Cats and dogs would have no foster homes. Groceries at food banks wouldn’t make it to those in need. Donated clothing would never be sorted. Children’s sports teams would all be benched.

Whatever you do, small or large, know that every charitable act is worthwhile. It demonstrates that fact that your company cares about more than just the bottom line.

Thank you to the volunteers

Volunteers support programs that mean so much to so many. During National Volunteer Week, from April 19-25, let’s join together and make sure that volunteers receive the applause, thanks and recognition they so richly deserve.

For all that you do, we want to thank you. Especially during this public health crisis, we would like to shine the spotlight on those volunteering in essential services and saluting those who help by staying home to protect themselves and their communities.

All together – Cheers to Volunteers!

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