After a year of social distancing, many nonprofit organizations are beginning to welcome back volunteers after COVID-19 and resume pre-pandemic activities.
But after a year of challenges and changes, what do we need to consider before opening our doors to our volunteers once again?
Volunteer Safety After COVID-19
Even with larger numbers of people vaccinated, we need to remember that safety comes first as we welcome back volunteers after COVID-19.
This might look like:
- Smaller volunteer crews. You might need to hit pause on large volunteer event days, unless you have the outdoor space to keep big crews socially distanced. Swap large group activities for smaller opportunities geared toward individual volunteers or volunteers from the same household or family group.
- No-touch team building. If you usually welcome younger volunteers or otherwise rely on physical team building games, swap these icebreakers for simpler versions that don’t require participants to touch or stand close together.
- Enforcing mask recommendations. Some reports say masks could continue to be necessary throughout the year, so try to make them part of the experience by providing volunteers with branded masks or masks in your organization’s colors.
Pivot Your Volunteer Strategy
If you’ve relied on big volunteer events in the past or represent a community whose needs or challenges have changed over the course of the pandemic, you may need to strongly consider pivoting your strategy.
Embrace the benefits of virtual volunteering.
What services could you offer if transportation for your participants wasn’t an issue? Or if you had a volunteer base comfortable with offering services virtually? Even as you’re beginning to welcome volunteers back into your physical space, consider what opportunities there are for broadening your reach. Tutoring, tax preparation, personal budgeting assistance – there are many options.
Look for skilled volunteers.
If you once partnered with local corporations to provide their employees with volunteer opportunities, approach them now to look for skilled volunteers who can lend legal, technical, or marketing support to your nonprofit instead of participating in the group volunteer days you were able to host pre-pandemic.
Think Outside the Pizza Party Box
Get creative with volunteer appreciation as you welcome back volunteers after COVID-19.
Instead of the usual pizza party, consider:
- Social media shoutouts where you highlight an individual volunteer every week, month or quarter.
- Virtual awards ceremonies during which volunteers are presented with personalized certificates of recognition for their efforts. For an extra bit of fun, ask virtual attendees to dress in costume or give the awards humorous titles.
- Regular prize drawings where eligible volunteers can win donated goods and services, swag bags, and more.
Don’t forget to update your policies
If you’ve had to drastically change your policies and procedures, don’t forget to keep your volunteers in the loop! Sending out an updated PDF of changes, film a walkthrough video, or invite volunteers to an instructional webinar. Have fellow staff review your outline to make sure you don’t forget to include any important details.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many organizations struggling to adapt and remain sustainable, and volunteer programs may wind up being more important than ever. It might take some time for your operations to fully resume, but boosting volunteer engagement now can benefit your longer-term efforts.
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