If your volunteer program is on hold or activity has slowed down, there are a few steps your organization can take to prepare for the future and optimize for a post-COVID-19 response. Here are 5.
Chances are your organization’s volunteer program has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some organizations have had to reduce volunteer opportunities, limit volunteer hours, or put programs on hold completely. If your organization falls into this category, we understand how devastating, to both your mission and the community, reducing or putting your volunteer program on hold can be.
Many organizations, around the world, are making the same tough decision. In fact, according to a recent report, one-third of nonprofits are afraid they may not make it through the pandemic. It is a scary time for both nonprofits, like yours, and communities that are in dire need of support.
A report, performed by Capital Area Foodbank, found that because of the pandemic up to a quarter of a million people could be thrown into hunger in the Washington area, alone. The point I am trying to make is, your organization and its ability to do good, within your community, is needed now more than ever. The positive news is, there are a few steps your organization can take to save your volunteer program and position it for the future.
Use Your Volunteer Data to Create New Financial Donors
It is critical that your organization focuses on fundraising during the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective fundraising will help your nonprofit maintain programs, including your volunteer program, and ultimately survive. There are plenty of donors who are still willing to give financial contributions. According to a study, created by Fidelity Charitable, 25% of donors plan to increase their donations amid COVID-19. Finding new donors and nurturing existing financial supporters should be at the top of your organization’s to-do-list.
If your team is not leveraging your volunteer database to find new donors, your organization is missing out on a substantial opportunity. Now is the perfect time to convert volunteers to donors because volunteers, who are no longer able to give time, are looking for new ways to stay involved.
Studies show that volunteers are more likely to donate than those who do not volunteer. A time and money report, created by Fidelity Charitable, found that 70% of volunteers also donate, financially, to the causes that they support. Your organization can leverage the relationship between volunteers and donors to increase fundraising efforts and strengthen your volunteer program. Converting volunteers to donors (and vice versa) increases engagement and sustainability.
Use Downtime to Enhance Your Volunteer Program
You may have some downtime if your volunteer program has been put on hold or scaled-down during the pandemic. Downtime presents a great opportunity to enhance your volunteer program’s process and optimize for post-COVID-19 (once restrictions are lifted).
Your nonprofits volunteer program should provide a streamlined experience for both volunteers and staff. Relying on a manual process for recruiting, engaging, and communicating with volunteers, in 2020, is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Volunteers, today, expect the ability to register and interact with your organization whenever and wherever they are.
Utilize Volunteers in New Ways
We do not know how long COVID-19 is going to impact your organization’s ability to host in-person volunteer opportunities, the way you did prior to the pandemic. Because of this unknown, it is crucial to optimize your volunteer program for long-term impact.
Part of this optimization should involve looking into utilizing volunteers in new ways. Your organization may be able to create virtual volunteer opportunities that appeal to supporters and create new streams of value for your nonprofit. You would be surprised how many new supporters your organization can gain by making the experience of volunteerism accessible for those that prefer remote giving. Now is a great time to consider virtual volunteerism because the pool of prospects looking for remote opportunities is high, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Here are a few resources for creating virtual volunteer opportunities:
Stay True to Your Mission
Even with the pandemic looming over us, it is key that your organization stays true to your mission. When you stay true to your mission, even during uncertain times, your volunteer program will follow suit. Responding to the crisis, based solely on emotion, can have an impact on your organization and objectives. Look for opportunities to provide support to your community while keeping your mission as the foundation of your organization’s response.
Continue to Engage Volunteers
Ongoing engagement is an important success factor for any volunteer program. The truth is, volunteer engagement and communication are even more important now than prior to the pandemic. Providing regular updates to your supporters is a strategic way to keep them interacting with your nonprofit, even when in-person volunteerism is not an option. Your organization should use this time to create a stronger following and focus on growing your volunteer database in anticipation of post-COVID-19 support.
Now is also a great time to review your volunteer program and look for areas of improvement. You may find that your program is missing opportunities to engage volunteers and can quickly remedy these issues.
Here are some resources on engaging volunteers:
Volunteer programs, all over the world, have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many organizations, just like yours, are struggling to adapt to new restrictions and increased demand. The steps that your organization takes, now, can make or break your ability to be sustainable.
You can save your volunteer program by focusing on fundraising, implementing tools to streamline processes, exploring new ways to use volunteers, and by focusing on strategic volunteer engagement.