Going Virtual – An Alternative Volunteer Event Guide

Even before our current health situation arose, technology has been the leading method of engaging employees in today’s society. In the span of one year, from 2016 to 2017, remote work grew 7.9%. Over the last five years, remote work grew 44% and over the previous 10 years, it grew 91%. In light of that trend and all the recent travel upheaval due to COVID–19, with increasing restrictions being placed on companies and their global workforce, we wanted to address creative alternatives to traditional volunteer events.  

The challenge – how do companies create meaningful volunteer opportunities for their global employees that engage, connect, and create impact? Often virtual events don’t elicit the same emotional connection as when a team comes together for in-person service. If you are using an employee engagement platform, you already have the means to bring people together. We wanted to take it a step further and rounup some of our recommendations for inspiring and engaging your employees, no matter where they are in the world:  

Skills-Based Volunteering

Catchafire: Time-sensitive requests for short-term projects in our active, virtual volunteer pool can assist with items such as email marketing setup to spread awareness about health and safety, consultation on remote best practices, and much more. Catchafire works with 8,000 nonprofits and 43 funders who anticipate the growing need for immediate and long-term assistance, especially relating directly to COVID-19 and is tapping its volunteer community for responsive health and human services.  

CommonImpact: Skilled volunteering can be a powerful way to support communities in preparation for and in times of crisis, both as a way to continue to engage with your community when traveling isn’t an option, and overall in supporting the resiliency of communities.

  • Preparation and Resiliency:  The talents and expertise are an enormous untapped resource in preparing our communities for natural and man-made disasters of all kinds, whether it’s hurricanes, earthquakes, school shootings, or global pandemics like COVID–19. The one commonality that most disasters have is that it creates a scenario of a sharp, unanticipated rise in community needs, a sharp drop in the resources and capabilities of the community to meet its needs, or even both. Right now, less than 2% of corporate investment in disaster goes to mitigation and resiliency – nearly all support goes towards immediate relief.*  As businesses enhance their own continuity and scenario planning expertise as the occurrence of disasters increases, they should consider how to transfer that expertise to their nonprofit and community partners who don’t have the same ability to resource it.  One of the strongest roles companies can play in helping communities come back online after a disaster is by supporting them – through crisis communication training, scenario planning, facilities evaluation, and other critical resiliency efforts—before disaster strikes.
  • Virtual Volunteering: As uncertainty related to COVID19 spreads, we’re encouraging our partners and volunteers to do more skilled volunteering, not less.  With most skilled volunteer engagements, individuals can share their superpowers from the comfort and safety of their home or office.  You often need little more than a laptop to volunteer your expertise and time to a nonprofit that needs support.  In particular, in these moments of disruption, nonprofits need to divert their resources to the rising needs of the community, and providing them with infrastructure support and capacity – whether it’s moving forward a technical or functional project that would otherwise move to the back burner or supporting their work handling the crisis directlyThis is a time when skilled volunteers are needed the most and a great way to continue to engage with the community when traditional, inperson volunteering becomes less viable.

For more on Common Impact’s approach leveraging skilled volunteering in moments of crisis, check out Disaster Response: From Relief to Resiliency *Center for Disaster Philanthropy 

SIFMA Foundation – InvestWrite: This is one of the easiest ways to support financial education from the comfort of your home or office, completely online, and credited with 2.5 hours of community service. Through the acclaimed Stock Market Game (SMG) program, a program of the SIFMA Foundation, schools, and after-school programs grades 4 – 12 learn about investing through a virtual, state-of-the-art capital markets simulation. InvestWrite is the innovative writing competition that complements SMG and integrates critical thinking and language arts components to reinforce the financial decision-making skills that students learn in the classroom. 

There’s an app for that!

CharityMiles For every mile you move, you help earn money for your charity from their corporate sponsorship pool. There are individual and corporate programs available to participate! 

SeenIt Build the most powerful and trustworthy on–the–ground storytellers in the world. Turn your employees into content creators. Hosting a virtual or local day of service? Using this platform enables organizations to create engaging, multi-perspective videos with their employees. SeenIt enables organizations to truly scale the way they produce video by engaging their own employees to become their content creators and brand ambassadors. The solution is 100% remote but with a human-first approach – all barriers of traditional production are broken down since you’re no longer tied to accessibility, schedule, and resources to capture employee activations and CSR initiatives. 

Global Volunteer Programs

United Nations: The UN runs a virtual program connecting volunteers to organizations worldwide.  

Smithsonian Institute: The Smithsonian Institute offers virtual volunteers opportunities to help with two main projects, transcribing historical documents and updating relevant Wikipedia pages

Red Cross: When disaster strikes, Digital Volunteers assist the Social Engagement team by monitoring online conversations for disaster-affected people who may need Red Cross help, sharing important disaster updates and resources through their personal social media accounts and offering a compassionate voice to people who have been impacted.  

With all the stressors and moving pieces as the situation continues to unfold related to COVID–19, connecting and engaging your employees shouldn’t be something that suffers. We hope that you find these suggestions helpful during a time when we all want to come together and help each other however we can.