Kindness isn’t canceled, generosity isn’t canceled, community impact isn’t canceled. It’s a mantra that we continue to hear as Points of Light and other leaders in the volunteer sector facilitate tough conversations about how to adjust to a world of great need amidst COVID-19.
According to UN Volunteers 2018 State of World’s Volunteerism report, the global volunteer workforce represents the equivalent of 109 million full-time workers. Of those 109 million, about 70 percent of those volunteers engaged in person-to-person services, while 30 percent participated in volunteerism formally hosted by a nonprofit organization. Additionally, the UNV cites that 2.4 percent of the entire global economy is driven by volunteers. There is no doubt the volunteer sector plays a role in sustaining the global economy.
In our present reality of limited social interaction, both companies and nonprofits are reimagining how to give and receive support as COVID-19 disrupts the traditional way people volunteer.
Nonprofit organizations across the sector, including our Points of Light Global Network affiliates, are still responding to the urgent crisis of the epidemic and the emerging economic consequences. They are grappling with the safety and security of their staff, the people they serve, and the communities they impact. In fact, according to a recent survey highlighted in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofit executives have been “forced to modify or outright cut services. They have laid off, on average, 19 percent of their staffs, moved 83 percent of their operations to work from home (requiring unbudgeted IT investments), and shifted 79 percent of their programs and services online. Seventy percent have lost revenue.” Further impacting their operations, volunteers, a large portion of their human capital, are staying home as they follow government mandates.
These factors help to define and support the growing needs self-reported by our Global Network, nonprofit partners and colleagues. As companies consider their own response to the COVID-19 crisis, we hope you will consider the voices of our network when you think about how you can take action.
- Funding. Overwhelmingly, the number one need during crisis is funding. While nonprofits still need both virtual and in-person volunteers, they will not be able to fully respond to the needs at hand without unrestricted, operating dollars. With fundraising events like galas, walks, and charity auctions being canceled, a major source of funding has depleted much of the expected revenue to keep these organizations afloat. A recent survey of nonprofits by Community Health Charities tells us that the cumulative financial loss to respondents during the crisis was $644 million. Additionally, funding that can replace a volunteer workforce with a temporary paid workforce can help to fill urgent human resource requirements for responding to emergency needs.
- Advocacy. With the constant news cycle surrounding COVID-19, lifting up the work of nonprofit partners and their essential value to the economy will help to support the viability of the sector, additionally bringing attention to the work that will continue year-round. While needs during the crisis are at the forefront, we must also remember that the everyday needs of nonprofits have not gone away.
Volunteering. As mentioned earlier, in-person volunteers are cautious and carefully monitoring government guidance for resuming their volunteer roles or taking on new charitable activity. This has led to additional challenges for nonprofits.
- In-person Volunteers. While it is essential that everyone avoid health risk behaviors in considering how to respond to the need for in-person volunteers, there is a significant gap between the in-person needs and willing volunteers. Delivering meals with no in-person contact, for example, or donating blood are some of the greatest in-person volunteer needs going unmet. For companies that choose to support in-person volunteer opportunities, their support will be a direct link to recovery. As a resource, Points of Light has developed a few strategic considerations for in-person volunteering.
- Skills-based Volunteers. Skills-based volunteers are also greatly needed during this time and the ability to complete work digitally is very attractive to volunteers. Companies can reduce the demand on their nonprofit partners by approaching them prepared to be supportive. Come ready with the skills of potential skills-based volunteers, suggest ideas for pro-bono support, and offer volunteer leaders who can help support managing the work. By providing at least a sketch of possible projects to your nonprofits, you can reduce their need to creatively respond with strategic opportunities.
- Virtual Volunteers. Volunteering from home through a computer has quickly become a way for community members to show their support. As companies encourage their employees to serve virtually, it is important to keep in mind that many nonprofits are under high stress, limited capacity, and often lack the feasibility to take on this level of virtual interest. However, some organizations were designed for just this type of engagement and you can find several of those opportunities here as well as industry best practices when engaging in virtual volunteering to share with interested employee volunteers.
- Informal Volunteers. A heart-warming movement during this crisis has been the rise in neighbor-to-neighbor volunteering. Whether it’s picking up extra groceries, mowing lawns, or reducing feelings of isolation in high-risk elderly communities, taking action should be done safely and thoughtfully. As the frequency of this informal volunteering increases, companies can play a role in providing volunteer best practices including information from nonprofit partners that are relevant to COVID-19 response.
As you consider how your company can support the nonprofit sector, Points of Light offers a recommended framework of considerations:
- What are my nonprofit partners saying they need most right now in the wake of COVID-19? Keep in mind both U.S. and global partners.
- What resources (financial, human capital, skills, or in-kind goods) does my company have to offer?
- Can we deploy resources quickly to respond to the immediate needs without placing an undue burden on nonprofit partners?
- Can we repurpose in-person volunteer time for deeper strategic planning with nonprofit partners that may help to surface meaningful projects for the future?
- Can my company offer advice to nonprofit partners on how to consider contingency planning for the impacts of COVID-19?
It is historic moments like this that are measured by the actions we take now and that ultimately define the success of recovery. We are all responsible for shaping the post COVID-19 world and together we can be the change we want to see. How will you respond?
If you’re looking to better understand how your company can strategically respond to the needs of the nonprofit sector, please reach out to the Points of Light team at firstname.lastname@example.org.