As we begin to consider what our new normal will look like, remembering the roots of volunteerism and adapting them the new world is crucial. This evolution is not just essential for the good of our agencies, but for our profession as well.
We must be forward thinking. WE have to be the leaders to promote our programs and prove the value of engaging the support of volunteers.
Our fundamentals are rooted in recruiting, screening, training and the placement of volunteers. Many volunteer managers haven’t stopped their work through COVID-19 but many must reinvent and recreate their programs. Listed below are some tips to getting back to basics as you begin welcoming your volunteers back!
The first step is to conduct a needs assessment. There are four points to consider. What are the community needs, the organizational needs, the needs of the volunteer services program and the needs of the volunteers? Where is the sweet spot where those four aspects intersect? Can your volunteers serve these needs virtually or within social distancing guidelines? If not, can you consider an out of the box solution to move your program forward?
Once completing your needs assessment, plan to reassess current volunteer placements. Collaborate with your organization’s staff and leadership to consider all aspects of your organization’s needs and how volunteers can help serve those needs.
Screening and Training
Through this pandemic, we have learned that screening and training can be completed virtually. It isn’t our first choice, but it can be done well. There are great resources to help support the implementation of virtual screening and training, many are free or inexpensive. One such example is the free online webinars offered by the Texas Volunteer Management Conference (https://texasvmc.org).
Consider the need for facemasks, gloves and social distancing for volunteer placements. Also consider your own agency’s requirement, local and state requirements. Many organizations have successfully created opportunities to continue volunteer involvement while maintaining healthy social distancing practices. Consider current legal requirements, taking temperatures, updating the volunteer handbook and creating a COVID questionnaire and waiver. Solicit support from HR and your peers in the volunteer management community.
Create your plan and present the post COVID-19 volunteer management plan to your organization’s leadership team. It is imperative to have buy in from leadership. Now, more than ever, volunteer professionals must insist on having a seat at the table.
As professional volunteer managers, the last thing that we want to see is the decline or elimination of opportunities to serve, opportunities to create advocates, opportunities to move the needle of our missions. Many of us have spent our careers being creative and constantly being problem solvers. We must continue to think out of the box with ways to connect our volunteers to the mission of our organizations.
While so much of this can be overwhelming, this is what we do. We adapt to the needs. The needs of the community haven’t stopped. In many respects, they’ve grown. Who’s hurting, who needs support? It might be our very own volunteers.
Disconnection and social distancing are unnatural to our work. At our core, we are connectors. How do we continue to connect our volunteers to meaningful work and our mission? While many of us have been paralyzed by fear, we cannot and will not give up!
Now, more than ever, we need to work together for the good of our profession and for the sake of those in need. There may be some uncertainty or even a bit of fear with the unknown future of volunteerism. That is precisely why we need to be leaders in our profession. We have the unique opportunity to be trailblazers, to CREATE the new normal for volunteerism. Our agencies and our volunteers are depending on our experience and our vision for the new face of service.
This is where peer support is imperative. Supporting each other professionally has never been more important. Together, we can overcome the challenges facing us. Let’s work TOGETHER to create what WE think the new normal should be for service and volunteerism.
Guest post by Stephanie Canfield, Leadership Community Advocate.