COVID-19 Testing: Meeting the Challenges to Safely Reopen

Recently on the blog, we outlined the importance of contact tracing to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, and shared how our partners can get involved. Following on this, we now examine the importance of testing to alleviate the spread of COVID-19 as our communities continue to carefully reopen. 

Learning from institutions of higher ed and their rigorous testing schedules, we share how you can apply their testing strategies to your own institution, department, organization, or office environment. We hope that this will help you create a plan to keep volunteers, employees, students, and clients safe.

This infographic outlines the crucial steps to take upon possible exposure to COVID-19. To download, please visit our community resources page

Why is testing important?

Testing is a key element of any plan to safely reopen while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 spread, along with elements such as screening, contact tracing, and isolation of cases. Once screening or contact tracing has identified someone as being at risk for COVID-19, testing can determine next steps and expand contact tracing reliability.

Our screening survey template can help determine when and if to recommend testing; for more information, see our dedicated support article

Results gathered from testing direct treatment for individual confirmed cases as well as follow-up contact tracing and isolation efforts. Contact tracing can be used to inform anyone who may have been exposed so they can also get tested, stay at home, and monitor for symptoms to prevent further spread of COVID-19. 

On a larger scale, testing results serve as an overall measure for how effective current restrictions are in a community, and may indicate the need for additional strategies. Furthermore, obtaining an adequate volume of testing is essential because it allows researchers to more accurately determine virus spread, which helps them create models of transmission that guide how we manage the disease.

Because of this, it is important to encourage volunteers, students, and staff to get tested. In addition, ask that they pledge to follow public health protocols to minimize the spread and decrease the need for testing. 

For more information about crucial public safety measures that organizations, businesses, and institutions should take in these times, download our guide to Community Safety During the COVID-19 Public Health Crisis

Testing and the Reopening Strategy

Organizations, programs, and centers supporting community engagement must be prepared for the possibility that volunteers and community members they work with will show symptoms, and must have a clear plan in place for next steps. Because of this, testing will be a crucial part of reopening for community engagement. In this post, we will help you determine when to recommend testing and what this testing entails. 

This image shows a screening flowchart that can help an individual decide whether or not to get tested. Always consult with your primary care provider if you believe that you have been exposed to COVID-19. To download, visit our community resources page.

Your organization’s testing strategy should be coordinated with local health departments. While you may want to encourage testing for all those who will be engaging in-person, priority goes to any individuals who are symptomatic. These individuals are encouraged to first contact their physicians or local health center. Testing sites are listed on the U.S Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) website as well as on all local health department sites. All close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 positive individuals are also encouraged to get tested and remain in isolation. 

What happens when you get tested?

There are multiple paths to testing, depending on your organization’s capacity. Some organizations may opt to support testing through at home testing kits, which they can offer at a regular cadence to their staff or volunteers. We discuss this method — and its possible pitfalls — in more detail in the next section. 

Others may opt to support an effective screening system and help individuals find their local testing clinic. Your organization can apply screening templates within the GivePulse platform, and in addition create posters and shareable guides relaying the nearest testing clinics. Use the Local Health Department Directory or this list of Testing Sites to learn more about where testing is offered. Make clear to employees and staff whether you offer insurance that covers the test; if not, encourage them to check whether their test is covered by the CARES Act, and let them know that some clinics also offer free testing. 

At this time, testing for the presence of the virus is primarily administered through a nasal or throat swab, which is considered the standard to measure an active infection. A blood test can also be done to detect any antibodies to the virus that would result from being infected in the past. Both tests require laboratory processing, which means the time it takes to receive results depends on several outside factors. This time can range anywhere from three hours to five days. As COVID cases continue to rise, this time may increase due to the volume of tests that need to be processed. 

This graphic describes the three types of testing available at this time. Source:  FDA 

While testing is critical to mitigating the spread of COVID-19, it has its challenges. In particular, we do not yet have a 100% accurate test — false negatives, as well as false positives, have been known to occur, meaning that receiving a negative test result does not mean that you are necessarily COVID-free. If you have reason to believe that you have been exposed to the virus, you should continue to quarantine even after receiving a negative test result in order to avoid spread of COVID-19. Talk to your physician to determine how long you should continue quarantining for. 

Meeting the Challenges of Testing

Many K-12 and higher education institutions have had to determine the safest and most effective way to approach testing the large groups of students returning to a campus setting this fall. Widespread testing requires significant resources and planning. 

Effective testing plans emphasize widespread testing, transparent guidelines, and public health training. As you update or create your own testing regimen, these are three facets that will be critical to ensuring employee, volunteer, client, and student safety. 

For example, our partners at the University of Alabama have laid out clear and detailed guidelines for testing students and staff. These protocols are designed for maximum safety and efficiency. Students are asked to attend specific testing slots based on the last digits of their campus IDs, while employees only need to receive testing if they plan to return to campus. Both students and employees are able to receive testing for free through the specified location, and both have access to public health training that enables them to make safe, informed decisions regarding their personal choices to reduce the spread of COVID-19. 

Public health training offers a crucial component of these testing protocols, which can have impacts beyond the campus itself.  The communities of higher ed institutions are aware of the possible impact that an influx of students can have on their shared well-being; because of this, testing is crucial not only to individual organizations and institutions, but the broader communities in which they work. 

Working With Communities

For higher education institutions, recognizing the community impact of their efforts might lead to partnerships within these communities. In fact, affiliating with community partners can be a key step in making testing efforts more feasible. For example, our friends at the University of Alabama at Birmingham have partnered with the University of Alabama System and the Alabama Department of Public Health to form a coalition with University of South Alabama, HudsonAlpha and Kailos Genetics. This coalition formed a testing plan that would cover not only every student reentering the campus, but also residents in underserved regions of Alabama. 

We believe that this community-oriented approach will strengthen communities both in protection against the virus, but also in partnerships moving forward. Campus communities can themselves be leaned on for volunteers within the community.

In these instances, rather than having students sign up for potentially overburdened testing centers in the communities, institutions could support testing on their own campuses. It is important to note that even FDA approved tests are only approved through the Emergency Use Authorization — that is, these diagnostic tests are not technically approved, but can still be used under the Emergency Use Authorization. 

Even so, some organizations and institutions may choose to support at-home testing for key members of staff who need to interact with vulnerable community members, or as a crucial first step to add an additional safety precaution. Bear in mind that the most accurate results will still likely come from trained personnel. 

Whether you are seeking innovative testing solutions or figuring out how to strengthen ties to the community, GivePulse hopes we can be your thought partners in testing, tracing, and screening. To join the public health task force and work with us on these and other crucial concerns, email While these times are challenging, there is much to be hopeful about. We are here to support you. 

7 Steps for Crowdfunding Success

As we adjust to the new “normal” in the age of COVID-19, nonprofit and higher education fundraising teams are adjusting as well. Hosting an in-person gala, organizing a marathon or meeting face to face with donors are things of the past (for now), and organizations must find new ways to augment these usual fundraising methods. Nonprofit organizations and institutions across the country are now turning to a solution that has long been seen as a supplementary form of fundraising revenue or a once-a-year event – crowdfunding. With a little hard work, some simple math and the strength of a community, crowdfunding can be an incredible form of fundraising income for your organization or institution all year long. 

Here are 7 steps to make sure your next crowdfunding campaign is a success: 

1. Start early

Your crowdfunding campaign starts at least 1 month before your page officially “launches.” During the month leading up to your campaign launch, you will collect contact information for everyone you intend to solicit, segment your lists by audience, organize peer-to-peer fundraisers (see step 5) and start pre-soliciting your audiences by reaching out to those supporters you think are most likely support you, explaining your cause and asking if they’ll commit to making a gift when your page launches. This is also a great opportunity to recruit peer-to-peer fundraisers! Experts say you should have between 30-50% of the gifts you need to reach your goal committed BEFORE your campaign even starts. Crowdfunding campaigns are all about momentum, so ensuring that you can get to 50% of your goal early in your campaign will make you much more likely to succeed (see step 4 for goal setting strategies). 

2. Create a varied communication plan

Getting your communication plan worked out before your campaign starts is another great way to set yourself up for success before your campaign launches. Start with the basics, drafting as many emails and posts as possible with varied messages for different audiences, but know that you’ll also need to draft new posts and messages with updates as your campaign progresses. Just asking your donors to “give now” over and over will get old quickly, but focusing on individual stories and varying your content media with photos and videos will keep your donors engaged. Videos don’t have to be high tech. Especially in these times, taking a one-minute video on your phone is more acceptable than ever! Make sure to keep all communications concise. For emails, try to stick to the 3 paragraph rule and always have a clear path of action. That action should be to give, first and foremost, accompanied or followed by the ask to share your campaign with their personal networks. You should also draft email templates for your peer-to-peer fundraisers and be prepared to send out weekly communications to your fundraising team with weekly tasks for how they can help your campaign succeed. 

While mass emails and social media are extremely important to the success of your campaign because they keep your cause top of mind and tell your story, be aware that most gifts to crowdfunding campaigns come from peer-to-peer personal messages. Sending a personal message (via email, text or call) encourages a response on the recipient’s part, even if that response ends up being a no, whereas mass emails and social media posts allow your donor to feel anonymous and disconnected, leaving room to not take any action at all. 

Download our crowdfunding communications calendar template to start your plan now!

3. Use impact and time limitations in your messaging

When donors learn about your campaign, they’ll ask two questions:

  1. Why should I give?
  2. Why should I give NOW? 

Impact is the answer to “WHY should I give?” A time limit is the answer to “Why should I give NOW?”

Impact is a happy dog that got adopted after receiving a life-saving surgery. Impact is a student who was the first in their family to graduate from college because they received a scholarship. Impact is a volunteer testimonial describing their engagement in the community. Whether the cause you’re fundraising for is specific or general, find tangible examples of impact to show what a donation will help accomplish. If this is a new initiative without previous examples, describe the impact that donors will have in the future!

Time limitations can be an actual timeframe in which you need to receive the funds to accomplish what you’re trying to do or it can be a timeframe you impose superficially, meaning you don’t have a specific deadline or your deadline is abstract, but you set a campaign timeframe and use the urgency of your campaign ending to increase donations. Your message of urgency will only get more powerful as your campaign comes to an end, so use that to your advantage! 

4. Set a goal you can hit – then exceed it

When setting a goal, be sure that you do the math to ensure that your goal is realistic. People like to give to campaigns that are successful so by setting a realistic goal you can actually raise MORE than if you had set one that was out of reach. The factors you should consider are how many email addresses you have access to, the number of peer-to-peer fundraisers you have, your social media following, past fundraising experience from your audience and how many engaged volunteers and constituents you have. The goal calculation worksheet provided below is the best way to figure out a realistic goal for your next campaign. 

Reaching your goal is all about knowing how you’ll accomplish the “micro-goals” on the way, communicating effectively with your constituents, and expanding your network as much as possible by asking for others to share and promote your campaign. 

Once you’ve hit your goal, be prepared to set “stretch goals.” Donors won’t stop giving just because you hit 100%. In fact, once you hit your goal you’re likely to go over it because donors love giving to successful campaigns! Have an idea for what more you could accomplish with X more dollars and then be ready to set stretch goals incrementally.  

Download our goal calculation worksheet! 

5. Utilize peer-to-peer (p2p) fundraising

Crowdfunding is primarily peer-to-peer, meaning most donations will come from individuals who are giving because someone they know asked them to do so. The best way to expand your network of donors and receive more gifts is to utilize a peer-to-peer (p2p) fundraising tool that allows volunteers to create their own mini-campaign with a goal that goes toward your overarching campaign. From your goal setting exercise, you should know how many p2p fundraisers you need and what you need them to raise to reach your goal.

Peer-to-peer fundraisers can be anyone who has a close relationship with you, your organization or your cause. Some examples of great p2p fundraisers are your board members, staff, volunteers, past event attendees or friends and family of campaign leaders. If you use GivePulse for volunteer management or events, you already have a great database of potential p2p fundraisers at your fingertips! Treat this as you would any volunteer opportunity and invite your supporters to be p2p fundraisers for your cause. 

This fundraising campaign has enabled p2p fundraising. By clicking “+Help Fundraise”, donors can share this campaign to help your organization reach their fundraising goal, as shown below. 

For best results, you’ll want to manage your p2p fundraisers throughout the campaign. Send them at least 1 email per week with updates on your campaign and specific tasks that will help them ask for donations. Give them an array of options that allow for time or technological limitations, such as forwarding an email, sharing a social post or calling/texting 5 friends. Don’t be afraid to ask your p2p fundraisers to also make a donation to your campaign! It’s always easier to ask others to donate once you’ve made a gift yourself, no matter the size. To learn more about GivePulse’s peer-to-peer fundraising tools, click here.

6. Incorporate matches & challenges

The only thing more effective than a time constraint to incentivize giving is a match or a challenge. Funds for a match or challenge can come from many different sources. It can be a larger donation that the donor has agreed to let you use as a match, it can be a gift from a business or corporation that cares about your cause and wants some name promotion to your community, it could be pooled donations from your board members or community or it could be internal general use funds that your director designates as a match for a specific area of your organization.

Matches are very effective to make your donors feel like their gifts are going further. Dollar for dollar matches are the most popular method, but you can also match donations at 2x or 3x. If you’re worried about your match not going far enough because of its size, add a time limit or gift cap (example – all gifts up to $250 will be matched). You can also work with a local business or corporation to see if they will match all employees’ gifts to your campaign

Challenges work in a similar way to matches but can be easier to implement and allow you to get creative. The simplest method is to implement an “unlocking” challenge that unlocks a large gift for your campaign once you hit a certain threshold. If you’re fundraising for multiple areas of your university or organization, you can have time-limited challenges that award a prize to the area that receives the most gifts in that period. You can also do social media challenges, participation challenges, scavenger hunts, and more! 

Giveaways are a popular way to incentivize giving, especially when tiered based on giving level. Just be careful to only give away inexpensive or donated items and be sure that mailing those items and postage costs are feasible for your organization before promising anything to donors. 

7. Keep donors updated and engaged after your campaign ends!

It’s inevitable there will be potential donors that don’t complete the donation process. Provide these donors ample opportunities to engage in other ways, be it volunteering or registering for upcoming events. There will be opportunities in the future to re-engage them in other fundraising initiatives. 

For donors who have contributed, the end of your campaign is just the beginning of your relationship. After thanking them, you should continue to update them as you are able to accomplish the things they donated to help you do! Send photos, videos and stories of the impact! Invite them to engage with you in other ways like volunteering, receiving your newsletter or attending events. Leverage GivePulse to streamline donor communications. If you continue to share authentic stories of impact, you can convert them from one-time donors to forever donors. 

GivePulse is here to support you through all of these steps to help your next crowdfunding campaign succeed. From our gift matching capabilities and peer-to-peer fundraising features to our storytelling platform, we are here to help you create the most effective fundraising campaign possible.

Contact for more information. 

Want to learn more? Join us Tuesday, August 4 from 2-3 PM CT for our upcoming webinar on Crowdfunding Basics. 


Start your crowdfunding campaign on GivePulse today!

Service-Learning Quality Assessment Tool (SLQAT)

GivePulse is honored to be supporting the team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Georgia developing a standardised assessment tool designed to provide a quantitative measure of quality for credit-bearing service-learning courses. The team has been hard at work for the past five years, as part of a U.S. Department of Education-funded national project, focused on investigating the impacts of community engagement on higher education student’s educational success. 

The Service-Learning Quality Assessment Tool (SLQAT) incorporates a set of 28 service-learning practices that research studies have found essential for promoting positive student outcomes.  The tool takes into account these elements to establish a composite numerical score that indicates the “quality” of service-learning courses.

The research team has shared preliminary versions of this measurement tool with scholars and practitioners at conferences and workshops across the globe for input and feedback.  They are now inviting you to join in the second phase of the research focused on assessing the reliability and validity of the tool.  They are specifically looking for service-learning scholars, practitioners, and supporters to assign relative weights to each of the instrument’s 28 elements by completing a survey in which you will assign each element a score, based on what you believe its level of influence is on student learning outcomes. The survey will take about 20 minutes to complete.

Complete the SLQAT Instrument Weights Survey here:

United We Stand (6ft+ Apart): Best Practices for a Safe Reopening

As of May 20, all fifty states have begun the process of reopening. Your institution, organization, or office might be considering what this means for the upcoming months. While some will opt to continue working, learning, and engaging remotely, others will decide to return to in-person activity in some capacity. For those who choose to reopen common spaces or return to some form of in-person engagement, it is crucial to implement thorough safety measures. 

Our COVID-19 taskforce is dedicated to supporting safe reopenings for our partner organizations, institutions, and corporations. In this guide, we will delve deeply into what the Phase 1 and 2 reopening advice might mean for you, including:

  1. How to prepare for a safe reopening 
  2. Day-to-day steps to maintain a safe work environment
  3. Specific risk mitigation strategies

We also offer suggestions for volunteer opportunities that might be safely offered as organizations start to reopen; if you feel ready to start planning these opportunities, you can skip past the preparation guide to read these ideas. 

We hope that this guide will help you to implement and adhere to crucial safety practices, particularly in contexts in which you might engage with your community and vulnerable populations. 

Note: All of the information contained within this article is based on the CDC’s recommendations and is not intended as business advice. As always, please follow state and local regulations, and remember that reopening plans are not mandatory: your organization decides for itself when and how it feels ready to reopen. 

Preparing to Reopen  

If you are considering reopening, you must consider whether you are equipped to do so safely. From gathering supplies to cleaning common spaces, you will need to ensure that every possible precaution has been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Use donation drives to gather supplies

In order to effectively prepare, you will need to make sure that you have the materials you need to protect against the spread of COVID-19. This includes sufficient hand sanitizer and soap for everyone in the workspace to use multiple times throughout their days, sanitizing wipes to wipe down all shared spaces both before and after use, and in some cases PPE for all who will be in the space. If you are not sure whether your organization will be able to personally procure sufficient materials, you can organize a donation drive and rally your community to help. If you are a business with the capacity to support your community partners, reach out to them to help fill their gaps! 

Check for potential allergens 

Allergens may mimic several symptoms of COVID-19, which can lead those suffering from allergies to ignore concerning symptoms, or can lead to widespread fear within your environment. Symptoms of allergies such as sneezing or coughing can also lead to the spread of COVID-19, as droplets may spread even from those who do not yet know that they are infected. In order to alleviate the spread of coronavirus, check all buildings and workspaces for potential allergens such as mold or dust. In residential universities, for example, all dormitories must be thoroughly cleaned and inspected in advance of allowing any students to return. 

Set up physical barriers and diversify office time shifts to avoid person-to-person contact 

In situations where you may need face-to-face communication, such as reception desks, seminar classrooms, or check-in tables, set up physical barriers wherever possible. A plastic screen, partnered with masks for those on either side, can limit the potential for spread of coronavirus. Wherever possible, close common areas (such as shared kitchens) to prevent spread from their use. In general, make and implement a clear plan for limiting in-person presence. In the case that some or most folks want to be at the office, continue to provide flexibility to work remotely, and identify diverse time shifts to decrease traffic and office concentration. 

Day-to-Day Realities

In the below infographics, our Best Ever Volunteer, Bev, details what day-to-day life might look like during Phases 1 and 2 of reopening. From sanitizing frequently to offering virtual and remote opportunities, Phase 1 allows you to begin opening to small numbers of people; Phase 2 offers additional safety guidelines for larger gatherings. Again, it is crucial that you follow any local or state regulations as well as proceeding with an abundance of caution. We do not recommend that you allow for gatherings of more than 10 individuals if you can avoid doing so, and we encourage you to take every opportunity to decrease your density of individuals in any space. 

Phase 1

Phase 2

Risk Mitigation

As Bev shows us in the infographics above, preventing the spread of COVID-19 may involve extensive risk mitigation measures. Such measures include the following: 

HIPAA-compliant symptom monitoring

HIPAA protects patients’ privacy and personal information. Symptom monitoring, such as temperature checks, must be compliant with HIPAA while simultaneously preventing unnecessary risks for uncomfortable or inappropriate situations in the office or workspace. The most effective way to ensure that privacy, HIPAA, and personal comfort are not violated is to request that anyone considering coming to a shared space self-monitor symptoms, particularly temperature. You might even consider providing thermometers to anyone who will be coming in on a regular basis. Check with local health officials to determine whether your system for symptom monitoring is HIPAA compliant, and make sure to bear in mind ways to mitigate risk of uncomfortable or inappropriate interactions if you make the decision to monitor temperature in person. 

Contact tracing 

Contact tracing is becoming an increasingly prevalent method for rapidly diagnosing and treating new cases of COVID-19. This method identifies all of the contacts with which a newly infected patient has interacted over the past few weeks. These contacts are then warned that they may be ill, asked to isolate, and, if need be, tested for COVID. We will be posting a more detailed guide to contact tracing, including how your volunteer base might be able to help with this method, in the upcoming weeks. 

Isolation of cases

For cases in which reopening means also opening communal living spaces, you may need to isolate cases should they arise. Universities, for example, may find that residence halls quickly spread COVID-19. If a student or resident is suspected to have or is diagnosed with COVID-19, there must be measures in place to immediately isolate this case, including an available living space that minimizes exposure risk (for example, public restrooms, kitchens, etc.), options for food delivery in the case that they are unable to procure food for themselves, and how or when the individual will be moved to an alternative location. 

Liability waivers

Your liability waivers will need to be updated to reflect the new risks that will be present for those who are entering shared spaces. In your updated waivers, you should make clear what the new risks are, describe any safety precautions that the individual is responsible for (such as providing their own protective equipment, staying home in the case of illness, etc.), and detail the mutual choices that must be made in order to prevent spread in either direction. 

COVID-19 task force 

Especially if you are unable to avoid larger groups (for example, more than ten people), having a dedicated medical response team or COVID-19 task force ready to respond to medical emergencies is key. This might be a group of individuals who each know a specific role to play in the case that it becomes clear that an individual is ill (for example, where cleaning supplies are, how to clean, etc.), or, in the case of an event, it might be made up of medical professionals. In either case, being prepared for an individual case or an outbreak is crucial. 

Safe In-Person Volunteering

Over the past months, we have supported partner organizations as they implemented thoughtful and creative options for their volunteer base to engage with their community while sheltering in place to flatten the curve. Even as the country reopens, many volunteers will continue to prefer virtual options. We hope that our guide to virtual and remote volunteering can help you to plan effective and safe options, and that we can help you to evaluate your organization’s readiness to support virtual and remote opportunities. 

In addition to these virtual options, organizations may cautiously begin offering in-person options in order to best support the populations they work with. With the above plans and procedures in place, you can work within your organization or partner organizations to come up with some ideas for safe, in-person volunteering. We hope the below ideas will help to get you started: 

Creating virtual tours

While you may not yet be ready to reopen with large groups of people, even the most rudimentary reopening will give you the chance to let individual or smaller groups of volunteers create virtual tours. For universities, parks, museums, and science centers, this option can showcase attractions and features that would normally be open to many people at once. This can also be accomplished through asking that visitors and volunteers share their photos; our partners at the Austin Parks Foundation encourage visitors to share pictures through their collaboration with El Arroyo, placing signs with clever safety reminders across their parks and asking visitors to share the images.  

Clean-up crews

Similarly, individual or smaller groups of volunteers can enter spaces to help with important clean-up operations. For example, local schools, parks, and cities/municipalities such as our partners at the city of Austin can organize limited and targeted groups of volunteers to safely remove litter that may have accumulated while volunteers were unable to engage in person. 

Food preparation and delivery 

Food justice is increasingly critical at a time with so much financial instability. For organizations that help to combat food insecurity, such as our food bank partners and campus kitchens from institutions like UGA, the opportunity to reopen may also mean the opportunity to begin operating kitchens and delivery services. With the right safety precautions and options such as curbside pick-up or contactless delivery, the fight against food insecurity can continue with help from the in-person volunteers who make it possible. 

Animal care

For our partners at humane centers and animal shelters, reopening can offer the opportunity to bring volunteers back to interact with the animals who most need their care. Dog walking, cleaning pens/cages, and washing dogs are all activities that can be done in smaller numbers and that make a huge difference to the lives of the animals in these shelters. Of course, continuing to promote foster care as an option for those who are working from home will help just as much — our friends at Austin Pets Alive have seen incredible community support for their foster program! 

Delivering goods 

Our partners at Inspiring Minds had a great idea early into the pandemic: they delivered books and craft materials to the students they normally would be able to tutor and mentor in person. This type of volunteering can continue during reopenings! Volunteers can help organize and deliver packages with important materials to members of their community who can benefit from the help. Whether it’s children’s books and packages with the materials needed for interactive activities, food, or hard-to-find items such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper, there is no doubt that these deliveries will make a world of difference. 

Contingency Plans

Perhaps the most important part of planning to reopen is recognizing that your plans may change. Information is shifting regularly; experts have warned that states’ reopening may lead to new surges, which will alter regulations and guidance. Remember to include contingency plans as you look forward to reopening. If you will be moving individuals into shared residential areas, make plans for how to efficiently and safely move out large groups of people in a short amount of time; if you will be opening in-person engagement options, consider how these can be continued online or remotely. Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best — and take every step you can to make sure the best-case scenario is truly safe. 

Did we miss anything? Let us know by contacting We want to make sure that we are supporting all of our partners through these challenging and transformative times. We know that our communities are strong, and have seen first-hand how all of our partners have rallied to make necessary changes while still finding ways to better their communities. We are humbled and proud to work with all of you, and look forward to helping in any way we can, now and moving forward. 

New Times Call for New Methods

As experts continue to caution against large group gatherings, it becomes increasingly apparent that common spaces in the office, campus, and community will be drastically altered. In the upcoming months, we will be working to support safe and impactful engagement for our entire community; while this post focuses on our higher ed partners, we believe that the business, city, and nonprofit community will also be able to benefit from the ideas and measures we highlight. 

While governments and health experts continue to develop protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, institutions may opt to reconsider their courses, expectations, and evaluation schematics. Recently, our partners at CSU, the nation’s largest four-year college system, announced their plans to move the majority of their Fall 2020 classes online. Other institutions are considering a variety of paths, from social-distanced seminars and virtual lectures, to going virtual after thanksgiving and adding a summer semester in 2021, to limiting which students are able to return to campus. In all of these cases, there are clear needs for on-campus public health awareness campaigns, testing, contract tracing, and isolation of cases.

Community engagement centers and service-learning courses may find themselves facing additional challenges as they strive to navigate a new form of engagement, potentially without the localized, in-person efforts that have characterized engagement previously. For those who decide that reopening is not a possibility, how does a way of learning so deeply rooted in a local community foster the same education and impact remotely? How, on the other hand, can service-learning courses that opt to continue in person engagement do so safely? 

In collaboration with our partners, we’ll be working closely with nonprofits to identify innovative ways to virtually meet the community’s new and existing needs, particularly for the 89% of respondents to our nonprofit survey who indicated that they are unsure of how to transition their hands-on opportunities. Service-learning courses can act as a vital resource to help support these efforts for their community partners. 

We are at a crossroads. We could throw up our hands and give up on the community for its high risks. We could also travel the other road, where our engagement becomes imperative to the community we serve. Higher education is needed now more than ever to be a beacon of light, not only for the research generated from the labs on campus, but also for the helping hands and heart that our students, faculty, staff and alumni provide to the most vulnerable at this time. 

There will be no return to “normal” or to the way things were. We are better and more innovative than that. We need to roll up our sleeves and dig in to new ways of being. The issues of poverty, health disparities, food insecurity and other inequities that were there before the pandemic have been amplified as a result of the outbreak, and will likely linger for some time to come unless we do something now.

While the circumstances are certainly challenging, there is much to be hopeful about in these trying times. This is an opportunity to consider how community engagement can become more accessible to students, including those who may not have the time or the ability to commit to traditional in-person forms of volunteering. It is an opportunity to increase the ways that your institution works with partners, strengthening partnerships and learning new forms of support and mutual growth. It is an opportunity to double down on the commitment serving your community, and to the populations who have already been most affected by COVID-19. 

These new times call for new methods of engagement. The GivePulse team is working closely with campuses, community organizations, state and local health departments, businesses, chambers of commerce, volunteer centers and many other collaborative partners across the globe to retool, rethink and re-emerge with a fresh focus and energy to tackle the challenges ahead.

In the course of communicating with our amazing campus partners, we have already heard so much to be hopeful about, as service-learning and community engagement centers have mobilized to respond not only to the needs of their vulnerable community members, but also to the public health crisis we currently face. 

Over the next few weeks, we will be working closely with our public health, virtual/remote engagement, and curriculum development task forces to create further resources that we hope will help institutions work through these challenging times. We will create best-practices guides, addressing, among other things: 

  • How to communicate, implement, and evaluate virtual service-learning and engagement
  • Safety measures to consider before allowing students to engage in-person with community partners
  • Important updates to liability waivers as risks associated with engagement change
  • Ways that student volunteers and engagement centers can support aspects of campus planning, logistics, execution, and assessment, including recruiting and training student volunteers as contact tracers 
  • Other opportunities for COVID-19 specific work, such as properly equipped and approved campus labs running COVID-19 tests, that provide an extraordinary learning opportunity for students and faculty mentors

We look forward to highlighting the unique efforts of our partners to help other institutions and communities learn from their successes and failures. As always, let us know how we can collaborate with you. 

Virtual Conferences: Highlevel takeaways on #ACCP2020

Even as states begin to reopen, group gatherings will continue to be limited as a crucial safety precaution. But this does not mean that important events need to be postponed or cancelled — conferences, for example, can be just as meaningful and productive as ever!

Virtual conferences offer the chance to consider important questions and work together to come up with answers, without taking any unnecessary risks with people’s health. This is a screenshot of Hildy Gottlieb, co-founder of Creating the Future, encouraging us to broaden our way of thinking to change the world.

GivePulse teammates attended the Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals (ACCP) conference on April 30 and May 1 (the second half of the conference will happen in June with a virtual networking opportunity for attendees during mid Month), where, in addition to engaging in important conversations regarding corporate social responsibility in these unprecedented circumstances, we also had the chance to think through the Dos and Don’ts of virtual conferences. As with virtual volunteering, it is important to be guided by best practices to make sure that everyone stays connected to and invested in these conversations. 

Below are our main takeaways for those hoping to set up a virtual conference: 

Find creative ways to make sure the conference engages participants

Staring at a screen and listening to speakers may offer less stimulus than most conferences entail. Because of this, it’s important to be creative! Use polls and break-out rooms to encourage participation, and consider shortening speaking times to allow for more breaks. Remind keynote speakers that the format difference may lead to changes in their presentation. Encourage them to avoid lengthy speaking segments in favor of interactive elements. 

Polls encourage audience participation and start important conversations. This screenshot shows the important benefits of encouraging employees to lead through nonprofit board service. 

Conversations, follow up chitchats, downtime, etc. are crucial

One of the most important parts of conferences is the opportunity to chat with others in your area of expertise or interest. This is an opportunity to learn, network, and grow, and needs to be maintained in the virtual environment. Break-out rooms, as suggested above, are a great way to organically recreate this environment; set up some break-out sessions specifically targeted at meeting, greeting or even downtime (either before, between or after panels, just like they exist in “normal” conferences). Create a virtual hub as well, where participants, vendors, and sponsors can display, engage, and promote their organizations and can reach out to like-minded groups. Ideally, offering an opportunity to explore and be engaged with the conference without the need to participate in a panel is important!

Virtual conferences can increase accessibility: 

The ACCP scheduled portions of the conference over different dates across six weeks, and recorded the content sessions for those unable to make these times. They also offered built-in breaks between sessions. All of these reveal the benefit of virtual conferencing: extreme flexibility. Highlight this value, and use it as an opportunity to increase those who engage with the conference. 

By offering recorded conferences, you allow for more members and interested parties to access your conference. This can both increase membership and encourage broader growth. The screenshot shows Stacy Cline from GoDaddy sharing an innovative program model that scales to make long term outcomes and impact.  

Beyond these takeaways, the conference reaffirmed the importance of collaborative and compassionate business models in this time. Compassionate businesses are the ones that survive and thrive. We are grateful to partner with so many compassionate businesses; learn more in our J.B. Hunt blog spotlight and a recent webinar on the impact of what businesses are doing in Austin, Texas through Austin Gives