We stand in solidarity with the Black community in calling for effective and tangible change. We share the sadness, anger, and resolve reflected in the demonstrations within our home city of Austin and across the United States. We also share the hope we hear in these demands for justice, and remain committed to moving toward equity and inclusion.
GivePulse was founded on the principle of addressing the inequities in our system and serving as a catalyst for positive social change. We are humbled to work with partners who dedicate their lives to fighting against injustice, many in areas directly impacted by systemic racism. We now call on this community to focus their efforts on the broader tenets of systemic racism and inequity, which have for too long been pervasive in our society.
We ask all of our partners — nonprofits, corporations, campuses, cities — to reflect on what steps you have taken and will take to ensure equity. We will be reflecting as well, and looking for ways that we can use our position of privilege to push for equity in our community.
We believe that one critical way for us to do so is by disseminating information to our partners and our community. In this post, we highlight ways that you can make an impact at this crucial junction in our country’s history, at the individual or organizational level.
If you are participating in an in-person protest or march:
COVID-19, which has taken a disproportionate toll on black communities throughout the country, remains a significant threat. We encourage you to adhere to public health regulations by wearing a mask, practicing physical distancing, and exercising sanitation methods such as frequent handwashing. If you are able to do so, consider quarantining for 14 days following the protests. We also encourage protestors to follow local laws and observe any curfews set in place.
Cities and police forces, coordinate with and march alongside protestors. Look for ways that you can help rather than hurt. Show that protestors are heard by resolving to create policy-level change that goes beyond symbolic gestures at demonstrations.
If you are unable to participate in-person:
There are many other ways you can get involved in addition to or as an alternative to in-person social activism. If you are able to do so, donating to organizations devoted to fighting against police brutality is a crucial way to increase capacity and efficacy of their efforts. At the end of this post, we share several such organizations.
You can also bring food, water, masks, and medical supplies to demonstrations to support protestors. If you have first-aid training, consider offering medical assistance at the demonstrations.
Advocacy work, such as making calls and sending emails, can amplify the message of protestors. Call attorney generals, police chiefs, and elected officials in your city and state to ask how they hold police officers accountable for police brutality.
Finally, organizing, researching, and disseminating information are crucial. We encourage you to deepen your understanding of anti-racism through this resource from the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian. There are many further resources available, including from the organizations listed at the end of this post, for you to learn and take action. Share this information with family and friends. Challenge yourself and your loved ones to show up.
For our organization partners:
Brick and mortar locations in protesting cities have been creating pop-up foodbanks, medical supply centers, and more to help respond to needs in these areas during the demonstrations. Consider whether this is something that your workspace or center is equipped to support. If it makes sense, let us help you set up a donation drive or fundraising campaign, whether for masks, hand sanitizer, medical supplies, monetary donations, or anything else that will help to keep protestors safe. If you need help getting started, email us at email@example.com.
Moving forward, nonprofits must diversify their boardrooms and workspaces. According to information shared by BoardSource, 90% of nonprofit CEOs and 84% of nonprofit board members are white. If organizations want to fight inequity, this must be an internal process as well.
For our corporate partners:
Ask if you can donate funds or goods to demonstrations. Consider whether your business can support pop-up foodbanks, medical supply centers, and similar efforts. Match donations from your employees to organizations dedicated to promoting social justice and racial equity. And moving forward, actively seek out black candidates for management and board positions. In other words, reach out to your community and diversify your workplace.
Additionally, it’s now more important than ever to have open dialogues with your team and identify opportunities to find healing together with employees, colleagues, and partners.
For our higher education partners:
We believe that engaged scholarship and service-learning are crucial to creating lasting change in and beyond higher education. Addressing systemic racism through service-learning programs is necessary for such change, as well as to the goals of our higher education partners. Actively seeking black faculty members and expanding course offerings dedicated to unpacking racism in the United States and around the world are additional necessary steps for institutions to take.
We encourage you to also open your institution’s knowledge, resources, space, and time to the community for meetings, discussion, and activism. This will help to move your foundation of learning beyond the classroom and into your community, critical to making real change happen.
In his much-viewed Medium article posted on June 1, Former President Barack Obama said that if we want to bring about real change, “then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both.”
This is a time to consider how you will take action for continued change. State, local, and national elections will determine whose voices are heard. We must vote for individuals who will fight against systemic racism. Advocate for policy changes that will protect and uplift your community. Canvass, phonebank, and consider running for office. Most importantly, make sure you are registered to vote if you can.
Remember that there are primaries today, June 2, in Washington, D.C., Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Dakota. For our partners in any of these states, please encourage your communities to vote.
For everyone else, if you haven’t, complete the 2020 Census and make sure you are prepared to vote, through an absentee ballot or in person, on or before November 3rd, 2020.
Some organizations to consider supporting:
We’ve set up a fund to match 100% of all our employee donations to these organizations within GivePulse. We hope you will do the same.
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:
How to prepare for a safe reopening
Day-to-day steps to maintain a safe work environment
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all sectors of our lives. Financial strains and an unprecedented transition to newfound forms of virtual and remote volunteering have combined to create a multifaceted burden on nonprofits. For organizations who would like to connect regarding additional resources or best practices for any of these items, please don’t hesitate to reach out to email@example.com.
In light of these changes, GivePulse chose to partner with GivingTuesdayNow, an initiative that encourages communities to donate time, talent, and treasure to the organizations that need them most. In doing so, we hope to elevate all the great community work that is happening. We know that asking for help right now can be difficult; we believe it is worthwhile to assess whether your organization feels it is appropriate to seek monetary donations at this time in your community. If not, perhaps a donations drive, volunteering campaign, or some other alternative will offer more approachable forms of giving.
Whatever you decide is an appropriate path for your organization to take this #GivingTuesdayNow, we hope that this guide will help you to communicate and plan effectively.
GivingTuesdayNow will take place on May 5, 2020, in addition to the regularly scheduled GivingTuesday on December 1, 2020. Created in response to urgent needs produced by COVID-19, GivingTuesdayNow promotes a concentrated generosity surge to help organizations when they need it most.
On GivingTuesdayNow, individuals can share their resources of any sort, whether that’s by donating money, volunteering virtually to share their time, fulfilling needs for an organization, or sharing a skill to complete a crucial project. In this way, GivingTuesdayNow encourages all communities to give as they are able, no matter what form this giving takes. As with virtual volunteer efforts, GivingTuesdayNow campaigns are strongest if they are built on transparency and connectedness. Below, you will find information about topics including:
How to effectively communicate needs
How to convert volunteers to donors
How to use this opportunity to strengthen connections to your cause and to your organization
We also want to highlight a product enhancement that we hope organizations will benefit from this GivingTuesdayNow: in response to feedback from our network, our team has developed a new in-kind donations functionality, just in time for this day of generosity. Donation Drive events create a space for wishlists and in-kind donations, for everything from food to hand sanitizer to books for children. GivingTuesdayNow is about more than just financial support; it’s about generosity in all of its forms. Donation Drives can help you to request whatever your organization and your clients need most, in addition to (or as an alternative to) financial forms of giving. If you have any questions about Donation Drives, contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to effectively drive donors and volunteers to your organization, you will want to find a compelling way to communicate your organization’s needs. Through conversations with our partners and through our own research, we have identified the following aspects as keys to successful communication:
If you are seeking monetary donations, recognize newfound burdens
Language that conveys your understanding of the financial instability of this time will show that you recognize that not everyone will be able to give, while doubling down on showing the need for donations from those who can. In fact, according to Fidelity Charity’s survey of regular givers, 54% of donors said that the amount that they would donate would not change in light of COVID-19 — and 25% said that they would donate more.
Diversify the digital resources you use
At a time when virtual stimuli can be particularly loud, using a variety of digital resources helps to ensure that everyone on your network will learn about your GivingTuesdayNow campaign, no matter their preferred mode of virtual communication. A few ways to diversify digital resources include creating a virtual countdown on both your website and your Instagram stories, sending email calendar invites from GivePulse registration and linking to the calendar event in your newsletter, posting more regularly on every social media platform, sending newsletters to volunteers and donors alike, and making sure to use the hashtag #GivingTuesdayNow to amplify your message.
Convey urgency through transparent communication of needs
Now is the time to be honest and explicit about your organization’s needs. Authenticity and transparency are more critical than ever to indicate how COVID-19 has altered your organization, and how investments of time, talent, and treasure now will strengthen your programs moving forward. Let folks know about loss of revenue, about depleted funds, about staff reductions and center closures. This vulnerability will underscore your understanding that these times are unprecedented, and will also authentically portray why GivingTuesdayNow is of the utmost importance.
Show the impact of donations
Explain how a donation will help your organization, in as much detail as possible.Tell the story of how funds and goods are used. Ask volunteers to send in reflections on how they have seen their programs impact the community, and share these stories through your social media and through newsletters. If you can, put a name and face to your donation requests. 65% of donors say that they would donate more if they knew the impact of their donations — the more transparent you are, the more volunteers and donors will choose to give if they can.
Set and track specific goals
Give donors something tangible to contribute toward. Set a specific target goal, and if possible, indicate why that target goal is pertinent. For example, if a certain amount of money allows your organization to feed a family, make your dollar goal correspond to the number of families fed. If you are running a donation drive, the same principle applies. Maybe you want to deliver one new book to every student your organization works with, and your organization works with 600 students. Set the target goal at 600 books and underscore that this means every student your organization works with will receive a new book. Donors can see that their donation corresponds directly to an individual student, and you can send regular updates throughout the day as you get closer and closer to your goal.
Converting volunteers to donors
From our Program Assessment Survey, we learned that about one out of every three organizations would consider using this time to convert volunteers to donors, but aren’t sure how to do so. While some programs might be concerned about asking those who already donate their time to shift this to a financial donation, statistics suggest that this is in fact a very common transition: according to data from the International AFP Conference, the average volunteer is four times as likely to donate as someone who doesn’t volunteer — and they typically give ten times as much! To encourage this transition, we suggest the following:
Relate donations to volunteering time shared
Whether or not your volunteers have been able to engage virtually with your organization, you can emphasize donating as analogous to their usual time shared. Indicate how donations directly impact their usual volunteer efforts. How much does it cost for supplies that your volunteers typically use? For the space that they work in? For the staff who train and work with them? Use your volunteers’ own experiences to display the value of their donations.
Encourage reflection and sharing of stories
Go even further in using volunteer experiences to display the value of donations: use the days leading up to your GivingTuesdayNow campaign to ask volunteers to share stories and anecdotes about their volunteer experiences. This will both provide content that you can share to your volunteer and donor networks in requests for their assistance on GivingTuesdayNow, and encourage your volunteers to reflect on the impact that the organization has had on their lives. Drawing their attention simultaneously to your donation campaign and to the positive experiences they have had will align the two, a link that may lead to more giving.
GivingTuesdayNow offers an opportunity for volunteers who might normally get to connect in-person through trainings, celebrations, and engagement to combat isolation. Ask them to engage in peer-to-peer fundraisingefforts and invite them to a celebratory event at the end of the day — see our section on thanking donors and staying connected for more ideas!
Overall, your volunteers are individuals who care deeply about your organization and their community. Even if they do not typically donate, you can be confident that they will do what they can for your organization. Once you show how donating will impact the cause they care about, it’s more than likely you will find that these volunteers are excited to donate if able in these times.
Setting up donations and donation drives
For any donors, whether they are new or returning, it is important to make the donation process clear and easy. How you decide to set up your donation and donation drive campaigns will impact whether and how much people donate. Taking into account how donors are driven to your page, where funds are placed, and how long your campaign will extend can make all the difference. Here are some tips for how to do so:
Use a general fund
Your funding needs during the COVID-19 crisis will most likely be unpredictable, so fundraising for a general or emergency fund where you can easily access and use donations will be essential. You don’t want your funds to be locked into a certain fund as your needs continue to change over the upcoming weeks.
Send automatic reminders
Use a calendar invite to both remind donors of GivingTuesdayNow and to provide a link through which they can easily donate. For example, if your organization plans to set up a donate button on your GivePulse page, you can link to that page on the calendar invite. You can also create a fundraising campaign or donation drive event, which will automatically send reminders to registrants! Decide how often you want to remind your network of the upcoming event — perhaps three separate reminders, scheduled for one week, three days, and one day before?
Keep donors updated
Once your donors get to the donations page, you’ll want to have a way to show the target goal and how close you are. GivePulse can help to keep donors informed, whether through the landing page for the fundraising campaign as shown in the image below or through email, SNS, SMS, or another communication method (reach out to email@example.com for more information about these options). Similarly, share regular updates throughout the day on your social media! If donors see that you are close to the target this may encourage them to bump their donation to reach the goal; for those who haven’t donated yet, seeing reminders throughout the day on social media will encourage them to join in the effort.
Extend your campaign
Consider making this a longer campaign. GivingTuesdayNow offers an excellent focal point, but it certainly does not mean that your fundraising campaign needs to be limited to only May 5! You can make GivingTuesdayNow the end or start date of a longer campaign, framing it as a kickoff for or celebratory end to a successful giving campaign.
Thanking donors and staying connected
Both during and after your campaign, you have a perfect opportunity to strengthen connections to your organization and cause. There are a variety of ways that you can show your appreciation for donors:
Send a thank you letter
This is a classic for a reason. Receiving a physical reminder of their donation and an acknowledgement of the difference it makes shows a donor that their giving matters, and makes them feel personally connected to your organization. This physical reminder can be digital — an email, for example — or physical. No matter what the format, a tangible indication of your gratitude will connect the donors to your organization.
Host a virtual thank-a-thon
Meeting virtually can help donors and volunteers to connect with one another, and also to deepen their connection to the organization. Create a structured virtual event where you show the impact of donors’ efforts and thank the top donors individually. To make it easy for everyone to find and access your event, you can create a virtual event on GivePulse and add a conferencing URL to help everyone access the thank-a-thon at the click of a button. Give everyone the opportunity to applaud the end results. Extend this into a happy hour and encourage casual conversation. Get to know your donors and volunteers as individuals, and learn more about why they care so much about your organization.
Use a leaderboard and donor wall
Show donors that you appreciate their efforts by highlighting a virtual donor wall! GivePulse users are able to activate a leaderboard and be updated concerning recent giving activity for any fundraising campaign. Donors can be updated on the campaign and are able to share this with friends and family to drive further donations.
Use volunteers for stewardship efforts
Message your volunteers asking them to send thank-you videos to donors and to let them know how their funds will impact volunteers. This will show exactly what donors’ funds are going toward, and might encourage them to become long-term donors. If your volunteers have already recorded impacts on GivePulse, you can look through their shared testimonials and reflections to collectively tell the stories and impact they make to the organization!
Stay in touch
Send out follow-ups to show the impact of donations; this will help to turn one-time donors into lifelong proponents of your cause! Add your donors and volunteers to a listserv and regularly update them on how funds are being used. When possible, include pictures, as well as specific stories and anecdotes.
We hope that this guide helps to give some starting points for this GivingTuesdayNow. Remember to post your efforts with the hashtag #GivingTuesdayNow on social media, and to tag us if you are using our platform! Join us at our Open Office Hours this Friday May 1st at 1pm CT or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for help with setting up donations, fundraising campaigns, and donation drives for your organization. Contact our COVID-19 taskforce at email@example.com if you’d like to brainstorm and discuss how your organization can best shift to virtual opportunities to connect with volunteers at this time.
As COVID-19 continues to severely affect our communities, all forms of engagement are more important than ever. We are so thankful to the volunteers, doctors, and nurses risking their lives on the frontlines, and are honored to help support teams in drive-thru testing, call centers, and contact tracing. We are dedicated to supporting continued community engagement in light of rapidly changing protocols regarding shelter-in-place and physical distancing.
These protocols and safety recommendations have led many of our partners to look for ways to facilitate virtual/remote opportunities for volunteers to allow everyone to make an impact. In light of this, we created this guide of best practices for virtual and remote volunteer opportunities, using input from our partners and resources we have compiled on our COVID-19 support portal. Below you will find:
Tools for an internal assessment to determine capacity and readiness for managing virtual/remote opportunities
Important steps for setting expectations and guidelines with virtual/remote volunteers
Suggestions for creating and facilitating virtual/remote opportunities
Evaluating your organization’s ability to facilitate virtual/remote opportunities
As you consider implementing virtual or remote volunteer opportunities for your organization, it is important to first evaluate whether your organization is able to facilitate these options. Some important questions for self-assessment include:
Does your organization have stable internet access? For example, can you stream and watch video on Youtube or a Webinar?
Do your volunteers have access to phones/computers? Have they been accessible through these technologies for previous communication?
Do your volunteers prefer email, text, or call communication? How can these be utilized for virtual or remote opportunities?
Do your clients have the technology needed to access virtual content?
Do your volunteer opportunities require handling or providing resources? If so, can these be transitioned to contactless methods?
Have your clients’ needs changed due to COVID-19? Are there ways that your organization can assist with these needs while still aligning with your mission?
Can you use this opportunity to convert volunteers to donors in order to ensure that your organization is able to operate at full capacity after COVID-19?
Have you asked volunteers how they can help and what their availability is at this time?
Can your organization identify short and long term projects that can be worked on virtually and remotely?
You can fill out our Program Assessment to determine your organization’s readiness. If you are already able to answer these questions with specificity, you should be primed for success. In this case, we recommend adding your virtual/remote opportunities on here for volunteers to apply! If not, feel free to reach out to us here and we can schedule a time to help you think through this together. We hope that this guide will help you to get started!
Communicating your remote/virtual opportunities
In order to effectively communicate these opportunities, it is important to first make sure that your volunteers know what you mean by virtual and remote. We have found the following definitions helpful:
Virtual: Any opportunities that use technology to replace traditional face-to-face contact. This technology often includes phones (mobile applications, texting, calling) or computers (internet, desktop apps).
Remote: Any opportunities that can be completed remotely from the organization facilitating and evaluating the engagement. These opportunities may or may not be virtual.
Note that organizations may not necessarily have the same definitions of remote. For example, some organizations refer to an organization as remote if the volunteer experience takes place at a location other than the organization headquarters; if a volunteer works with students at an elementary school, this opportunity might be marked as remote because it occurs at the school rather than at the headquarters. Because of this, it is important for organizations to communicate what they mean by remote to their volunteers!
Beyond these definitions, it is important to also communicate expectations, intended impact, and method of evaluation.
Expectations include the anticipated timeline of the project (is there a date by which you need the volunteer to complete this opportunity?) and any aspects of the volunteer experience that may not be obvious to the volunteer (for example, if your organization is running a digital read-aloud, should the volunteer ask questions at the end of the story, or should the volunteer ask questions throughout the reading? How many questions should they ask?).
Intended impact should indicate who the audience is (is it meant to reach the usual client base? Consistent volunteers? Donors?) and how this work will be directed to the clients (for example, if your volunteers are being asked to write a reflection on their time with the organization, will it be directed through a newsletter? A blog post? Will it be posted on social media, or sent straight to the client(s) the volunteer works with?).
When discussing methods of evaluation, you should include whether you will be evaluating based on hours served, in which case the volunteer should be tracking these hours, or whether instead it will be based upon reflection or on the output of the opportunity. In addition, make it clear whether the opportunity is a complete project on its own, or if it is one step toward a larger overarching project (for example, if you are seeking pro bono skills for web development, you might only ask that an individual volunteer create one web page, with the overarching project working toward a new website).
Overall, communication is critical in this time. Your volunteers, like you, are experiencing uncertainty and newfound strains. Fostering connection through virtual meetups and regular, thorough communication will help to alleviate these uncertainties and make the experience of virtual/remote volunteering a positive one! The more transparency you can provide, the more comfortable your volunteers will be — and, by extension, the more they may be able to volunteer.
Common-use cases, updated
Many organizations might benefit from hearing what similar organizations have found effective updates to their programs in this time. We have compiled particularly effective options below, divided by the type of organization that we think might find these particularly effective:
For programs that rely upon face-to-face connection, this pandemic has changed the very nature of their volunteer opportunities. Luckily, there are many alternatives that maintain the core connection and trust so critical to these programs:
Video conferencing: To maintain the immediate connection of face-to-face content, you can promote video conferencing. Security is of the utmost importance in these scenarios. If you are using a platform like Zoom, make sure the rooms are password protected so that only your volunteer and their tutee/mentee can access it. We also recommend having a third party, such as a staff member of your organization, present on this call to ensure that nothing inappropriate is said or shared.
Pre-recorded content: Ask volunteers to film themselves teaching 15-20 minute lessons that students can follow along to anytime, particularly with interactive elements students can try at home! Similarly, volunteers can film themselves reading aloud a favorite book, which can then be shared with families who have young children.
Mobile apps: A variety of mobile applications, such as KidzLit and Marco Polo, offer helpful hubs for organizations to organize video content and back-and-forth communication between client bases and volunteers.
Pen pals: Connection can be maintained through digital postcards, emails, or Messenger Kids (which requires that parents read messages before kids), as well as traditional postcards! In addition to maintaining connections, these also emphasize writing skills for students. Bonus: if you ask volunteers to create a digital postcard, you can ask them to attach it to their impact on GivePulse so you have a record of it that you can look at later!
For example, the Boys and Girls Club of Atchison offers opportunities to record videos to provide to mentees; one such opportunity is Activity Videos, which asks that volunteers submit footage of them sharing an interactive project for the kids to complete!
Like tutoring and mentoring, elderly assistance programs often rely strongly on face-to-face connection. Once again, alternative forms of connection will help to keep a sense of connection and community strong:
Technology assistance: Offer virtual technology support/lessons to help folks stay connected to family and friends who may no longer be able to visit. These lessons can be through videos, clear and thorough written guides, or video chat (see next point).
Video conferencing: As with tutoring and mentoring, connection can be maintained through virtual face-to-face communication. Security will once again be of the utmost importance — for a platform like Zoom, make sure the rooms are password protected. We also recommend having a third party, such as a staff member of the elderly community or hospice, present on this call, whether in the room or online, to ensure that nothing inappropriate is said or shared.
Pen pals: Letter writing and exchange of postcards is another option that, as with tutoring and mentoring, can maintain valuable connections without using technology or face-to-face communication.
For example, Ohio University Center for Community Engagement is facilitating “Smile Mail”, which allows volunteers to brighten a senior citizen’s day with a drawing or note of encouragement.
Food banks and food pantries are experiencing increased need for donations and assistance. Some of the most important things volunteers can do to help include offering donations of goods and money and helping to deliver food. For centers, other ideas include:
Food drives: Run virtual food drives and in-kind fundraising campaigns. For a virtual food drive, indicate your needs through an online campaign, and ask that donors order food to be delivered to your food bank/food pantry.
Emphasize donations: You can set up donation and fundraising campaigns for money as well as for goods, requesting funds that can be used to order the food directly to the center and maintain its operations during this time.
Cleaning supplies: Request donations of in-kind gifts such as cleaning supplies. These will allow you to deliver/safely prepare food for clients without putting them at undue risk.
Ask volunteers to answer phone calls requesting resources in order to track client needs.
For example, Mile High United Way’s 211 Call Center connects individuals and families to a variety of necessary resources, including food. Helping out with call centers is a great way to virtually connect to your community.
Animal/Pet Centers and Humane Societies:
As individuals have quarantined in their homes, many have recognized that they can help to support an animal without a home of its own. This is a perfect opportunity for animal centers to emphasize the mutual benefits of caring for a shelter animal:
Promote fostering: Particularly for those quarantining, fostering is a perfect way to offer care for an animal in newfound free time. While some might have previously been unable to foster due to hours spent out of the house, they may now find themselves with enough time to care for an animal while it waits for its forever home. And who knows — maybe some of the fosters will be converted to adoptions!
Campaign on social media: Share photos of the animals who need love and care widely. Seeing the sweet face of one of your shelter’s dogs or cats might just garner the attention of someone who is looking for company during quarantine! You can also share needs for goods and funds, volunteers, and foster homes. Beyond social media, you can ask local media outlets to bring attention to your shelter.
Share your needs: Provide a wish list for supplies and goodies for the animals, and campaign for donations (in-kind donations & monetary). With Giving Tuesday right around the corner (May 5), this is a perfect opportunity to share your needs widely.
For example, the Austin Animal Center Foster Program has been seeking foster homes for pets they’ve taken in during and before COVID-19; contact them to see if you can offer a pet a temporary (or forever) home!
Museums have had to close their doors to the public in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, this does not mean that the opportunities to spread knowledge and culture have stopped:
Virtual tours: Ask volunteers to send photos or videos they have taken of the museum that you can post on your social media or website. You can use these to create a virtual “tour” of the museum!
Virtual open house: Similarly, you can host a virtual open house to share information about the museum and maintain community connections to this space.
Focus on funding: You can set up donation and fundraising campaigns for money as well as for goods, requesting funds that can be used to maintain the operations of the museum now and moving forward. Virtual tours and open houses can be helpful to showcase what the funds will be used to protect!
For example, DoSeum has set up a Volunteer Virtual Open House where folks can learn about opportunities, benefits to volunteering, the application process, and more from the Volunteer Service Coordinator.
While the pandemic may be overshadowing politics for many, 2020 is a critical year for civic engagement. Now is a perfect time to focus on actions that folks can take from their own homes:
Promote Census engagement: Explain the importance of the Census, and share how to complete it online.
Absentee ballots: Guide individuals to the forms they need to fill out for absentee ballots, and help them to come up with a timeline for when to request the ballot for primaries, referendums, and general elections coming up.
Phone bank: If your community has a primary or referendum coming up, phone banking can remind people of how to vote, particularly how to vote absentee. If quarantining remains the norm closer to the general election, phone banking will continue to be important to maintain focus on elections and to share candidates’ views on crucial issues.
Activism: This period has reiterated for many the importance of policy changes that will support and protect the American people. Organize campaigns to share concerns with congresspeople and to help folks find likeminded political activists to organize in favor of these policy changes.
For example, the Sunrise Movement out of Lawrence University is organizing a phonebanking initiative in support of the Green New Deal. Volunteers participate in an initial meeting to learn about the Green New Deal and phonebanking, and then participate in a virtual phonebanking meetup.
We know these may not cover every situation; here are some ideas from our community to get you started if your organization does not fit into one of the above categories:
Thank doctors and nurses on the front lines (see, for example, University of the Incarnate Word’s “Thank Our Heroes” postcard campaign)
Promote donations of money and goods for Giving Tuesday on May 5
Ask volunteers to translate materials into additional languages
Use video conferencing to maintain connections, whether volunteer to client, volunteer to volunteer, organization to client, or organization to volunteer
Encourage your volunteers and donors to share their efforts to create a peer driven effort
Set up donation campaigns, and take advantage of Giving Tuesday on May 5
Ask volunteers to help with social media campaigns and content creation to drive attention to your organization even if it is unable to convert its opportunities to virtual opportunities
Ask volunteers to research best practices and grant opportunities for your organization
See if there are any long-term projects that volunteers can work on from home
Seek pro bono skill sharing for things like taxes, accounting, and more. For example, a web designer might be able to help update your website, a lawyer might be able to review contractual agreements, and a Certified Public Accountant might be able to help you or vulnerable clients complete taxes
Check in with your volunteers through calling, texting, regular email updates, and more — make sure they are still thinking about your organization, even if they can’t volunteer
Have volunteers perform these check-ins! Help them to set up a new email or a phone number that they can use on top of their personal number in order to avoid any breaches of privacy
Lean on reflections from volunteers; use this time to compile anecdotes and feedback, which you can use to recruit and retain volunteers going forward
Share Bev, the Best Ever Volunteer, to inspire engagement!
We hope that this guide will help you evaluate whether virtual/remote volunteering is an option for your organization and come up with a plan to maintain volunteer connections, whether or not they are able to volunteer. Feel free to share the work that Bev, the Best Ever Volunteer, is doing. We hope that this graphic will inspire everyone to find a way that they can engage with their community while physically distancing!
If you are using GivePulse, remember that you can tag opportunities as virtual/remote to help volunteers search for them. GivePulse supports donation and fundraising campaigns as well; by the end of this week, we will also support in-kind donation campaigns. Keep an eye out for more information! Beyond this, feel free to contact our COVID-19 taskforce (firstname.lastname@example.org) for help in thinking through how your organization can mobilize volunteers at this time to continue helping your community. We are happy to brainstorm, troubleshoot, and help list opportunities.
Last week, as communities adjusted to updates about COVID-19, GivePulse asked partners to share information about the changes they are making to respond to this public health crisis. Thanks for the responses from so many of you. We hope that the data might be useful for a broad range of allies wanting to take tangible action in their communities, now and moving forward. As we speak, we see many institutions and partners collaborating and learning from each other.
Additionally, in response to feedback and conversation with many of you, we were encouraged to do the following:
Open this assessment to the broader higher education community and their partnerships for feedback and improvements
Share back out the insights and analysis of the results
Collectively identify how to collaborate with partners to help scale their efforts, virtually or not, to assist those in impacted populations
We appreciate all institutions who respond to this assessment. Those who want to participate now can navigate to the link provided. We have updated the assessment to include a few public health questions to gauge the challenges and gaps as it relates to community engagement activity. Data on these assessments will be anonymized and shared publicly for the benefit for the community. We’ll also make sure to monitor and provide an analysis of the results to facilitate further discussions, brainstorms, and video conferences to help each other navigate this changing landscape. We look forward to offering future webinars on the intersectionality of public health and community engagement in the weeks ahead.
In upcoming blog posts, we will be focused on providing information about best practices and sharing stories highlighting how communities are coming together at this time. If you have stories you would like us to share and highlight, please send them to email@example.com.
Here are some highlights from the responses we received to last week’s surveys:
Community partners are still hosting volunteers — and are impacted by students leaving campus
Only 13% of campus respondents reported that all community partners had suspended hosting volunteers; the remaining 87% had at least some partnerships still hosting volunteers in person. Since all of the responding campuses said that classes had been moved online — whether temporarily or until the end of the spring semester — this means that the movement of students away from campus leaves many organizations in need of volunteers.
Possible responses: Campuses are responding in a variety of ways. Some are asking that able and well faculty/staff volunteer; others are allowing students to continue volunteering if they wish to do so and the community partner agrees. Many are moving their focus to alternative opportunities such as research, content creation, assistance with blood drives, virtual connection, and more in order to continue supporting community partners. Read on for further suggestions of virtual/remote volunteering ideas.
The majority of nonprofit respondents have suspended volunteer opportunities or events — but those who still need volunteers are struggling to find them
While the majority of organizations have suspended volunteer opportunities and events, indefinitely or for a defined period of time, those who have not are particularly hurting. Often, volunteers are retired adults — precisely those who are most vulnerable to coronavirus. In addition, general concern about spreading and catching coronavirus has impacted willingness to engage in the community. Because of this, shortages of volunteers are a real issue.
Possible responses: First and foremost, organizations should speak with local city/health officials about any engagement they are considering, given the unprecedented nature of this crisis. Make sure that any opportunities adhere to city guidance and regulations to maintain the wellbeing of your community. Generally, we suggest that you take the following steps for volunteer safety:
Ask vulnerable volunteers to stay at home
Make sure that information about symptoms and risk factors is widely available
If volunteers are able to engage, deploy in limited and targeted manners to minimize risk
Make sure that liability forms and waivers are updated
Check in with volunteers and clients to ensure they are fully informed about proper protocol such as maintaining six feet of physical distance, washing hands regularly, and taking other responsible safety measures
Forms of volunteering that might be particularly amenable to those practicing physical distancing include park clean-up opportunities, which can be undertaken as an individual or as a group so long as the proper distance is maintained (please note that proper distance may depend upon your city/state; again, reach out to local officials to ask about any plans you are considering); food delivery; donations and online fundraising campaigns; and fostering of pets — if you are in quarantine, now is the perfect time to take in an animal that could benefit from your consistent love and attention!
Donations of money, food, supplies, and blood are depleted
Some nonprofits are short on cleaning supplies such as hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and even hand soap. This means that if they have in person volunteers or clients, they cannot provide the necessary safety precautions to keep them well. Organizations that provide food to those in need — a group that has expanded as many vulnerable populations are encouraged to stay home from the grocery stores and restaurants — are in need of food and supplies, as well as volunteers for deliveries. Perhaps most striking was the number of organizations reporting severe decreases in their funds. This may be in part due to the fact that many have had to cancel major fundraising events.
Possible responses: Organizations have suggested that corporations looking for ways to give back, now and in the near future, utilize the corporate matching abilities of GivePulse — organizations will need to replenish funds and volunteers even after this pandemic is under control. Beyond this, nonprofits can start fundraising campaigns, seek in-kind donations, and organize meal deliveries. Reach out to our emergency response team (firstname.lastname@example.org) or our support team (email@example.com) if we can help you match you to excess resources or to add your fundraising campaigns, for both money and for in-kind donations of food, supplies, etc.
Online classes mean changes to curriculum
Every campus that responded to our survey has moved classes online for this time. For community based learning, this means a significant shift — classes can no longer be based on in-person engagement, typically the crux of a community based pedagogy. This has led campuses to consider solutions that will still work toward the same learning goals without putting students or communities at risk.
Possible responses: Institutions have offered a range of responses, but all align in that they offer greater flexibility to students and partners alike. Some campuses have waived all service learning requirements; others are allowing, but not requiring, virtual alternatives. Some are allowing students to continue working with their CPs and making decisions situation-by-situation. Overall, the switch to online classes has prompted a deeper focus on reflection and research. From researching social determinants that lead to the need for their partners’ work, to analyzing the impact of COVID-19 on these partners; from research papers to Zoom reflection meetings; from responding to civic dialogue prompts to watching educational videos and reading pertinent articles — curricula have changed to focus more deeply on reflections and on adaptability. Join our group to brainstorm with peers as this new situation continues to change.
Many organizations and institutions are looking for creative ways to shift to virtual volunteering
Many organizations are attempting to determine whether they can move some or all of their volunteering to remote/virtual activities. While many will still rely on hands-on engagement, others are working to come up with ways to engage volunteers who may be quarantining or isolating at this time.
Possible responses: Organizations and institutions have come up with a variety of creative virtual/remote opportunities, such as creation of educational materials, filmed reading aloud of children’s books, development of curricula, engagement in tutoring/mentoring over video conference if available, and more. In addition, translation of materials already available is necessary — if you speak multiple languages, reach out to the nonprofits you work with and see if you can help translate information both about the organization and about health/hygiene in this time into multiple languages. Other efforts include capacity building projects such as fundraising campaigns, social media efforts, and researching best practices and grants. For more ideas, join our group!
Now is a great time to focus on civic engagement
With primaries and elections interrupted by calls for social distancing, maintaining a focus on civic engagement is more important than ever. While we do not know exactly how every state will respond to this crisis, we do know that this year’s election will be pivotal — perhaps even more so given the uncertainties of the time.
Possible responses: Campuses and organizations can help students, and those who anticipate that they will not be able to leave home to go to primaries, with absentee ballots. Students and volunteers can research and advocate for policy changes, particularly based on the events of this time. Voter registration initiatives will be of the utmost importance. We anticipate sharing some exciting new partnerships to help with this effort.
NPOs and campuses can be hubs for safety/wellness information, positive communication, and social connection
Access to information and to positive messaging is critical at this time; people need encouragement and will benefit from seeing the many incredible ways that our communities are coming together. If we have learned one thing from the responses we received, it is that our partners are working to connect with community members in need, devoting themselves in this time of crisis to the wellbeing of others. We look forward to highlighting these stories in the days and weeks ahead. NPOs and campuses can similarly highlight these stories, becoming hubs for the communication that will lift spirits and encourage safe practices going forward.
Possible responses: Many organizations are checking in individually with clients over phone call or video. Many are also sending emails and newsletters to share hygiene tips and safety practices, particularly if volunteers may be engaging with in-person volunteer opportunities. Promoting social connection even in this time of physical distancing, and facilitating volunteer connectedness, can create a strengthened sense of community.
GivePulse is dedicated to providing resources, facilitating discussions, and promoting connectedness. Part of our efforts to do so include the creation of COVID-19 forums for higher education admins and nonprofit admins. Please join these groups and introduce yourself on the discussion board; we look forward to working with all of you to best accommodate your needs and to encourage the creativity needed to help our communities thrive.
Our mission to transform everyone into engaged citizens has not changed at this time. We look forward to continuing to engage alongside all of our incredible partners.
Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed, and will continue to change, how we engage with our communities. Calls for physical distancing (commonly referred to as social distancing — we want to emphasize that social connection is of the utmost importance at this time; physical distancing refers to recommendations that we avoid unnecessary interactions, and maintain six feet of physical distance if we must engage in person) remind us how connected our actions are to the lives of everyone around us. Communities have rallied to provide care for those who are vulnerable or whose livelihoods are precarious in the face of changing suggestions and legislation. We know that we are sick together and well together. Our actions shape our communities’ health, in the most literal sense of the word.
Many direct service organizations, businesses, and higher education institutions work with populations particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, which makes it extremely important that we all find ways to keep our communities together and cared for while also being careful not to spread illness. We’ve been working to gather resources, processes, requirements, and tools to help our partners — institutions, nonprofits, volunteers, and communities — find the best paths forward. We are actively seeking input from our partners to ensure that we are making changes that best reflect the pressure points for these organizations and institutions. Please fill out our surveys for both higher education and community organization partners to help us make changes to our platform that will support you at this time, and email our Emergency Response Team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any additional suggestions, questions, or concerns.
We will continue to update this blog over the coming days and weeks, and will keep you informed on social media and through support articles as we make changes to our platform in order to best support our engaged communities at this time. Below are highlights of how community engaged teaching, nonprofit work, and volunteering are changing in light of COVID-19, as well as further resources for you to dig into. If we’ve missed a resource, feel free to send it to us through our support channel and we will add it to the list. We know that many institutions and organizations are engaged in conversations like this, and that information is changing quickly. We hope that we can be a hub for disseminating this information widely in order to ensure that the work of our incredible volunteers and partners can continue as our understanding of this virus and its impacts continues to grow.
Community Engaged Teaching
Engagement with partners is a core aspect of any community engaged pedagogy. With both universities and nonprofits shifting away from face-to-face interactions, this engagement will have to shift accordingly. Here are some of the crucial steps to take in addressing these changes:
If you have not done so yet, contact your community partners and learn how to best support them. Many are no longer doing any face-to-face service; however, some still are, in which case students leaving campus might create a sudden burden through lack of volunteers.
Determine the best path for moving community based teaching online (see resources below from our partners for some excellent suggestions).
Come up with alternative ways to have students volunteer. Ask your community partners if your students can help with research, content creation, or virtual forms of connection, or if there is any other form of virtual volunteering that they can help with. Keep an eye out for updates from GivePulse about how we are working on our platform to best support virtual volunteering at this time.
Use this as an opportunity to dive deeply into student reflections. You may not be able to track hours, but you can active your group wall and encourage students to discuss their experiences so far and their feelings at this time, getting a robust sense of how engagement has impacted their semesters thus far. This feedback will help you develop contingency plans now and plan for direct service going forward, and will also offer students an opportunity to engage with their community based learning in a different but still useful way.
Work with us to integrate with your current Learning Management System. Be it Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard or some other variant, let us know; there are currently a few different mechanisms to facilitate the integration. If it’s too soon for the spring semester, we can help gear you all up for the fall semester.
Below are resources that offer further support and ideas:
The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Indiana University Bloomington have come out with resources for community engaged teaching at this time. In this blog, they also talk about how to utilize the concept of Retrieval Practice (recalling information when it is not in front of you) as an aspect of this online learning.
Iowa Campus Compact has put together a guide based on communications with other Campus Compact schools to help engaged campuses at this time. Going forward, Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact will host a weekly virtual discussion on this topic every Friday at 2:30 pm central, which you can register for here. Campus Compact has also created an extensive resources list for institutions in this time.
Vanderbilt University’s teaching in a time of crisis article helps guide those who are teaching online courses. They recommend providing resources and guidance to students in this time, and acknowledging the mental stress that students are under. Inside Higher Ed also has helpful suggestions for creating community in a time of crisis.
This one-hour video by the Bonner Foundation offers helpful tips and suggestions for teaching an online social action course. From planning, establishing community norms, and creating an online community to structuring and evaluating, this video offers step-by-step and thorough information to help move teaching online.
Brands, Businesses and Member Organizations
Corporations that regularly engage with their communities will need to move away from a focus on direct service. Corporations should now focus predominately on pro-bono skills and project-based endeavors, as well as donations and corporate matching campaigns:
If you have not done so yet, contact your community partners and learn how to best support them.
Consider how your products, skills, or services might benefit those in your community (see resources below for some ideas). Offer up these services pro-bono in order to alleviate newfound burdens due to COVID-19.
Encourage donations — now might be an excellent time to engage in a corporate matching campaign, particularly to organizations that are directly involved with the coronavirus pandemic.
Use this as an opportunity to learn more about the causes that team members value most. You may not be able to track hours, but you can active your group wall and encourage robust discussion, learning more about how to encourage corporate giving moving forward.
If your employees are able to work from home, encourage them to do so. If not, work to create a hygienic space, keeping surfaces clean, offering antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and maintaining six feet of distance between any two individuals within this space.
Below are resources that offer further support and ideas:
This Google Doc tracks ways in which corporations have been working to alleviate the burdens on communities at this time (for example, Zoom is offering K-12 schools videoconferencing tools for free) — check to get ideas for your own business, and include any actions that you have taken so that organizations can reach out and benefit from your generosity.
Nonprofits will have to decide how best to support those they work with. Some will be able to move away entirely from face-to-face engagement; others may find such engagement even more crucial at this time. In either case, we hope that the below suggestions will be helpful.
For organizations that require the help of volunteers in person, work to create a hygienic space, keeping surfaces clean, offering antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and maintaining six feet of distance between any two individuals within this space.
Ask that any volunteers avoid engaging if they may be sick. Add registration questions and pop-up banners highlighting the steps volunteers need to take before engaging with the organization’s communities when physically present. Below is an example template of questions as requirements asked by Mile High United Way on their GivePulse events:
Wondering if you should register to volunteer. Based on the CDPHE and the CDC, we are asking you the following questions.
Share the Volunteer Health Guide graphic above with your volunteers to help them to practice safe measures when volunteering.
For organizations working with vulnerable populations who may have considered or decided to stop all in person direct service, we can help support shifts to digital work (or opportunities to be completed remotely). Some online and remote efforts that volunteers can help with include tutoring virtually via webinars and conference applications or helping with creation of educational videos that can be shared in lieu of in-person mentoring, virtually connecting with vulnerable populations who may be lonely or anxious, donating in-kind supplies and money, and more.
Nonprofits and Directors of Volunteers should update their liability and release forms, ensuring that volunteers know their rights when volunteering and the risks associated at this time.
Start fundraising campaigns and enable donations on your GivePulse page, and publicize these as an alternative to direct service. Volunteers who are looking for ways to help may be able to donate money in lieu of time.
Below are resources that offer further support and ideas:
The CDC has offered resources for community based organizations.
The Center for Nonprofit Studies at Austin Community College has compiled a list of of resources for nonprofits.
For many volunteers, volunteering is the best way to engage with their communities. Yet at this time, this has been severely interrupted. Some may be quarantined, isolated, or practicing physical distancing; others may hope to continue face-to-face service, but are unsure of the best way to do so. We hope that the below may help you to make decisions that will allow you to continue your engagement and support organizations at this time:
Make sure that you are healthy before volunteering. If you or someone you know has traveled to a country on the CDC’s Level 3 watch list, if you have come into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, or if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath), you should not volunteer.
If you are going to volunteer face-to-face, maintain six feet of distance between you and any other people you come into contact with if at all possible, wipe down surfaces with disinfectant wipes if you can, and wash your hands often. See the above Volunteer Health Guide graphic for more information.
If you do not believe you should engage in face-to-face volunteering, look for virtual opportunities. Contact your local partners and ask if you can help them with organizing fundraising campaigns, help to create content, or perhaps even connect virtually with those they assist.
Donate money and in-kind supplies to organizations. Food banks have been hit particularly hard at this time. Use GivePulse to search for your local food banks and contact their admins to see what you might be able to provide.
We at GivePulse pledge to continue to work alongside you. Over the upcoming weeks, we are working to create designations for COVID-19 related opportunities and virtual opportunities and to identify resource gaps, as well as learning how to best support our partners in other ways. If you have been sent our higher education or community organization surveys, please fill them out when you have the chance. We will be using this to inform our changes, and will also be highlighting the data gathered in upcoming blog posts and social media campaigns.
We will continue to update this post and our related support articles. Again, please let us know how we can best support you at this time. We are grateful to be part of this community.
Austin Parks Foundation, Philadelphia’s Love Your Park, and Earth Day Columbus are examples of organizations leading the way in their Earth Day efforts!
Austin Parks Foundation (APF) has found a way to not only engage, but also to empower their volunteers. Twice a year, APF invites Austinites to submit clean-up/conservation activities at a park of their choosing through GivePulse.
In collaboration with APF, Austin Parks and Recreation, a department within the City of Austin, aims to empower foundations and organizations like APF to facilitate the projects to support the City’s parks. Through this network, Austin Parks and Rec is able to facilitate adopt-a-park programs and promote events so that everyone who wants to participate can easily do so through one, centralized page.
Similarly, Love Your Park hosts events in partnership with over 100 of their community partners. “GivePulse has been extremely helpful in providing automated confirmations, reminders, and follow-ups to our volunteers… We can manage the overall event and empower our park friends group with a really useful tool. The app has streamlined the check-in process on the morning of the event,” says Lindsey Walker, their volunteer coordinator.
For all the aspiring Leslie Knopes of the world or for those who just want to help make the world a little greener, here are some scenarios we believe coordinating volunteers for Earth Day will encounter:
I want to host an event with multiple different projects and locations. How do I solicit ideas from the community and publish these as opportunities?
Organizations like APF have set up a submission form to allow partners and project leaders to submit ideas. In their form, they include details of the project and the tools (e.g. the number of shovels, pounds of mulch, number of wheel-barrels, number of forks etc.) needed to successfully complete the task at hand. In many instances, this project submission needs to be reviewed, vetted, and verified by multiple stakeholders before it’s published for people to register and volunteer to. Feel free to reach out to GivePulse if you are interested in learning more about how we help foundations like this to address these pain points.
How can I assign additional folks as project leaders with limited access? I can’t be everywhere at the same time!
When planning events and projects with different locations, we recommend identifying a few volunteer leads that can represent the organization well. Specifically, the volunteer lead should be trained and given project level access to help oversee the registration and management of the site(s). In some instances, you’d probably want to identify who has administrative access just to manage one event, one shift, or many events. Depending on their level of access, this will give you the control and delegation powers to streamline the management of a large scale event. Organizations like APF and Love Your Park leverage GivePulse to assign different roles to your members and volunteers; it’s the next best thing to cloning yourself!
How can on-the-go project leaders track who is present or a no-show?
Volunteers and project leaders are on the go during the event. They will need mobile access to manage and track volunteers who show up on the day of the event and to also determine who is officially checked into the event. APF and Love Your Park leverage our downloadable mobile app to swipe folks in (as attended) or to swipe folks out (if they are a no-show). In many instances, if they need to be added at the last minute, the mobile downloadable app allows them to add new folks in and to add notes for documentation purposes.
To help kick off Earth month appropriately, the GivePulse team will be volunteering in early April. How are you creating an impact? We’d love to know!
This all started in our home community of Austin, Texas. Austin is the largest No-Kill community in the United States, a feat due in large part to the efforts of the Austin Animal Center (AAC). AAC provides shelter to over 16,000 animals each year. These animals are cared for and trained by staff and volunteers, and placed in foster homes or adopted into forever homes. Through our work with AAC, we have learned how to build GivePulse into a responsive, evolving, and effective volunteer management platform for pet organizations.
In humane centers and animal shelters, volunteers are used every day of the year, for jobs ranging from veterinary care to animal enrichment, from matching pets to foster parents and forever homes to working in outreach and creative capacities. This wide variety of volunteer opportunities influences how these organizations set up their GivePulse community engagement platforms. Subgroups within GivePulse can focus recruitment for particular types of positions in the shelter and allow for communication directly with that group of volunteers performing a given job. Ensuring that messages go out to the right people at the right time is critical in such a vibrant and multifaceted setting — messages need to be sent regularly to ensure that volunteers are kept informed about program and shelter changes, adoption promotions, and more.
Having an effective community engagement system is necessary for humane centers and animal shelters, organizations that are deeply rooted in volunteering. With the number of people interested and the number of tasks available, a system that allows volunteers to set their own schedules in available timeslots, record their own hours, complete an online application, fill out surveys, and more frees up time to focus on ensuring that shelters of all sizes can keep functioning in a way that is best for the pets. At AAC, Erin and Geoff from the Foster team are able to manage and coordinate over 1000 foster parents. This is critical for the well-being of pets as they wait for their forever homes; a platform allowing them to match foster parents to pets, ensuring that all of the animals they take in are cared for.
Volunteering with animals is a deeply rewarding activity, one that can strengthen ties to the community you live in. Sarah Luce, for example, started out as a volunteer with AAC, a role she held for over four years before she became a volunteer coordinator for the organization. “It was the highlight of my week,” she recalls. Her feelings have not changed now that she works for AAC. “It really does feel like the most rewarding job that I’ve ever had in my life,” she says. The thousands of positive reflections recorded on GivePulse show that Luce is far from alone in being impacted by her time at AAC — and the tens of thousands of impacts indicate that volunteers keep coming back. Perhaps this is in part due to the nature of the community these volunteers are a part of: “Austin is such an animal-friendly community and such an animal-loving community that the people who are here volunteering with us are people that really want to support this mission,” says Woods.
From AAC and the many other amazing organizations on GivePulse (Pima Animal Care Center, Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby County, Humane Society of the Ozarks, and Southern Pines Animal Shelter, among many others) we can see some of the key ways that pet organizations and animal centers are using GivePulse: organizing and scheduling volunteers for a variety of tasks, tracking hours through impact records, and learning and storytelling through testimonials. GivePulse is also used for assessment through surveys, application digitization through group membership options, and volunteer recruitment through event listing options.
These are just a few examples of how the hundreds of pet organizations we partner with use our services! The most important work for these organizations is to make sure that homeless or hurting animals are cared for and kept safe. Please connect with us to determine what pawsibilities exist and how you can help steer us further.