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Hindsight 2020: Community engagement in an impactful year

On December 21, 2020, our team gathered virtually for a holiday celebration and a chance to reflect together on the past year of community engagement. Festivities included a gingerbread house competition (who do you think won?) and of course an anonymous gift exchange. Below are a few of us and our gingerbreads! 🙂

GivePulse team members hold up Gingerbread houses on Zoom

This celebration gave us the opportunity to pull together our learnings from previous virtual celebrations throughout this year. From perfecting the art of the surprise Zoom birthday, to a virtual graduation for a member of our team who completed her master’s dissertation in July, to our regular games of mafia, trivia, and Among Us, our team has been able to join together, welcoming new members and getting closer to those we’ve been working with before COVID. While we hope in the future we will be able to celebrate in person, we are so grateful to have had this chance to share, eat, and laugh altogether. 

This celebration also gave us the chance to reflect on this tough and truly unprecedented year for our partners in community engagement. In addition to a public health crisis on a global level, many parts of the world have been devastated by natural disasters and unrest. Communities have come together to seek justice in some of the largest protests in recorded history following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. We lost leaders in the fields of civic and community engagement, including John Lewis and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The United States saw historic voter turnout in this year’s election. Through all of this, frontline workers, poll workers, and essential workers risked their lives to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their communities. 

We have seen the struggles that our neighbors and communities have faced. This has pushed us to double down on our giving, continue innovating, improve our DEI initiatives, intertwine our platform with civic engagement, and provide an inventory of resources and webinars to our community. In this post, we have gathered our learnings, resources, and innovations from the past year. We hope you can take these learnings and apply them to your own communities as you make your impact in 2021. 

Working With Partners

Swearer Center staff hold up posters on Zoom saying "Thank you Swearer students, faculty, staff, & community partners! Congrats class of 2020!"
Swearer Center staff, pictured above, celebrate partners, students, staff, and community 

This year, our partners worked together to learn best practices and new ways of engagement for safe and impactful engagement. We saw the importance of investing time to learn, listen, and adapt alongside community partners — and, in this way, to pivot and use community strengths to survive and thrive. We are grateful to work with such a dedicated and inspiring group of organizations, businesses, institutions, and cities. 

More learnings from our partners and our shared resources: 

These are only a few of our resources. You can access more of our guides, toolkits, and webinars on our blog or on our resources page here. Learn more about our partnerships with the community here

Fulfilling Community Needs

How to Help Austin campaign page on GivePulse

In this difficult year, we knew that giving back to the community is more important than ever — and that included our own community. Seeking to give back to our home community, we partnered with the City of Austin to create the How to Help Austin campaign, with the goal of creating an Austin/Travis County-based hub for opportunities to help during the COVID-19 response. Through this, we have been able to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for organizations in our community, facilitate donation drives and match folks to virtual volunteer opportunities. 

More updates in giving: 

In addition to these updates, we offered fundraising webinars and toolkits, available on our resources page here

Innovating Virtual Engagement

Screenshot of GivePulse employee reading aloud in Virtual Volunteer video resource
One resource we created was our Virtual Volunteer video, where we share how to find virtual and remote opportunities on GivePulse. Pictured here is GivePulse Marketing and Success Manager Kaitlin Sandmann, participating in a digital storytime with the Boys and Girls Club. 

This year was an opportunity for enormous learning in regards to our existing virtual engagement. We knew there were several enhancements we could make that would help our partners pivot from in-person to virtual and promote safe remote engagement. Within weeks, we were able to activate millions of volunteers to engage virtually and to donate items and money to fill the gaps of the communities. Several of these volunteers came from our own team as we worked on virtual volunteer projects from digital storytimes to pro bono volunteering to setting up websites for nonprofits in our communities. 

More updates in virtual engagement: 

These were just a few of our most impactful enhancements. Learn more about our product updates here

Supporting Public Health Initiatives 

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

Public health commitments and procedures are of the utmost importance for all centers and programs. During the fall, as our campus and organization partners began to consider in-person aspects to their engagement, we were able to help facilitate their testing and contact tracing efforts. In parallel, we worked with public health scholars and professionals to develop guides for screening, testing, and other crucial efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19.

We are especially excited to continue our efforts to fight against COVID-19 and ensure we emphasize public health awareness in the communities we serve.

More tools for public health and safety: 

These are just a few of our public health efforts. To learn more about the GivePulse COVID-19 response, see here

Activating Voters

Pledge to vote banner

The many challenges of 2020 have reminded us that our actions and choices are inextricably linked to the wellbeing of our communities. Nowhere is this more evident than in civic engagement. Just as every individual’s choices impact the wellness of the community, every individual’s voice impacts the outcomes of elections, the census, and referendums. In light of this, we sought to activate voters for the important elections of 2020. 

More resources for activating voters: 

We are excited to continue moving the needle on effective civic engagement in the years ahead. For examples of how you can continue to take action next year, see our post here

Looking Ahead 

We know that the events of this year were difficult. And many of these difficulties will not end when the clock strikes midnight on December 31. But we also know that we have the tools we need to succeed and thrive in the year ahead. Many of the learnings from this past year will be crucial for improving access and success of engagement opportunities in the future, as we shared in our August webinar “Reopening Like It Was Shutdown.” As we look ahead, we are excited to continue learning alongside our partners, and to work toward a strong future of community engagement in which equity, security, and justice are assured. We are also looking forward to the promise of vaccines, which are already being distributed to the most vulnerable across the country. 

In the meantime, we hope you have the opportunity to rest over the next few weeks. We will be reaching back out in the early new year with more resources and support, and are always available for you to schedule a call or demo. Until then, wishing you a very happy holidays from the GivePulse team! 

Happy holidays banner

To learn more about how GivePulse can help you make a difference in your community, schedule a call.

Published in GivePulse