Covid-19 has completely readjusted how we all think about our day-to-day lives, including how we give back and make a difference in our communities. Adapting to our circumstances has taught us to utilize the tools we have and find unique ways to do what we have always done by innovating how programs are structured.
With this in mind, employee engagement professionals transitioned their volunteer events into a virtual setting with little to no experience beforehand. While virtual volunteering may have been a viable method of engagement for nearly two decades, it really wasn’t on many CSR teams’, employees’, and nonprofits’ radars until now. The lack of experience and data left many CSR teams asking questions that seemed to have no answers.
Leaning into the experiences of the Global Good Network during this time has allowed us to compile a collection of common questions and answered surrounding how to engage employees virtually.
1) For programs starting from scratch, where do we start with virtual volunteering, how do we find opportunities, and what do we offer employees?
Many organizations have already put out lists of in-depth opportunities that can be found on their websites that you can point employees to. You can also go directly to a nonprofit’s site and look for opportunities there. Think about where your company could be most purposeful or what interests your employees have. These may become cause areas during virtual times and where you should consider looking for virtual events first.
As you compile your list of opportunities, remember to include a wide variety of events. Highlight the ones that are important to your charity partners (if you have them) but also share ones that were posted by employees. Look for a variety of event commitment levels – ranging from one-time to long-term. Some employees are looking to engage in a quick event like answering questions for a student that takes a few minutes online, while others may be wanting to commit to a skills-based volunteering position that will help a nonprofit create a lasting strategy.
2) During a time like Covid-19, should our team pick who employees virtually volunteering with? Is this decision based on previous relationships or new issues caused by the disaster?
If your company doesn’t have a CSR focus area, now is a great time to try and develop one that is most effective and aligned with your organization’s mission. Like I mentioned above, consider where your company and employees could have the biggest impact working with the technology they already have.
Even if you don’t have a cause focus, providing employees a small, but vetted list of nonprofits to give and volunteer with during times of disaster takes the burden of researching off of their hands and gets help to the nonprofits faster.
If your company already works closely with some charity partners throughout the year and you have made commitments that have fallen through, reach out to those nonprofits and ask how you and your employees can best support them virtually. Showing your continued support even when you can’t show up in person is the best way to help them during these times.
3) In relation to our yearly goals, how do we re-assess, track, and meet our original CSR metrics?
The first thing to do is take a step back and look at everything planned. Assess all things that can be adjusted to a virtual setting and agree with your team on the plans that will not be able to occur. Re-assess your resources once you know which original plans are still on and which are out and get creative with what you have left.
Employees are even less likely to log their event hours when it is a virtual event, so don’t hesitate to send out a follow-up communication to your employees that you know just finished an engagement opportunity.
Just like everything else, our metrics and goals are adapting. We have never experienced a disaster like this before and because of that, expectations have had to shift. Keep your employees encouraged and motivated with new opportunities, celebrate their accomplishments and the impact they are making, and the metrics will follow.
4) Is there a way to still create team projects virtually, allow employees to virtually volunteer together, or is it only as an individual?
Many virtual events allow for employees to engage one-on-one or provide their skills to nonprofits in need, however, if people wish to do something together, there is always a way to gather and connect! Start by posting an upcoming virtual event on your company’s intranet and ask people to sign up for the same night. While you all may be at different locations and working with different people, afterward you can come together and share your similar experiences in a group hangout.
The beauty of technology is that we can connect no matter how far away we are. Perhaps your event is teaching a class or babysitting some kids. Multiple employees can sign on to a video call and engage together while volunteering virtually.
5) How do we manage security and privacy issues with our employees?
A lot of the virtual volunteering opportunities listed online right now include helping students, youth, and teens. During one on one volunteering events like these, your employees are placed at higher risk and your CSR team, legal and risk team, and the nonprofit team should already be aware of that. Before any of your employees sign up virtual events, make sure each one is aware of protocol when working with underage youth or minors. Your team should also work closely with the nonprofit that you have partnered with for the event for any extra guidance and tips that they offer from previous experiences.
6) How can we empower our employees to work with nonprofit organizations that have relationships with the develop virtual volunteering opportunities?
Just because a nonprofit doesn’t have a virtual volunteer event listed on their page doesn’t mean there isn’t a need for help during this time. Help empower your employee to get engaged by taking away the barriers of entry. Empowering an employee to engage with a nonprofit they have a connection with or previously engaged with will not only benefit your employee but will also encourage the employee to engage more in the future. Create an introductory email template that employees can use to introduce or connect with nonprofit organizations and request virtual volunteer opportunities to further their relationships and passion.