We came across a great blog post written by Jayne Cravens from Coyote Communications. It’s especially relevant when we think about volunteering in the time of COVID-19. With her kind permission, we’re sharing a slightly edited version of it here.
If you’d like to dive straight into Virtual Volunteering, visit the Best of Virtual Volunteering campaign on forgood.
NEVER a better time to explore Virtual Volunteering than NOW
By Jayne Cravens
The precautions being taken in communities around the world may feel like we are becoming more isolated from each other. Virtual volunteering is a fantastic way to bring us all closer together and fill our home-based time with meaningful activities that make a difference.
In this time of home quarantine and in-person
social physical distancing because of COVID19, there has NEVER been a better time for your program to quickly create online tasks and roles for your volunteers – you need the volunteers and they need you! There are so many things volunteers could be doing for you, right now, to help your program and clients, without any investment in new systems or equipment.
Why don’t you suggest to a Cause some of the following actions?
- caption their videos on YouTube so that people with hearing impairments and people who are in an environment where they cannot listen to them can experience them.
- transcribe their program podcasts so people can read them.
- edit a video or podcast one of their staff has recorded from their home office, adding titles, intro music, etc.
- beta test their new online orientation for new volunteers that will, eventually, work onsite
- put appropriate keyword tags on their photos on Flickr or some other online photo archive.
- brainstorm social media messages for a variety of platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) based on their program’s messaging goals.
- create new pages for their web site.
- put appropriate alt text on all of their photos and graphics on their web site, making the site more accessible for people with sight impairments.
- get rid of all “read more” and “click here” links on their web site, replacing them with descriptive links, so that the web site is more accessible for people with disabilities.
- make sure every page on their web site has an appropriate title in the title tag (this helps with SEO and the title automatically appears in many sites whenever someone types in the URL).
- monitor the news to look for specific subjects their program needs to be aware of.
- monitor Quora, Reddit or other popular online communities, to answer questions on a particular subject or about a particular organization, to refer people to a web site that will answer their questions, to counter fake news/misinformation on a particular subject, etc.
- translate documents (and proofreading the translations by others).
This is also great time for you to start strategizing to be even more ambitious regarding virtual volunteering at your nonprofit, non-governmental organization (NGO), charity, government program or school. What about the following?
- Having a lead volunteer organize a survey of other volunteers to find out how they view success and challenges at your organization in volunteering so far? The data gathered could reveal successes and problems with your volunteer engagement you didn’t know you had and provide critical data to make improvements and to include in grant proposals.
- Asking volunteers to take selfie videos describing what they like about volunteering with you, and then recruiting an online volunteer to edit these together into a celebration video of your volunteers? The result would be a fantastic volunteer recruitment and recognition tool – and create a tradition you should do annually, even without a pandemic lockdown.
- Exploring tutoring or mentoring students regarding homework, writing assignments, online safety, professional development? If your program serves young people in some way, this could be a terrific extension of your services.
- Ask volunteers to look through Wikipedia and make a list of pages that you think should mention or cite your organization, or that your organization could improve. If you are a historical society, are all the pages regarding your local area as detailed as they could be regarding local history? If you are an environmental group serving a region, do pages regarding local geography note information about flora, fauna and environmental issues? After volunteers and staff compile pages you think should be updated, create a work plan with volunteers on how this will happen.
- Is there a way that a single employee or volunteer could be onsite inside your facility, isolated from everyone else, to scan photos and other documents you have on file? The resulting scans could be shared online, and your online volunteers could then properly describe and tag them. This can help better document your program’s history, which further establishes your institutional credibility and better celebrates past employees, volunteers and donors.
- Revisit your staff policies. Do you need to expand policies regarding online safety, use of social media or confidentiality? Many of your volunteers would love to re-read policies, research those of other organizations, and then meet together online to make recommendations.