Part 1: Volunteering in a pandemic

Volunteering in the pandemic and what it means for the CSI sector

When the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown descended on South Africa, the business sector as a whole panicked! The Corporate Social Investment (CSI) sector was, soon to be – quite frankly, devastated.

Face-to-face volunteering came to an abrupt halt with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s first family meeting in March 2020. Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) and other Causes who had struggled for years, who were dependent on volunteers to function, were simply left to their fate. Our whole country, trapped at home, confused, feeling helpless and simply wasn’t sure how to help.

Until we did find a way.

The answers that emerged included having compassion, retaining a sense of human connection and finding shared purpose.

Forgood began to reimagine ways in which we could still help our Causes, our Corporate partners and our tribe of volunteers.

At forgood, we swung every volunteering activity to become 100% virtual. “How do you give from your home?” became the mantra.

If you had an internet connection, you could volunteer.  Our volunteers mentored teens trying to pass Matric, tutored maths and marketing guru’s took over social media accounts for a Causes to drum up support. All while sitting in their living rooms, in their pj’s and slowly… we saw action taking place once again.

First things first, we began to educate our Causes on how to upload opportunities that could be done from a volunteer’s home, and started informing South African corporates and its active volunteers of those opportunities on the platform. Over 50 000 volunteers went through forgood’s site between April and May 2020!

Corporates were in “disaster relief” mode in 2020 because of the food crisis in South Africa. They moved all physical work and events to the virtual world. To be precise, 28% of companies indicated that existing volunteering programmes had been shifted to online interaction and 18% reported establishing new online volunteering programmes due to the digital trend.

Yes, CSI and volunteering was dramatically down in 2020, but the sector was certainly not dead. In fact, we saw some incredible interventions, both from our Corporate Partners and our Causes.

Alongside the CSI handbook Trialogue, forgood approached eight of its biggest corporate partners to research employee participation over the pandemic.

Here are the lessons learned in 2020 and information pivots that will lead the sector going forward.

(Findings were based on the answers of 493 respondents from eight companies, with 40% of the sample being employees below management level and 26% being mid-level managers.)

In Part 2 we will share the lessons learnt!

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