Concern for the health and welfare of volunteers and employees in the face of COVID-19 has led many groups to make significant changes in operations. Many have had to suspend certain services, especially those that require close contact among individuals. With social distancing guidelines influencing our everyday lives, including those of the volunteers of thousands of groups, how may they continue to contribute to community-oriented services?
The Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh recognized that volunteers still want to be valuable contributors even as the pandemic affects their ability to work within communities. This led the group to develop a list of virtual/at-home and non-local opportunities. The group’s Volunteer Center Manager, David Chudnow, says his volunteers have been incredibly receptive to these opportunities: “People are always looking for ways to fill their time.”
The Jewish Federation’s list of opportunities can serve as a springboard for ideas in any organization. Ideas for non-local and at-home or virtual opportunities include:
- Participating in pen pal programs for young people and seniors.
- Volunteering to be a “buddy” for neighbors; groups around the country have launched virtual buddy networks using social media and video conferencing to connect volunteers with individuals in the community.
- Sewing face masks for essential personnel like first responders, medical groups, and at-risk individuals.
- Contributing to fundraising initiatives — reminding supporters of the organization’s great work.
- Contributing to and organizing food drives for underserved communities.
- Volunteering to perform essential shopping services for elderly or other at-risk individuals. Many organizations have adopted no-touch/no-contact curbside deliveries of groceries and healthcare items.
- Signing up to be an online tutor, either through Tutor.com or in partnership with community schools.
- Supporting the work of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. As self-quarantine and social distancing continue, this vital service is needed more than ever.
- Revising and updating the organization’s Website and other communication vehicles.
These are only some of myriad possibilities for volunteer-based organizations. A bit of creativity is all that is required to develop great opportunities. This can also be a great time for volunteer-based organizations to develop beneficial partnerships with other such groups in the community. With this new way of creating engagement, community services can continue to be delivered while reinforcing the purpose and dedication of volunteers.
For more information on overcoming challenges in remote work and in returning to work after the pandemic is under control, VIS has created useful PDF-based guides, including “How to Make Remote Work Work” and “Back to Work: Creating a Safe Environment for Employees.” Requests for these free guides can be made to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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