How to Keep Volunteers Engaged and Connected During a Disaster

Atashi Chakravarty

She has worked as an Executive Director, a Development Director, Office Manager and Grant Writer and has filled a variety of roles over the past 16 years at CVNL.

With many of our sector’s regular volunteer opportunities on hold due to the shelter-in-place order, we as nonprofits have a unique opportunity to engage our volunteers virtually and keep them connected to our work and organizational missions. For many agencies, this is a natural fit — but for some of us, we need to get our creative juices flowing. As you think about how you are pivoting (I just had to use that word!) for the short term to engage volunteers now, think about the long game and how this aspect of volunteerism can become a permanent part of your volunteer program.

Below are 3 ways to engage volunteers in your mission during this pandemic and beyond:

  1. Expand Your Fund Development Team

I don’t think there is an agency out there right now that has not been affected by the current crisis financially so we could all use a bit of help in this area. There are many virtual opportunities to help:

  • Help with grant research; with a few guidelines and a spreadsheet for tracking, this could be a nice finite project.
  • Help fine-tune your grant boilerplates; having the support of a professional copywriter to help smooth out those copy and paste items for grants could help elevate your proposals.
  • Work on your mid-year or year-end appeals now; Volunteers can help you plan a thoughtful campaign, write and edit copy for your letters, and my favorite, handwrite your appeal envelopes.
  1. Create a Social Media Ambassador Program

Social media is a must for all nonprofits these days, but few of us have the time and energy needed to be successful on every platform out there. Volunteers can help create authentic engagement by sharing your posts, writing posts for your agency and helping to amplify your overall message.
“Social Media Ambassadors have the potential to elevate your results, if you know where to find them, how to recruit them, and how to coordinate and energize them.” Author and Presenter Julia Campbell has written a handbook on how to recruit and manage a volunteer social media ambassador program that is full of practical tips.

  • My biggest takeaway from the handbook is that you have to go into this program with trust – trust that everyone has the best intentions for your agency and you!
  • If you’re offering virtual programming, the ambassadors can help reach out to new audiences. 
  1. Recruit Volunteers for Specific Positions

There are many professionals at home now looking for meaningful ways to give back. Taking the time now to recruit for future board members can help agencies get back into gear swiftly once we return to our new normal.

  • Current volunteers can help you do a SWOT analysis to identify gaps in skills on your board.
  • They can help create systems for board recruitment; a standard application, a give-or-get guide that will set up new board members to be successful in their role.
  • They may be good candidates themselves!

Take this opportunity to engage new volunteers and not turn off your volunteer program. Post your new virtual opportunities on the CVNL Volunteer Portal at volunteer.cvnl.org.

We’re in this together, and we are #strongertogether.