Your Engagement Response Plan
In recent weeks, we have come face to face with unprecedented challenges as the world is now in full response mode to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many organizations have had to temporarily cease engaging volunteers, yet others see opportunities to engage volunteers to provide services amid these new conditions and meet pressing community needs.
While no one can predict day to day what new developments will emerge, the need to be nimble does not override the need to plan. Planning, in fact, can allow us to be more nimble, and acquire the resources needed to implement new strategies.
Within days of the pandemic announcement, the City of Fort Collins reached out to VQ Volunteer Strategies (and others) for advice and resources. City leadership had empowered the citywide volunteer engagement director to develop a plan to leverage the community’s 10,000+ volunteers to respond and assist. Of course, protecting the health of staff, volunteers, and residents was and remains of primary concern. Yet, the city supported the engagement director and her team to identify ways to safely leverage their community’s strongest assets – their residents – to help each other amid this crisis. Within days, they developed a plan, which then guided the design and launch of a new website and program to respond. Bravo, Fort Collins.
Combining that plan with elements from VQ’s experience in strategic planning for volunteer engagement, we developed the template below to help you design your own plan to guide this work. (And, scroll down for information about our upcoming webinar in partnership with Sterling Volunteers.)
As we have said many times about volunteer engagement strategic plans, a plan is a GPS that can help you reach your destination. While we may not know our exact destination amidst this pandemic, we do know that having a plan will help us continue moving forward towards a time when we can engage community members in direct service and resume some level of normal life. Develop a plan to guide your way. Download the template from our blog today.
Volunteer Engagement Response Plan to COVID-19
We recommend completing the following components to develop a comprehensive response plan.
Pre COVID-19 State of Engagement
Brief description of your organization’s engagement efforts during “normal state” – pre-pandemic. How many volunteers are normally engaged and in what types of roles across the organization? What levels of staffing and technology are normally deployed to support engagement efforts? This is not a full audit of engagement efforts, but rather a few bullets to paint the picture of pre-pandemic engagement and the role it plays strategically for mission-delivery.
A bulleted list of assets including, for example, staff dedicated in part or in full to volunteer engagement, number of pre-vetted volunteers (those who have passed background checks), policies, technology, equipment, or other resources that could be tapped for assignment to this response, such as catering kitchens where meals could be prepared for distribution to isolated and vulnerable community members.
A bulleted list of community needs that fall within your organization’s mission and that are not already being addressed by other agencies. For example, while students may need lunches due to school cancellations, school districts may already have set up distributions of meals to eligible students and others. On the other hand, seniors and other vulnerable populations have increased needs for check-ins and assistance with errands, and food pantries may need to develop different distribution methods in order to provide assistance while also complying with guidelines around how many people can gather in one place.
While this list could be long, focus on most relevant challenges, such as volunteer opportunities and services that have been temporarily discontinued, communications challenges, or the like. Consider other initiatives or deliverables that may need to be put on hold until after the crisis has passed.
Volunteer Engagement Opportunities
What new roles could be developed or expanded for volunteers to help your organization deliver its mission? Food pantries, for example, may explore having food packages delivered to homes; senior centers may arrange for volunteers to call seniors who are now homebound due to social distancing restrictions or to do errands for vulnerable populations.
What resources would be needed to develop and support these new volunteer engagement opportunities as well as to sustain the roles that are in place and can continue? Consider support, space, funds, technology, and equipment.
Briefly draft both internal and external messaging (or indicate a timeline for developing it) and indicate where, with whom, and how it should be shared.
Action Plan and Timeline
What needs to be done, by whom, and by when?
Who will be accountable for tracking progress? To whom and how often will progress be reported?
Join a Virtual Convening
Volunteer Engagement Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Webinar - Free
April 9 2pm ET
The recent outbreak of Coronavirus and the associated response has changed our way of life… including how we think about and engage volunteers. The pandemic requires all of us to put protections in place for volunteers, staff, and clients, while also finding innovative ways to maintain some services or endure while suspending other services. Join Beth Steinhorn, President of VQ Volunteer Strategies, for a discussion on how some organizations have shifted their engagement practices to respond to the pandemic and provide a list of volunteer engagement considerations. Come together with fellow engagement leaders for support as we move through this together. Registrants will receive a template for a Volunteer Engagement Response Plan for COVID-19. Presented in partnership with Sterling Volunteers.