5 Ways to Maximise Volunteer Engagement in the COVID-19 Era

We wouldn’t be lying if we said that 2020, which for the most part was plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, has upended progress in Singapore’s philanthropic and volunteering scene. With a sluggish economy and job losses in tow, Singaporeans are volunteering and donating less. While it is hard to blame them for choosing to focus on their own economic security, social organisations that rely on volunteers to achieve their mission are now forced to undergo a rethink in their volunteer management strategies. How can they make the best out of the gloomy situation? In this article, we present five methods for social organisations to maintain healthy volunteer sign-up rates and ensure that their volunteers remain committed and fulfilled during the COVID-19 period.

Royalty-free vector illustration by the venerable Freepik.

Be Water, My Friend

With the pandemic to propel the phenomenon, flexi-work arrangements have become increasingly prominent in recent times. With that, it is even more pertinent that social and non-profit organisations also implement flexible volunteering roles. According to a survey conducted by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) between April and July this year with survey firm Toluna, 33 per cent of respondents in April had contributed to society in the form of volunteering as opposed to 24 per cent in July. The decrease in the volunteering rate was attributed, by survey respondents, to the lack of time. Given that more Singaporeans have additional family, health and job commitments as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, offering flexible volunteer hours and options hence allows individuals to better balance their personal responsibilities and desire to give back to society. Such opportunities, for instance, do not have a regular pattern of commitment or minimum stipulated number of volunteer hours. Likewise, one could also overcome the complexities of in-person volunteering during and post COVID-19 by exploring the feasibility of virtual or remote volunteering projects via digital tools such as Skype and Zoom.

Piece by Piece: The Rise of Micro-Volunteering

In addition to flexible volunteering hours, non-profit organisations that rely on a pool of volunteers could also hop on the wave of micro-volunteering — if they haven’t already, that is! As Ben Rigby, one of the founders of Sparked — a mobile application that serves to empower non-profit organisations — so aptly defines, micro-volunteering encompasses convenient, bite-sized, network-managed and crowd-sourced tasks for volunteers to attend to without centralised management. Such actions, which range from participating in focus groups to proofreading papers, could be completed by volunteers at their own pace and in the comforts of their own home. The concept, though not unprecedented and which has long sunk its roots in the UK, has proven its worth by helping England’s National Health Service (NHS) respond more effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic and greatly enhance its health system capacities. In the local context, it would be beneficial to review your emerging organisational needs and assess the feasibility of micro-volunteering in meeting them. If done right, this option could ultimately boost volunteer retention and recruitment by preventing current volunteers from being overwhelmed with responsibilities and enticing individuals who lack ample time for traditional volunteering to do their part for the community.

More TLC, Please!

Though it is instinctive to put organisational interests first amid the trying COVID-19 outbreak, it is instructive to also pay extra attention to the trusty volunteers that have kept your organisation’s mission alive. The aforementioned NVPC survey from April to July 2020 had noted that Singaporeans have been particularly concerned over self-preservation during the pandemic and were worried about bread-and-butter issues such as job security and the rising cost of living. According to a Straits Times report, the Republic has also seen an uptick in help-seekers for mental health worries and calls to the Samaritans of Singapore’s suicide helpline. In light of the above, it is highly likely that your volunteers have also been feeling stressed out or even overwhelmed by financial hardship and health woes in recent times. To boost your volunteers’ morale and prevent turnover, let them know how much they mean to your organisation by appreciating their indispensable value and dedication. Show extra love via thoughtful thank you emails after their project completion, or even virtual catch-up sessions to stay involved in their lives. As a nice touch, one could also consider hosting contests and gift giveaways on social media platforms to better engage volunteers. All in all, a ripple of motivation and kindness goes a long way in increasing long term volunteer satisfaction and retention rates.

Are You Social Media Ready?

Amplifying your voice at an unprecedented speed and a low economic cost, social media has been touted as an ideal avenue to inform the public of your volunteer opportunities, as well as to recruit prospective donors and volunteers. Extant literature has waxed lyrical on the organisational benefits of harnessing the power of digital applications: not only do active social media engagement aid in issue framing, but it also facilitates organisation-public interactivity and recruitment. However, the same body of literature has pointed out the tendency of nonprofit organisations to lag behind in social media adoption. Knowing the basic functions of the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all but insufficient: a slew of regularly updated social media strategies are needed to effectively identify and attract individuals that share similar interests and tenets to support your cause. For instance, engaging in social media analytics tools could track user engagement and help you gain a better insight into relationship measurement outcomes. This eventually paves the way forward for a long-term volunteer recruitment strategy and makes an enduring impact on your organisation’s goals. Moreover, the creation and posting of eye-catching infographics, visuals and videos could help attain strategic value for your organisation: the adept usage of graphic design and video tools such as Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Premiere and Canva, inter alia, could better produce memorable messages and increase volunteer registration rates by driving traffic. On a tight budget and lack talented manpower that are social media marketing whizzes? Reading on would definitely alleviate these concerns.

We’re Here to Help

Finding it difficult to reach out to skilled volunteers that could generate impact for your projects? It is time to put your worries to bed, for finding competent individuals who are passionate about doing good for the community has never been more seamless with one-stop platforms such as Skills for Good. The latter, a local volunteer-matching organisation with a strong base of eclectic and high-calibre volunteers, has introduced an easy-to-understand process flow to kickstart skills-based volunteering projects for social organisations to fulfil their needs. From social media marketing to impact assessment, simply count on Skills for Good to match skilled volunteers to your projects and efficiently do wonders for your organisation. Allow us to help achieve your mission here.

Closing remarks

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a curveball at social organisations worldwide, and those based in Singapore are no exception. However, we believe that the aforementioned ways could kickstart their strategy to promote long term volunteer retention and prevent unhealthy volunteer turnover. Learn about Skills for Good in greater detail and how it could help close the last-mile gap between social organisations and their prospective volunteers below.

About Skills for Good

Skills for Good, a local volunteer-matching organisation, with a base of eclectic volunteers with skills ranging from marketing and communications to information technology to fundraising. We seek to empower volunteers through convenient and meaningful skills-based volunteering opportunities that help social organisations to achieve their mission.​ Volunteer with us today and wake up tomorrow with the warm and fuzzy sensation of ‘volunesia’.

Author: Lim Jia Ying


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We are the Social Good Advisor team at Skills for Good, helping social organisations across the globe to deliver impact

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