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Activating Volunteers During Covid: 4 Social Distancing-Friendly + Virtual Volunteering Trends

Candace Cody
Candace Cody

How can you safely leverage volunteers in-person and virtually during COVID-19? Try these social distancing tips + virtual volunteering alternatives.

An increasing number of organizations are beginning to think about the transition back to in-person events. Even with various virtual possibilities, people are understandably anxious to get out of their homes and rejoin life as normal. Across industries, many have been wondering how to bring members face-to-face. 

Volunteer management programs are facing new hurdles as the rest of the world adjusts to the new normal. While your organization may be seeking paths to get back to normal, the top priority must be slowing the spread of COVID-19. This means that organizers must critically and honestly analyze whether or not in-person events are feasible and safe.

This may make it unlikely that organizations will be able to host in-person events the way they used to, if at all. If organizers choose to host events in person, there are important precautions that they must take to ensure the safety and wellbeing of volunteers. 

Unsure of how you and your organization can mobilize while flattening the curve? Here are our tips—be sure to include them in your volunteer training plans!

Require That Volunteers Wear Masks 

Requiring volunteers to keep their masks on during events creates a safe environment for everyone who attends. Wearing a mask has proven to be one of the most effective actions individuals can take to slow the spread while in public, so using masks during an event is imperative to prioritizing safety. 

Similarly, organizations can also require gloves and/or provide attendees with hand sanitizer and fresh masks. Don’t forget to thank supporters for going above and beyond in efforts to keep each other safe.

Social Distanced Volunteering Example: Deliver Donated Food With Helping Hands 

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Helping Hands volunteers prepared and delivered food kits to senior citizens in Los Angeles. Masks and gloves were essential during this distribution since attendees were interacting with people who were at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. 

Stay Six Feet Apart 

Social distancing is another key feature of a safe in-person event.

Parks, parking lots, and other open spaces allow volunteers to maintain the proper distance of six feet from one another. Organizations can also place markers, such as tape, to ensure that the social distancing areas are clearly outlined. 

Social Distanced Volunteering Example: The Metaphor Club Black Joy Social with Color of Change 

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This volunteer-hosted event by Color of Change PAC allowed supporters to meet up in person to celebrate and uplift one another’s stories! This event was planned by a volunteer on behalf of the organization, but Color of Change still played an integral role in instituting safety guidelines.

While attendees were encouraged to eat, dance, and exchange stories, they also observed social-distancing guidelines of remaining six feet apart from one another and staying outdoors. 

Offer A Virtual Volunteering Alternative 

When groups offer a virtual volunteering alternative such as a livestream or recording, they are able to include people who may have been discouraged because of stay-at-home orders, health risks, or other issues.

Virtual events can empower volunteers to take action to better their community on their own!

For example running programs, walking or biking for a cause, or raising funds for valuable efforts. For virtual events that are hosted on video conferencing platforms, groups have also provided custom backgrounds, color coordinated, or used other tools to unify supporters even online. 

Virtual alternatives can make it even easier to host fundraising events.

Links are shareable and participants can track results of the fundraising efforts. There are tons of different types of virtual fundraising events such as peer-to-peer fundraisers, livestreams, social events, and more! 

Discover more virtual fundraising event ideas here.

Social Distanced/Virtual Volunteering Hybrid Example: March on Washington with Attorney Ben Crump 

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Attorney Crump, Reverend Al Sharpton, Martin Luther King III, and other activists successfully hosted an in-person March on Washington at the Lincoln Memorial. They did this by requiring masks, providing hand sanitizing stations, and conducting temperature checks throughout the day. They also offered a virtual livestream of the event for those who couldn’t make it in person. 

The addition of a virtual event not only allowed volunteers to join from all over the country, but it also allowed folks with underlying health concerns to get involved without being apart of a large crowd. This alternative alleviated supporters’ concerns of not being able to join.

Virtual Volunteering Alternative Example: Collin County Peanut Butter Drive 

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The North Texas Food Bank empowered the community to host their own virtual food banks. In years past, the community would donate peanut butter jars, but, this year, donors were also encouraged to donate money directly to the cause itself through their CauseVox crowdfunding campaign.

This shift made it easy for participants to donate, share on social media, and send the link to other potential donors. In the end, Collin County’s Peanut Butter Drive managed to raise over $244,000! 

Connect Volunteers Through Social Media 

A creative way to host an in-person event is to encourage volunteers to use social media to connect with one another. By using the same hashtag, joining the same livestreams, or performing the same tasks in unison, attendees can feel united with their communities beyond their screen. 

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Communities are often gathered for virtual events through social media and related tools. For example, NStreetVillage activated their virtual walkathon participants to create a personal fundraising page and encouraged them to use the hashtag #SHEROWALK. To help empower their participants to succeed, they provided this toolkit to help ensure people stay active on social.

Using hashtags and encouraging participants to create a personal fundraising page alongside their challenge to share on social media is a great way to get them engaged.

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Events like these are also easy to manage because volunteers are working independently towards a collective goal. 

Virtual Volunteering Alternative Example: Run with Maud with Action PAC 

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The best example of a separate, yet connected, event is Action PAC’s Run with Maud. In honor of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot and killed while on a run, thousands of participants ran 2.23 miles. Celebrities, families, and people from all walks of life documented their runs using #RunWithMaud.

Volunteers were instructed to follow social distancing policies on their runs and to wear masks. This powerful event was hosted separately around the world but was still a powerful display of solidarity and a catalyst in the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Looking for more ways to plan events and manage volunteers? Here are some helpful resources:

This is a guest post authored by the team at Mobilize.

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