Employee Volunteering When You Can’t Serve In-Person

Mar 11, 2020

Planning for the impacts of COVID-19 on communities, employees and business operations has been an added focus for most employers over the last several weeks. In the civic engagement sector, leaders have been asked to plan alternatives, postpone or cancel planned volunteer experiences for workers in response to limits on travel and event attendance. With the focus on the health and safety of staff and partners, how do you balance your purpose work?

It is an important question especially because the communities that we collectively serve still need support and depend on volunteers for that support. Can you identify community needs for supplies for first responders? Are there blankets and toys for kids who may see fewer visitors at the hospital, meals for seniors and other shut-ins who are especially isolated? Can you make a financial grant to compensate your nonprofit partner for the lost volunteer hours – currently valued at $25.43 by Independent Sector?

And then for your own organization: how do you keep civic engagement momentum going and employees feeling engaged when normal routines and plans might be on hold? How do you continue to support your nonprofit partners and the communities that are experiencing significant impacts from reduced participation?

The Points of Light corporate innovation and solutions teams offer a few ideas below to fit a variety of needs and circumstances. Additional strategies and ideas can also be found in our webinar presentation and recording (global insightsstrategiesEdelman coronavirus special report) on engaging employees in light of COVID-19.

1. Leverage your workplace as a workspace.
Kit-packing solutions can be delivered to your workplace, packed by your employee-volunteers and distributed without your employees leaving the workplace. This will ensure that you can still serve your nonprofit partners while keeping employees engaged. How to get started?

2. Share your skills – virtually.
Rather than meeting in-person, tap web-based meeting solutions (our favorite is Zoom) and provide some skills-based support to your nonprofit partners. Does a favorite nonprofit need some advice on how to think about contingency planning for the impacts of COVID-19? Repurposing in-person time for deeper strategic planning time with your nonprofit partner may help to surface meaningful projects for the future. From executive coaching and mentoring to support for marketing and technology, there are many opportunities to move strategic partnerships forward without being face-to-face. The Taproot Foundation is a tried and true partner for virtual pro bono volunteering and resources. Common Impact can also help you to tailor a virtual experience for your workforce.

3. Explore the many virtual volunteering options.
Tech-based, virtual and remote opportunities pair volunteers with students and others for reading, mentoring and coaching in addition to amazing civic engagement projects.  Many of these solutions enable long-term commitments and have waiting lists for volunteers because they offer meaningful and well-tested experiences for your volunteers. Click here to view our virtual volunteer resource guide.

4. If you can’t go “outside”, tackle an “inside” project.
Take this time to upskill organizational learning.  Much like a rainy day, if you can’t go “outside,” tackle an “inside” project. Use this opportunity to engage your employees in learning about community challenges, bringing in virtual speakers and experts, developing ideas for future projects, supporting efforts like the U.S. Census and voting initiatives. Can you hold focus group experiences with employees to gather feedback and ideas? Finding time to listen and learn now can provide rapid-improvement solutions and breakthrough ideas for your programs.

5. Learn more.

Points of Light has several tools and resources to support your efforts. For more information, please contact us at [email protected].


Jennifer Lawson, Chief Civic Innovation Officer

Jennifer Lawson is the Chief Civic Innovation Officer at Points of Light. She leads forward-thinking initiatives, partnerships and campaigns with leading brands to advance social change in the corporate sector.

Stay Connected

Sign up for email updates and the latest news from Points of Light!