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Optimizing Online Volunteer Resource Management in Times of Social Distancing

Optimizing Online Volunteer Resource Management in Times of Social Distancing

Now more than ever, technology is playing an all-encompassing role in keeping nonprofits and volunteer programs going. While volunteer-matching apps and social media platforms have been around for a while, social distancing takes us to a whole other level in terms of technology use. In this issue of Research to Practice, Laurie Mook looks at a study of nonprofits in Hong Kong which explored in-depth how technology reconfigured their volunteer management. We focus mainly on the challenges these nonprofits faced to highlight the limitations and unintended negative consequences of going online. The study also suggests several ways to optimize online volunteer resource management, including how to engage your volunteers while programs are put on hold.

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Thu, 05/14/2020
I work with volunteers in a nursing home/outpatient program (adult day health) and shelter- all in one building. Due to nursing home restrictions, we have "paused" volunteers beginning March 4th until we are told by the state we can allow volunteers to enter. We had volunteers assisting in our lobby and we found there were too many people congregating and those volunteers were paused on April 10. 99.9% of our volunteers time was spent 1:1 with residents and clients. This traditional "face time" is priceless. The physical presence of our volunteers is missed greatly. Our clients who have mental health and substance use issues looked to the volunteers for encouragement and hope. We will create a plan using the guidance of the state when we are given the date on starting the program,. We have tools to use when that date is given.

Fri, 06/12/2020
At the Phoenix Zoo, we have focused on continuing to engage adult and ZooTeen volunteers through Zoom programming and our volunteer Facebook page. We have seen increased engagement on both platforms. Because we are a cultural institution and our volunteer roles are mainly guest-facing, we have not been able to engage most volunteers in online activities that directly supported our organization (ie office work, recording videos for guests, photo sorting, etc). We are hoping that the increased use of technology will help us to better engage volunteers that normally are unable to attend our educational presentations.

Tue, 06/16/2020
We are an all-volunteer run organization with members ranging widely in age but trending older--maybe a median age of 55, mainly women. With the onset of COVID-19, we have had to cease f2f voter registration and candidate forums--our bread and butter operations--and move them online. Some of this is fairly easy to do, other activities are still languishing. This election year is critical and motivation is high to find a way to persevere in our mission of voter engagement, education, GOTV, and advocacy. People who had never heard of Zoom are now subscribers and others are beginning to realize that the website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok are all valuable channels of communication with each other and with younger/minority residents/potential members. We are in the crawling/walking stages of mastering technology but the last 3 months have forced terrific growth and creativity of members. I believe we will stay with a hybrid model of operations in the future to lessen frustrating commutes, improve and speed up communication, and amplify our voices.