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We Weren't Ready, We Still Aren't Ready: The Voluntary Sector in post-COVID-19 Recovery

We Weren't Ready, We Still Aren't Ready: The Voluntary Sector in post-COVID-19 Recovery

Three dimensional photo of COVID virii

In life, sometimes we know when we are ready for something and sometimes we don’t. So much of life, it can be argued, is knowing things in hindsight.

In this Engage feature, Adam Janes explores how nonprofit professionals knew we weren’t ready for something as disruptive at COVID-19 – and why there is no promise of a more stable future after the decimation of volunteerism during COVID-19. To prove his point, Janes argues that trends of care-mongering and unofficial volunteering have risen and taken hold while nonprofits and charities remain stuck behind red tape and budget issues, unable to safely and effectively meet their communities’ needs.

And while he holds out hope for nonprofits, Janes raises an important question: Did COVID-19 prove the voluntary sector wasn’t ready for disruption? Or did it show that it was long overdue for one?

To read the full article

Wed, 11/25/2020

Interesting perspective. I've seen something totally different, via news reports, posts to Reddit and TechSoup, etc.: the drastic, skyrocketing adaption of virtual volunteering at nonprofits all around the world, including the USA and Canada. Virtual volunteering is a practice that's more than 35 years old, and has been undertaken by many thousands of online volunteers, but since March, it's become a necessity at many traditional organizations that shunned it for so long. I cannot keep up with all of the immediately, newly-launched schemes by nonprofits to create tasks and roles for their volunteers to undertake remotely: face-to-face, onsite mentoring programs have created or expanded online mentoring (like Junior Achievement and CASA), international volunteering abroad programs are creating ways for highly-skilled volunteers to build the capacity of local people in other countries (like the University College Dublin Volunteers Overseas program), programs that helped seniors learn to use tech through onsite, face-to-face mentoring have quickly pivoted to teaching entirely by phone (like CTN in San Francisco and Austin), and on and on. I cannot keep up with the explosion of virtual volunteering - I have a list of highlights at the news section of the Virtual Volunteering Wiki. 

And these organizations are successful because they know the standards of volunteer management - written roles and tasks, clear expectations, quick onboarding, good support for volunteers, and on and on. 

I'm incredibly energized by this - and I hope that, at least, programs realize just how powerful and personal and impactful virtual volunteering can be, and just how much it's going to continue to supplement traditional volunteering when a vaccine is widely available. 

Fri, 01/01/2021

Thanks, Adam, for a powerful, thought-provoking piece. Your honesty in where we could do better is helpful in the world of faith-based volunteerism, too. Like Jane mentions in her comment, I too have seen churches do incredible pivots to virtual volunteering, and to quickly creating new volunteer opportunities to serve the immediate pandemic needs. But many of us also spent too much time scratching our heads and lamenting the loss of volunteers and volunteer opportunities. Overall, faith-based volunteerism has lagged behind the nonprofit world in intentionally implementing healthy volunteer engagement practices, in my opinion, as we experience the same move away from organizational volunteering that everyone else does. I appreciate your emphasis on building leadership, resources and trust as we look to improve our ability to engage our volunteers and, especially, to meet the needs of our local communities.