Guest Commentator: Christopher Crawford, Community Engagement Manager, The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia @SalArmyPhilly & a member of our Membership Committee

Just like office work, volunteer events and opportunities have had to change drastically throughout the past year. This has often resulted either in pileups of volunteer work or in heavier workloads for social workers.

The reality is that virtual volunteer events have struggled to match the impact and connections made by in-person volunteering. That said, you can still make a real impact at organizations you love – you just need to search for opportunities differently than before.

How do we find meaningful opportunities to volunteer virtually?

The last year has brought a whole new meaning to the phrase, “This meeting could have been an email.” While many companies have developed creative ways to engage with employees, we are still working to uncover the key to safe, impactful, and fulfilling volunteer opportunities.

As someone who manages volunteers and service opportunities, many of my colleagues and I have found that nonprofits are hearing the same thing: our corporate partners want to help, but creating a virtual opportunity that makes a real impact is a challenge. Our most successful events have seen one common trait…

Meaningful volunteer events are a direct result of volunteer input.

We’ve heard a lot this year about meeting employees where they are, which has resulted in some innovative options for productivity in a virtual environment. Similarly, consider meeting nonprofits where they are when seeking a volunteer opportunity.

Recently, I had the good fortune of strategizing with a corporate partner on how they could best support our organization. While the final “event” was a simple item collection, we quickly realized that creating meaningful volunteer opportunities works best when the volunteers are a part of the discussion. Successful volunteerism, like nearly everything else in business, is a two-way street.

Here are some small, yet meaningful options that work:

Write letters (or make phone calls) of encouragement to an organization’s staff and clients. This can be a great way to engage the folks on your team and build a grassroots connection to the work being done by your chosen organization.

Use your social connections. The easiest (and arguably most helpful) thing you can do? Research, donate to, and share the work of an organization on your favorite social media platform. It makes a huge impact, especially to those with smaller followings.

Offer administrative assistance, so the folks who need to do the work can focus on service. Offering your time and expertise with technology or anything administrative can be a lifesaver for organizations.

Offer your skills! Some volunteers copy and paste the “skills” section of their resume in an email to me or application on our website. While an organization may need services outside of your skillset, it never hurts to let them know what you’re good at (or want to practice).

On behalf of my colleagues in the volunteer space: thank you for your outreach, your input, and for your service. It means the world and we can’t wait to see you again!


Upcoming Event

[Virtual] Civic Engagement for Young Leaders: Keeping Momentum at the Local Level
Tuesday, April 20, 2021 | 2:00 – 3:00 PM | Virtual

Hear from City and civic leaders on why voting and staying informed locally can be so crucial in a city like Philadelphia and get everyday tips on how to boost your civic engagement, like attending your neighborhood town hall, writing to local officials, or volunteering at a nearby nonprofit.