Tips for Non Profits and Volunteer Leaders March 2020

Be safe

1. Find out if your organisation has a BCP (Business Continuity Plan) and see if volunteers are included in it. If so, this will give you a starting point.

2. Communicate with your volunteers. Communication is key, even if it’s “things are changing quickly and we will have more information soon.” Guidance you can share right away includes:

  • Stay home if you are sick. Individuals who arrive on site with symptoms will be sent home.
  • Please take all necessary precautions if you are immunocompromised, or live with/care for someone who is immunocompromised.
  • Please do not hongi, hug or shake hands with staff, volunteers or clients. We recommend waving or verbally greeting people instead.
  • Please thoroughly and frequently wash your hands, and follow other guidance provided by the Ministry of Health around disease containment.

3. Prioritise volunteer and client safety. If continuing interaction between volunteers and vulnerable clients, take all recommended precautions, including gloves, masks, frequent hand-washing, etc.

4. Include volunteers in decision-making around policies affecting them. Having volunteers at the table will ensure that their concerns are heard and addressed.

5. Consider if and how volunteers can work remotely. As many workplaces consider temporary office closures, it’s important to think about how this could affect your volunteers and if there is work they can complete for your organisation while the office is closed.

6. Plan for a volunteer workforce shortage.

  • Survey volunteers to determine their availability to continue volunteering currently, if schools were to close, ... For volunteers who have high availability, ask if they would be willing to help fill gaps.
  • Prioritise programming/services delivered by volunteers and determine where the volunteer workforce should be focused if there is a significant decrease in availability.

7. Postpone large-scale volunteer events or trainings. Social distancing by avoiding crowds and events helps “flatten the curve” of the virus.

8. Understand that COVID-19 and the response effects people in multiple ways.

  • Those who are elderly or immunocompromised are at increased threat for serious complications.
  • People living in poverty are less equipped to prepare for a quarantine because they may not have disposable income to purchase bulk food and supplies.
  • People who are underinsured or have no insurance are at greater risk of severe financial implications if they get sick.
  • Those who have limited sick leave are afraid of what might happen if they take several weeks off of work.
  • This list is nowhere near comprehensive, but should demonstrate that the people around you (including your organisation’s volunteers) may be affected by COVID-19 in multiple ways, some of which may not be known to you. Encouraging people to be cautious and take care of themselves is not only kind and safe, but also promotes equity.

This list is far from comprehensive, but is meant to give you a starting point as you look at your COVID-19 response and how it will affect your organisation and volunteer programme. Volunteering Northland is currently assessing our own upcoming events (First Aid training and Governance Bites) and volunteer engagement plans and will be communicating updates as decisions are made. We will continue to closely monitor the situation and will provide information and share resources to help us all better understand how to move forward.

Adapted from the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration, 2020