For Volunteer Managers

Leading volunteers during COVID-19

Your organisation is likely already experiencing disruptions to your normal way of doing business and will, undoubtedly, experience far more in the months to come.​ Here’s what you need to know about leading volunteering during COVID-19.

Keeping Yourself Safe

This site from the Mental Health Foundation has some great strategies to support your wellbeing during this difficult time. Many of these ideas can also be put into practice in the workplace.  

This site from Worksafe has practical information about how to keep yourself and your team physically safe at work during Level 4 and below.

This site from the NZCTU has useful information on Covid-19 Rights at Work. The term ‘workers’ includes both paid and unpaid workers.

 2020 Lockdown guidelines:

Leading volunteers 

The volunteers who are already engaged with your organisation remain a vital resource as you navigate these unusual circumstances and, as such, deserve some thought around how to leverage their skills while also protecting them physically, mentally, and emotionally.​

If you’re a non-essential organisation, set up systems for staff – and volunteers – to work remotely and conduct virtual volunteering.

Adjust volunteer and staff training 

Postpone training and leverage online training options. Offer your volunteers opportunities for online convening – this is a great way to keep volunteers’ skills up!

Determine which volunteer positions are crucial to your current state of operations 

Support your volunteers in working remotely wherever possible in the ways that staff are encouraged to work remotely. Offer volunteers new roles, if this is a possibility for you, to match your current state of operations.

Plan for a volunteer workforce shortage

  • survey volunteers to determine their availability
  • for volunteers who have high availability: ask if they would be willing to increase their volunteering to help fill gaps
  • track responses: keep a database and anticipate availability in certain situations
  • work with organisational leaders to prioritise programmes/services that are delivered by volunteers. For example, programmes providing food for those experiencing poverty will be higher priority than advocacy or education programmes that could be postponed.​

Keeping volunteers safe

This is obviously a really tough time for volunteers, too. The following services could be useful to know about if volunteers share with you that things are unsafe for them in their bubble, or if they’re feeling overwhelmed and in need of support:

What do volunteers need in times of crisis?

During times of stress, stakeholders find the following three leadership traits particularly helpful and are asking these questions subconsciously to assess their presence: ​​

  • Consistency​: Do you show up the same way you did last time? ​Do the messages you share represent a logical narrative? ​Do they align with the organisation’s proclaimed values? ​
  • Transparency:​ Do you say what you mean? ​Do you speak the truth, even when it’s unpopular? ​Do you admit mistakes, even if it’s uncomfortable?​
  • Predictability​: Is it clear where and when leaders will take action or, if more information is forthcoming, communicate the next steps? ​Is everyone kept in the loop about what happens next, even if it’s just an update on status? ​