Post-COVID-19: The Increasing Relevancy of Skills-based Volunteering
As the numbers of
vaccinated residents in Canada’s provinces grow, many community service
organizations now realize that emergence from the COVID-19 Pandemic is only a
matter of time. Borrowing from the Ontario’s government’s top doctor, once
targets in terms of people vaccinated and significantly lower cases and
hospital admissions are reached, lockdown will give way to what promises to be
a ‘new normal’.
It’s an understatement to
offer that three ‘waves of infection’ have been a ‘long haul’. We’re all
feeling a might frayed round the edges, and in the volunteering sector, some
stakeholders have fared better than others. The national view is that the
not-for-profit sector has been severely affected by COVID-19, and stronger
language has been used in the media to describe the genuinely punishing effects
of ‘physical and social isolation’.
That having been noted,
it’s a testament to volunteer sector stakeholders in Peel region that so many
have battened down and weathered the storm, surviving when service
opportunities and volunteering roles have been suspended, Plus, working
tirelessly below the radar to adapt programs to ‘virtual’, remote delivery and
platforms. This is demonstrative of healthy vision and strategic planning, even
if these bold steps have not been called that.
Volunteer MBC’s weekly
e-forums that address community response to COVID-19 and other related issues of
late have become less frequent, because we now have a comprehensive array of
resources in place, including volunteer role ‘templates’ that are freely
available. Add to that, community service organizations are on the cusp of
committing to what’s next, now that a timeline for recovery has become clearer.
Some may recall that prior
to March, 2020, Volunteer MBC had endeavored to address the need by
organizations in the sector for an improved level of ‘skilled volunteer’, as
certain skills found their way increasingly into ‘position descriptions’.
Volunteer engagement models were, and are, influencing this, as well.
Volunteers increasingly are asking for ‘project’ opportunities, with flexible
time commitment, and there is efficacy in this, because an organization can set
the project parameters and objectives, then delegate with less ongoing supervision
It perhaps is happy irony
that COVID-19 has caused greater focus on the exercise of identifiable skills
remotely. Reference here is made to more than language and computer literacy
(both of which are a great foundation for anyone prepared to undertake an
extended volunteering experience). The most obvious example, selected from the
‘templates’ referred to above, is the ‘Communications Support’ role [ https://volunteermbc.org/index.php?MenuItemID=222 ] which is a timely
response to the need for skills in webpage development, social media management,
brand messaging, community connectivity (including volunteers), general
marketing/promotion, and ‘virtual’ communication overall.
The need for this role in
an organization was dramatically amplified as the result of the Pandemic, and
its relevancy will continue in the ‘new normal’. A glance over the ‘template’
will tell you that a variety of skills is both key and is being aggressively
solicited. Yet, this really is only the beginning of wholesale recruitment of
volunteers that focuses upon consideration of skills resources and matrices.
Seeking knowledgeable volunteers
with specific skills and experience is not new, however. Since every
not-for-profit needs a board of directors, annually organizations invite
qualified candidates for board (or committee) membership, who bring with them recognized
skills and experience, such as finance, legal, increasingly important ‘IT’
(including facility in online communications, marketing), and comparatively
recently, human resources, the latter mandated to answer the need to import policies
and develop a corporate culture that embrace gender equality, diversity and inclusiveness.
At Volunteer MBC, skills
focus in recruitment is a direction that we already are taking, and early
aspects under active consideration address what skills matter for Peel
community service organizations (and our members can help here!), and
then how we can successfully enquire of aspiring volunteers as to what each has
to offer (general surveys/questionnaires and specific screening in an eform
that is the basis for a ‘volunteer profile’). An obvious mutual benefit is that
a community service organization will have access to expertise, and the
volunteer will enjoy a more purposeful, fulfilling engagement. As we often happily
note, there’s nothing like a ‘WIN/WIN’!
We therefore encourage
stakeholders in the volunteer sector to make room in the collective mindset and
your planning for identifiable and identified skills recruitment. The
outcome? Organizations get what you need; volunteers get what they want (in
some instances, the chance for newcomers to demonstrate skills that they have
brought with them). Both enjoy a mutually beneficial learning experience.
Volunteer MBC will be
soliciting feedback in the coming months, so don’t be shy about contributing. We’re
about to make it through a pandemic, so why not join Volunteer MBC in taking volunteering
to another level?