By Caylin Haldeman

Volunteers. They can be our biggest advocates, most dedicated ambassadors and most engaged donors. For many of our region’s largest nonprofits, they are a support system that can be mobilized to bring programs to life. For smaller, grassroots groups, they might be the entire engine of the organization. So, what happens when volunteers are asked to stay at home? 

This week is Do Good Week in Charlotte. Every year around this time, thousands of Charlotteans get their hands dirty by donating their time and talents to organizations serving any number of missions. But Do Good Week looks… well, different this year. The COVID-19 crisis has shut down many organizations, and has dramatically altered program delivery models for others — from food banks that are serving multiple times the normal number of families to arts organizations who have shuttered in an attempt to wait out the pandemic. 

On this Friday’s New Normal, we’ll hear from three local leaders who have experienced significant shifts in their volunteer engagement strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic and NC’s Stay at Home Order. Our panelists are Tina Postel, Executive Director of Loaves & Fishes, Michael DeVaul, Chief Social Responsibility Officer at the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and Amy Jacobs, Executive Director of Share Charlotte. They will share how they are continuing to engage and communicate with volunteers, with examples ranging from strict social distancing guidelines to strategies for staying in touch even when they can’t see each other. 

Each of these organizations depend on volunteers — to serve in their programs, to spread the word to their friends and, often, to participate as donors in their fundraising efforts. So when a crisis like this pandemic happens, forcing volunteers to stay at home for weeks on end, nonprofits must shift their engagement strategies and find new ways to get the support they need while providing opportunities for the “warm fuzzy” of volunteering. The front-line organizations that provide essential services and programs must create new policies and procedures that keep volunteers and staff safe and healthy. And all must work to keep their missions front-of-mind and continue, as possible, to serve the neighbors who depend on them.

Here at Next Stage, we are inspired by the speed, commitment and dedication with which our nonprofit sector has adapted to our “New Normal.” From virtual engagement opportunities held over Facebook Live, to social media campaigns that encourage people to volunteer safely while social distancing, to endless opportunities to gather critical supplies at home and spread awareness online, organizations are quickly adjusting to CDC recommendations and giving charitable Charlotteans plenty of ways to safely stay engaged. To see some of the volunteer opportunities being promoted by local nonprofits this week, check out the Do Good Week homepage or follow #DoGoodCLT and #SHAREFromHome on social media. 

Join us on Friday by registering for free here.

Plus, if you missed last week’s roundtable discussion exploring Digital Outreach in the Time of Covid with Angela Woods, CEO of the Girl Scouts, Hornets Nest Council, Jimmy McQuilkin, Executive Director of UrbanPromise Charlotte and Becky Santoro, Founder of Foster Village Charlotte, download that episode here.