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Common Impact and COVID-19: Volunteering Differently – Not Less – During a Crisis

By Common Impact | March 27, 2020

Leveraging Virtual Service and Disaster Resiliency to Continue Skills-Based Volunteering Safely in Uncertain Times

Now is the time to plan and adapt, not pull back.

– Danielle Holly, CEO, Common Impact

Common Impact and COVID-19: Volunteering Differently – Not Less – During a Crisis (1)Common Impact is answering our CEO’s call to action by accelerating and expanding our current work on virtual skills-based volunteer models for companies and by creating and sharing resiliency-focused needs assessment and project scoping tools for nonprofits.

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20 Years of Skills-Based Volunteering

Common Impact is a national nonprofit that powers social change organizations alleviating inequality across the country by connecting them with the business expertise and perspectives of corporate employees. Over the last 20 years, we’ve partnered with Fortune 500 companies and nonprofits with a proven model for social impact, knitting together the private and social sectors to create transformational change through skills-based volunteering.

We’ve seen the strength and resilience of the broader social good community shine through difficult times, time and time again, and this recent crisis is no different.

The Road Ahead

In her most recent CEO Corner, Common Impact CEO Danielle Holly made a clear call to action: “Now is the time to plan and adapt, not pull back.” Following her lead, Common Impact is urging companies to keep sharing their talent and expertise with nonprofits during these uncertain times.

Over the last few weeks, we have been reminded of the inherent human drive to come together and do good – and we’re not alone. Danielle has been in touch with partners and fellow leaders across sectors and what she’s hearing is heartening.

It would be very easy in this time of uncertainty for our corporate partners to pull back from their service commitments – but instead, they’re asking how they can be of additional support virtually from the safety of their employees’ homes. Likewise, it would be very easy for our nonprofit partners to turn down pro bono support as they fight new fires – but instead, they’re reshaping their needs related to financial scenario planning, risk management and crisis communication. It would be very easy for each of us in this moment of social distancing to pull back from one another, but what I’ve seen is the opposite.”

– Danielle Holly, CEO, Common Impact

We believe the talents and expertise of the private sector are an enormously promising and largely untapped resource in preparing our communities for natural and man-made disasters of all kinds, whether they be hurricanes, fires, floods, mass shootings or global pandemics like the novel coronavirus. In times of crisis, it’s even more important to invest in social sector organizations, which see demand for their services increase while many of the resources they depend on to deliver those services are at risk.

Actions We’re Taking

We’re working closely with our partners to ensure that their skilled volunteering efforts can continue safely for the duration of the COVID-19 disruption. We’re also speaking with teams experiencing large scale disruptions to their existing direct service volunteer programs. Here are the initial steps we’re taking based on the feedback we’ve received.

Bringing sectors together

This October, our Skills for Cities events in Boston and New York will convene talented corporate and nonprofit professionals for a citywide, cross-sector day of skills-based volunteering with a focus on social impact organizations that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, including those whose services do not translate well into a virtual or social-distancing model. The pandemic has highlighted how critical the nonprofit sector is in delivering everyday services and responding to crises. It also shined a light on how leading companies invest in their communities. Working together, we can bring our individual strengths to bear on the common goal of building more resilient cities. To learn more about the event and how your team can get involved, download this information sheet or contact us.

Scaling up our crisis resiliency programming:

Last fall, we released Disaster Response – From Relief to Resiliency, an approach to cross-sector partnerships for disaster and crisis management. In a situation like COVID-19 where physical threat and economic fall-out may go hand in hand, we’re working closely with our corporate and nonprofit partners to reshape their programs towards crisis management, scenario planning and facility resiliency assessments. For a closer look at disaster resiliency skills-based volunteering in practice, view our case study on a successful project we completed with the American Red Cross and Fidelity Investments.

Expanding our online resources to include crisis management support:

Capacity Commons, the one-stop shop for skills-based volunteerism we launched last year, now features a new section dedicated to navigating COVID-19 and leveraging skilled volunteers in times of crisis. This free online platform provides organizations with interactive tools and resources to help them understand how pro bono service can best support their work as well as how to design and implement a skilled volunteer project, measure the immediate and long-term impact of this work and make it an engrained, ongoing element of their business strategy. For more on how nonprofits can attain corporate and philanthropic support during COVID-19, view the recap of our webinar with Candid and Good360.

Expanding virtual models:

We’re developing new remote volunteering models and scaling up access to tools we’ve used for years to run pro bono programs online. We’ve brought our skilled days of service and team consulting projects into a fully virtual environment and have been heartened by their success as they’ve adapted. We’re also bringing newer virtual models online, such as a virtual education series led by skilled volunteers and a hotline where nonprofits can reach the corporate expertise they need for strategic guidance at critical moments. Learn more about these models here. To see virtual volunteering in action, view our spotlight on a day of service project with S&P Global and Renaissance Entreprenuership Center that we shifted from in-person to virtual in response to COVID-19.

Actions You Can Take

Companies, now’s the time to join the movement.

If your company is looking for ways to stay connected to each other, to the communities where you live and work and to a shared sense of purpose, we’d love to talk. We have two decades of experience in skills-based volunteering strategy, program development and project management and we want help you find an effective way forward through these rapidly evolving events.

Nonprofits, tell us what you need. If you don’t know where to start, we can help.

We’ve been hearing from our nonprofit partners who are quickly reevaluating priorities. We know that financial scenario planning, facilities management and crisis communication are all common priorities, but we want to hear from you what you need right now – and what you don’t. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need help knowing where to start, our organizational assessment and project scoping tools can get you pointed in the right direction.

Individuals, share your virtual volunteer experiences!

We want to hear the experiences and wisdom of this community, so we’re asking that you share – with us and your networks – the ways you’ve brought your volunteering virtual. Check out this great guide from our friends at Your Cause + Blackbaud, “Going Virtual – An Alternative Volunteer Event Guide,” as well as Points of Light’s Virtual Volunteer Guide.

Thank you for being part of our community and for your commitment to adapting and moving forward together.

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