On May 29th, I marked my one-year anniversary at Business Volunteers Maryland. I keep saying that this year has been the quickest, craziest, and funniest year to date…COVID-19 excluded.
As a new college graduate, I was excited to learn the ropes of the nonprofit sector and work with our business partners to provide engaging and impactful volunteer opportunities. Before joining Business Volunteers Maryland, I loved hands-on service projects. I spent time in Louisiana and Texas rebuilding homes after natural disaster and liked to spend Saturday mornings volunteering with Second Chance or The 6th Branch. This is something that I shared with many of our corporate volunteers as we revitalized schools and community centers or worked to create usable green spaces across the city.
And then the stay at home order happened. The idea of not being able to get our corporate volunteers out in the community was devastating.
After the initial shock of our new reality, the team at Business Volunteers began receiving unique requests to fill volunteer needs from local nonprofits. Three out of five charitable organizations report that the ability to deliver their mission is critically dependent upon volunteers. Knowing our role and capabilities as a connector agency, we created communityCONNECT– a forum for nonprofits to post their needs and for our corporate partners and individuals to find volunteer opportunities that fit their skills, comfort, and ability either on site, remotely, or virtually.
CommunityCONNECT filled an immediate need as people across the Region moved their lives online. As the direct needs surrounding food insecurity and personal hygiene began to fill, our focus shifted to the value of skilled volunteering. Skilled volunteering (sometimes referred to as pro bono consulting) is when an individual, often with a specific professional expertise, helps a nonprofit solve an operational or business issue. This could include helping a nonprofit develop a comprehensive branding and marketing strategy, or assisting with financial modeling and budgeting, or helping to implement new technology solutions.
Our corporate partners are looking to engage their employees as they adapt to teleworking, and nonprofits need support as many are facing even more limited capacity than usual. While we do not know when we will be back completing the hands-on volunteer projects that we love, our partners are adapting to this virtual world and utilizing virtual, skilled volunteering to safely serve the community.
To adapt to the changing workforce into a primary telework community, Business Volunteers has adapted to the change and is offering our trainings and events virtually.
It might be too soon to talk about silver linings, but the team at Business Volunteers is inspired by the continued commitment to volunteerism in this virtual world and the increased interest in skilled volunteering.