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United Way Blog

Virtual Tree Planting and Other Volunteer Solutions

Finding ways to leverage volunteer support for individuals in need during the COVID-19 pandemic has presented serious challenges to non-profit organizations as well as many companies, who give back to their communities in part through employee volunteering. The newly released Leadership for Volunteering: The COVID-19 Experience shares information about not only the challenges but also the solutions and innovations that leaders of volunteering organizations delivered to people in need as they safely mobilized volunteers. The research study commissioned by IAVE found that the changes to volunteering brought about by the pandemic will last. Survey respondents summed up the future this way: “We will be more virtual than before, but everything else is unpredictable.”

Companies, too, need to be nimble and creative in tapping the caring power of employee volunteers as they continue to work remotely. Since the earliest days of the pandemic, United Way and our corporate partners have found solutions to this challenge, with a heavy emphasis on virtual volunteering. In fact, according to Giving in Numbers, a recent survey from Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose (CECP), companies offering virtual volunteering have increased from 38% in 2018 to 87% in 2020.

For example, Deloitte mobilized employees to volunteer virtually through “Write a Note.” Deloitte employees were invited to an online platform created by United Way Worldwide, where they were prompted to write notes of encouragement. More than 2,000 employees wrote inspirational notes to nearly 4,500 veterans, students and first responders which were delivered to local organizations by United Way.

AT&T also mobilized employees for Write a Note and to remotely assemble 3,000 healthy snack packs. Volunteers listened to United Way staff discuss the impact their efforts would have on the local community, learned of additional opportunities to give back and received instructions on decorating and assembling the snack packs, which they shipped to beneficiary organizations selected by United Way.

Through the support of United Ways across the U.S. and Mexico, 356 Oportun volunteers participated in 27 projects that impacted thousands virtually by providing encouragement and guidance to students through mentorship, using their language skills to translate pages of United Way's free, online tax filing program MyFreeTaxes and other resources, and engaged with Pre-Kindergarten classrooms by reading their favorite children’s books.

Cummins' virtual career workshop for students

Cummins employees in locations across North America volunteered virtually by providing encouragement and support to students and 211 call center staff and volunteers, and playing BINGO with isolated nursing home residents. Others shared guidance through Career Day panels, mock interviews and resume review sessions or read to classrooms. Some even learned - through live, online instruction - the proper way to plant the tree employees received.

Before the pandemic, virtual volunteering offered convenience and flexibility to people who could not show up to help in person. The ability of so many organizations to pivot to online engagement in the past year is a testament to their ingenuity and commitment to advance the common good. As many communities return to in-person work and other activities, volunteers are starting to give back side by side. And United Way will continue to lead by creating opportunities to serve. Contact your local United Way today to find a volunteer opportunity that works for you.

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