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COVID-19 Inspires New Approaches to Corporate-Community Partnerships

Business video conference meeting
Business video conference meeting

Elizabeth Dove

Director of Corporate Citizenship, Volunteer Canada

Canadian non-profits are threatened by the cumulative effects of decreased revenue, physical distancing, job losses, and operational pressure from fluctuating demand.

Volunteer Canada’s recent research on the impacts of COVID-19 shows that while funds are the top need for non-profits, in-kind support and skilled and other voluntary support are also required. More volunteer roles are going virtual or remote, but many can only be done in person.

Volunteer Canada’s August poll of Canadian businesses indicates that senior leadership direction on employee community engagement has been to take activities virtual, including volunteering (particularly skills-based), fundraising, and learning activities that help employees expand their understanding of causes. In the absence of in-person activities, companies are nurturing a giving back culture by celebrating the efforts of employees in communications. The highest business concerns for community engagement activities are doing them safely (especially as there are limited virtual volunteering roles available), in ways that truly support non-profits but are also engaging for employees.

Inspiring volunteers from within

The implications are that companies need a new approach to community partnerships. Move away from a funding focus on frontline COVID-19 efforts — non-profits’ ongoing activities must also be funded. Listen closely to what non-profits need and get creative with in-kind or skilled support. Develop the giving back culture in your company: ground your employees in understanding issues and the non-profits working on them through activities like lunch and learns and amplify employee good work in communications, letting others know how to get involved. At the same time, non-profits need to become crystal clear on what they need, using limited resources only on corporate partnerships that drive change and increase organizational stability.

Volunteer Canada provides national leadership and expertise on volunteerism to increase the participation, quality, and diversity of volunteer experiences. Find full results of the Volunteering Lens of COVID-19 survey at Volunteer Canada. Results of the August poll of Canadian and Irish companies will be available in early October.

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