How to Handle the Death of One Of Your Volunteers and Feeling Directionless | Track It Forward

How to Handle the Death of One Of Your Volunteers and Feeling Directionless

Written by Kasey Murphy

What We Gathered From Our Facebook Community July 14 - July 20

Our Facebook Community truly showed compassion and a community full of kinship this week. Two volunteer coordinators reached out to the Volunteer Coordinator Resource Community Facebook group to express their feelings of distress and to look for some comfort during these difficult times. 

One volunteer coordinator, in particular, had learned that one of her long-term volunteers had passed away over the past few months of quarantine. Dealing with the death of a volunteer is surely difficult, especially during a pandemic. We realized that this is something that more volunteer coordinators and managers have gone through than we probably know. While no one really thinks about dealing with a heavy topic like this when they sign up to be a volunteer coordinator, it does happen and it can be very disheartening and provoke a series of emotions. 

Facebook Post stating :I  just found out one of my long time volunteers has passed away. I’ve been on furlough for 3 months and when they brought me back they did so as a screener (check temperature etc, I do not like it) so I have not been able to do anything volunteer related. I’m feeling so guilty that I didn’t call her, check on her. I’m sad and feel stuck. Not sure if I need advice or what. But figured this was the group to go too.

While dealing with a volunteer’s death is complex, there are some outlets that can be helpful depending on how you deal with grief. We are happy to provide that outlet for our coordinators if needed with the Volunteer Coordinator Resource Community group. 

Here were some helpful comments to help deal with the death of a volunteer. 

  • “I am so sorry to hear this. It is not your fault. These circumstances were all out of your control. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling, though. Stay strong. I am wondering if you could do some digging to contact their family with a nice note about this volunteer, saying how much they meant to your org? Thanks for reaching out to this community.”

  • “If you check the local funeral home listening, it often says where to send cards. Or if you know for sure what funeral home she went to for services, you can send the card there with attention to her family. It’s never to late to send a card.”

  • “Hey, so sorry to hear about your loss. I think it's lovely that you are doing a card for the family. They will appreciate it, and I think it might be good for you to do, too. As others have said, take some time and space to grieve - and reach out here if you need more support. You are among folks who get it.”

  • “If your org is doing any messaging, ask if you can do an In Memoriam post, where you highlight the causes the volunteer love to help with and simply state they will be missed.”

  • It is always important to seek counseling or help if you are feeling overwhelmed with emotions. Remember when reaching out to families that every person handles grief differently and some family members may want to deal with the death more privately. 

Resources for Handling Death of a Volunteer

  1. Death of A Volunteer - this resource is related to police volunteering but may be applied to other programs as well. 

  2. Celebration of Life - check out the virtual celebration of life section in this article.

Feeling Distressed with Volunteer Engagement During the Pandemic 

Facebook post stating: Is anyone else just feeling very restless or directionless right now?

I manage a program of about 200 active volunteers at an animal shelter, a program I built from scratch just last year. We’re in California here and COVID cases have never truly been under control.

Our program was abruptly paused in March and as of now, we have no idea when we will be allowed to resume. But likely not for the rest of summer and honestly it is so disheartening.

I’ve done what I can to keep volunteers engaged by hosting weekly virtual meetings, sending out newsletters and keeping our FB group active. I have begun offering some virtual classes but I’m hesitant to even roll those out because they will need to refresh the knowledge and technique when we resume our program anyway. It’s just a tough time.

Throughout this pandemic, many volunteer coordinators are being extra creative and completely reimagine their roles. This can be extremely difficult and overwhelming. The Facebook Community truly provides a sense of togetherness, we are all in this together! 

Feeling distressed, too? Feel free to join our community and jump in on the conversations.

Helpful comments: 

  • “Even where I am in Australia with zero community transmission I've struggled to maintain my volunteer program. This year I've gone off on a tangent and tried out a bunch of things that wouldn't normally be on my radar and stepped up promotions and advocacy. That was only possible because i had the mental space that comes with the knowledge that the government here has responded exceptionally well. You sound like you are doing amazing. Everyone in this group is! We all need to be kinder to ourselves and learn to be ok with achieving less or different work than we did pre-COVID.”

  • “I have been lucky to be able to engage some of my volunteers remotely providing phone support/mentoring but likewise we are not ready to get out volunteers back on most of our sites. I do lots of training for them which they seem to appreciate.”

  • “You're not alone. We're all trying to keep people engaged and safe at the same time. The local context and missional context is different but the point is the same and it's very hard right now because no plans can be made without something changing. Everyone is restless, tired of their own homes and yards, but we're not in this alone. The whole world is in this together. Breathe. Do the best you can with the information you have right now. Breathe again. Whatever you do, it's your best and that's all you can do.”

Resources for Creativity and Community in Volunteer Management Roles

  1. Virtual Volunteering Resources and Ideas 

  2. Volunteer Orientation and Info Sessions - maybe you can plan a new orientation or info session to just explain the current situation and re-train your volunteers! 

  3. Check out some of these volunteer management books that may help you feel less alone and spike some ideas! 

Recruiting Thrift Store Volunteers in the Pandemic

Greetings, Does anyone have ideas to recruit Thrift Store Volunteers. Many of ours are reluctant to return and advertising in Florida with our high rates seems like it will not be productive. Please share.

Jump in on the conversation here. 

Some organizations are starting to see the light of reopening, but what exactly will that look like? And how can you recruit volunteers and ensure them that you are going to be safe amidst COVID-19? 

Check out the advice from many volunteer coordinators in the comments: 

  • Put fliers in shopping bags of people coming, will help get the word out

  • “We are investing in a banner to place at the top of the building volunteers needed. We will also do recruitment tables once every quarter from 11 - 3:00 pm our busiest hours at each of the four stores. We are also developing a short volunteer sign up form to put in each bag and offering $50 in Thrift Store rewards for current volunteers who refer a friend and they complete training and volunteer for at least 20 hours. Hope this sparks some ideas.”

  • “I’ve had a lot of luck with VolunteerMatch because you can cover a lot of territory and people will find you easier. I’m finding lots of people want to volunteer - more so because of the crisis.”

  • “I know it’s tough, but during these times we can’t expect too much. My advice would be to ensure your volunteers know that you have very clear safety guidelines in place such as social distancing, masking, and frequent sanitizing. I’ve had luck with this!”

Resources for Thrift Store Volunteer Programs 

  1. Try a Volunteer Info Session

  2. Talk to your organization about providing PPE

  3. Follow suit in making a note to the community on social media/ websites 

The Volunteer Coordinator Resource Community Facebook Group is a conglomerate of advice, resources, and commonality. As it continues to grow, we hope more issues and resources can be shared to be helpful for all volunteer coordinators in this time of uncertainty.