Volunteer Coordinators Managing Budget Cuts During COVID-19 | Track It Forward

Volunteer Coordinators Managing Budget Cuts During COVID-19

Written by Kasey Murphy

What We Learned From our Volunteer Coordinator Resource Facebook Community July 6 - July 13

This week was an action-packed week on the Volunteer Coordinator Facebook group. While more and more coordinators are talking in the group about a multitude of topics, the group has been a great resource for support in these hard times of being a volunteer coordinator. 

One of the issues that are being discussed quite heavily is the loss of a budget for the 2021 financial year. Due to COVID-19, many programs are cutting back what may have already been a low budget. 

This week, two different members of the Volunteer Coordinator Facebook Community were interested in how other VC’s handled their budgets, and what ideas people had for those who were getting their budget cut. 

Volunteer Coordinator Budgeting 

One of the Volunteer Coordinators posted this disheartening post this past week, but they found solidarity, community, and creativity from the comments that flooded! 

Feeling super defeated and could use some encouragement.
We were just told we lost our budget for FY21, of all budgets to cut, I think it’s irresponsible to cut the budget in the volunteer department. That’s neither here nor there.
I’m am trying to come up with really creative zero budget volunteer engagement and recognition ideas. This is normally my jam but because of COVID I’m drained and out of ideas.
I appreciate it, thank you!

Supportive and Creative Comments: 

  • “First and foremost, take care of yourself. We've all been reshaping our work and getting creative these last few months. Rest. Recharge. Then set about communications with your volunteers to help set realistic expectations. I don't know what you've done in the past, but letting folks know that their help is needed more than ever and that budgets are being cut helps set the stage for whatever comes next. Hopefully your volunteers don't come for the recognition. Engagement via email, phone calls, social media and postcards is fairly cheap or free. You've got this after you sleep.”
  • "Oof - that's really hard, I'm sorry :( I echo the above post, be sure you're giving yourself self-care. It's so incredibly important! You can't pour from an empty cup! As for zero budget volunteer engagement, we use/do the following things and it doesn't cost:

Facebook! We will post fun photos, do caption contests, etc.

Zoom: virtual hangouts. I also did a virtual trivia night, and all the questions were related to our organization, with bonus questions related to animals!

Cards: I mean, teccchnnnnically this costs, but it's incredibly minimal if you don't already have cards. I sent out about 100 handwritten cards last month and had multiple volunteers come up to me and say they really appreciated it, and had never volunteered at a place that did that

Potluck! Always fun, and everyone pitches in, so it doesn't cost the organization anything.

We do a monthly spotlight, and choose 4 volunteers (we have 12 locations and 1800 volunteers, so that's why it's more than 1 volunteer) that staff write up a blurb about and then we post it to social media. Just a few ideas. Hang in there, friend <3”

  • Explore possible local organizations or businesses that would be open to sponsoring volunteers or volunteer initiatives! 
  • “I have been very transparent with my volunteers about the decisions being made that will affect them. They have been so amazing! My budget has been drastically slashed as well. they have been very understanding about all of it. I hold weekly zoom meetings to keep them up to date with everything going on and they stay very engaged.”
  • Volunteer Coordinators have had success in providing sponsored products to their volunteers from Lush, Chick-fil-A and local restaurants. 
  • And a technical tip: “Make sure that your KPIs are adjusted so there isn't an assumption that you are still required to meet targets with less money.”
  • With budget cuts, we know it is extremely hard to reward your volunteers or even plan some volunteer events. Take advantage of virtual volunteering, volunteering from home, and sponsorships! Take a breather and don’t hesitate to reach out within the Facebook Community for their wonderful ideas!

Resources for Budget Cuts and Non-expensive Ideas 

  1. Kudoboard- online group cards 
  2. Virtual Volunteering
  3. Volunteer Incentives That Won’t cost Your Organization a Dime

Let's talk budgets! How many of you actually know what your budget is or even have a budget? If so, where does that funding come from?

Volunteer Coordinator’s managing a budget, in general, is a task that may accumulate some questions. Volunteer Coordinators who are just starting out may feel a little overwhelmed when it comes to creating and managing a budget for their programs. Let’s see what our community had to say to the above post. 

Budgeting Comments: 

  • The budget is separated in categories of volunteer appreciation, volunteer meetings, and volunteer advertising.
  • Budget can come from funding of sponsorships, grants, and private donations.
  • “volunteer recognition and volunteer appreciation event is paid for by board members. Volunteer training is done by myself (I am also a volunteer and board member) and staff members.” 
  • “I have a budget that I create with everything from salaries, mileage, printing, professional development, swag, vol software, vol appreciation, events, supplies like tents, bottled water, popsicles, recruiting and advertising.”
  • “I am pretty lucky I have a budget that pays for donuts and coffee two days a week, food on event weekends, volunteer banquet, volunteer tee-shirts, printed name tags, awards, and money for volunteer appreciation week.”
  • Budgeting is completely different based on each organization. Some organizations as a whole come up with a budget and tell the Volunteer Manager how to manage it, some give the Volunteer Manager free rein over the spending of the budget, and some volunteer managers are left to fundraise for their program and this is their budget. Whatever the situation, we always recommend organizing the budget and setting realistic amounts per each budget category. 

Resources for Budgeting

  1. Building Your Non-Profit Volunteer Program Budget
  2. Budgeting for Volunteer Program

COVID-19 Training for Volunteers

Beyond budgeting in volunteer management positions, the Volunteer Coordinator Resource Community had a lot more to talk about, and of course, COVID-19 volunteer training was a hot topic!

Is anyone putting together a covid-19 training for volunteers when they return or having them sign a waiver that says they are willing to wear face coverings and following the agency's guidelines?

Let’s see how other volunteer coordinators are dealing with COVID-19 training for volunteers. Want to join in on this conversation? Click here to comment on the post!

COVID-19 Training Comments: 

  • “We send out the requirements in advance regarding sanitizing, face masks, distancing etc. they have to fill out a health survey every time they volunteer. If they answer yes to any questions they can not volunteer that day.”
  • “I am advising everyone exactly what is going on and our expectations...very blunt. Distance and masks as well. Anyone who violates gets one warning and then suspension.”
  • “I am providing the CDC guidelines as their monthly training”
  • “We modified our staff "Return to Work" training, which covers COVID safety. We also ask a series of screening questions, require PPE, and give guidelines to help them determine when/if they need to stay home (fever, exposure to COVID, etc.).”
  • Hold a zoom meeting going over CDC/ governor’s guidelines
  • “I have put together a questionnaire for the volunteers asking them how comfortable they are to come back, volunteering with the community, wearing a mask at all times (to be honest it won't be optional but it is good to see how they feel about it), and if they are willing to sign a waiver of liability, and attend a covid training. I have drafted a waiver that I think we will have them sign when they are back to volunteer.”
  • “We have a volunteer directive that lists new policies that must be signed before returning to volunteer service”

Resources on Volunteer Training on COVID-19 policies

  1. Volunteer Info Sessions 
  2. Personal Protection Equipment Discussion

Opinions on Asking Volunteers to Do Health Screenings 

Hello! What are your thoughts about having volunteers conduct the health screening for incoming (in-person) visitors/clients/customers? Scenario: the museum is reopening. All incoming visitors must pass health screening before coming in. Volunteers are visitor services staff. Volunteers ask the visitor(s) four questions:
Have you or anyone in your household had any of the following symptoms in the last 21 days that are not attributable to another condition: sore throat, cough, chills, body aches for unknown reasons, shortness of breath for unknown reasons, loss of smell, loss of taste, fever at or greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit?
Do you have any reason to believe you or anyone in your household has been exposed to or acquired COVID-19?
To the best of your knowledge have you been in close proximity to any individual who tested positive for COVID-19?
Have you or anyone in your household cared for an individual who is in quarantine or is a presumptive positive or has tested positive for COVID-19?
Any

In a unique position, one volunteer coordinator had a question on what others felt about asking volunteers to ask and communicate COVID-19 healthy practices and potentially do health screenings. 

Check out the post here.

Advice from the comments:  

  • Many people agreed that this would be a great task for volunteers, as long as they were protected from potentially infected visitors. 
  • “Sounds like a great task for volunteers, if you have the right person that is comfortable with volunteering in person.”
  • “We won't be collecting names or taking temps, just asking the questions and hoping for honest answers. I was concerned because it seems to place a big burden on our staff (volunteers) when there will be lots of other new stuff to be doing, too. Thank you for putting my doubts to rest.”
  • “As long as the volunteers are safe(provide them with the necessary resources to protect them first), then it makes sense to proceed with this kind of arrangement.  We have volunteers taking temperatures with the temporal machine not under the tongue so masks remain on for both visitor and volunteer. We have placards all over about symptoms etc that would exclude you from being able to come into our building. We are a blood bank so only healthy people are supposed to be coming to us to begin with even pre covid.”
  • Make sure volunteers are not immunocompromised or extra vulnerable in these positions
  • “We recently created our "Volunteer Greeter" position to guide and screen all other volunteers, staff, and visitors. I assume the folks that are signing up, are doing so because they feel comfortable enough to do it.”

Volunteer Benefits

What benefits does your organization offer to volunteers? Do you have various levels of benefits based on hours?

And lastly, on a lighter note - a question about volunteer benefits created some buzz for the community, as many wanted to know different types of benefits and rewards that different programs use. 

Comments on Volunteer Benefits: 

  • “For the most part, all of our volunteers get the same privileges. They just have to be here for at least three months before they're eligible to start testing up for those privileges. The two big ones for our organization are being able to bring out your own private guests and giving treats to the animals while visiting. Because of the nature of the animals under our care, there's a lot of check-offs that our staff and volunteers must go through before being allowed to do tasks independently. Volunteer responsibilities are based on tier levels though. But as far as privileges go, everyone can do the things so long as they've completed the training to do so.”
  • “All volunteers get:

Assigned parking spots

25% off in the cafeteria

A variety of complimentary beverages in our office

We put out candy for every holiday

The big give is volunteer appreciation week

They usually get branded swag, treats in the office and a volunteer appreciation mixer where we have food, drinks, dessert, entertainment

Christmas time we mail them a Christmas card with a coffee voucher to the Starbucks in our hospital

  • "We usually only give specific gifts to a volunteer if they’ve hit the 10 year mark. We do not currently do anything for number of hours completed.”
  • “We do a volunteer membership after 30 hours. Everyone gets invited to our volunteer banquet. We do pins for years of service and the presidential volunteerism award for over one hundred hours. We also give opportunities to get a free biplane ride. ( I work for a transportation museum)”
  • Free t-shirt, volunteer of the month award, new volunteer award, and recognition of volunteers who achieve something outside of the organization is a fun way to include volunteers into the program. 
  • “For our medical center, volunteers get unlimited free coffee/tea in the cafeteria with their badge, along with the standard employee discount off food. Many hospitals offer a meal voucher after "x" hours in one day, which I would love to do in the future. We do an annual recognition luncheon at a local country club and give pins for hours and years of service. Certain levels also include a nicer award such as a crystal engraved clock, etc. We try and do other smaller things throughout the year such as raffles and giveaways.”
  • Volunteer benefits can be given based on the hours a volunteer works, how long they have been a volunteer, how many events they have completed, or just outstanding achievements! It is important to look into a time-tracking software that can easily track milestones/requirements so that this is an automated process for the volunteer coordinator. 

Resources for Volunteer Benefits and Awards

  1. Milestones in Time-tracking software 
  2. Motivational Volunteering
  3. Volunteer Recognition and Time Tracking  


Articles to Read Next:

  1. The Importance of Volunteer Orientation and Info Sessions 
  2. The Ultimate Guide to Setting Up Virtual Volunteering in Your Organization
  3. Pasadena Educational Foundation Uses Track It Forward Amidst The Pandemic