Looking Through the Window: Engaging Volunteers during “Shelter at Home”

Written By Jean Blackwell Font
April 7, 2020 at 8:33 AM

As Manager of Volunteers and Internships for the Adrienne Arsht Center, a few weeks ago, my team was trying to make sure we had enough volunteers to staff a sold-out, 4-week run of “Hamilton” performances. Now we are facing an unprecedented challenge: how do we keep our volunteers engaged while at home?

Volunteering for many people is very social and often a way for them to connect with other people who share passion about the same cause. Having to social distance can be a huge setback for the lifestyles of some of our top participants. I have talked to several of our group this week and what I am hearing most is “I miss seeing my Arsht” family”.

So let’s put on our thinking caps to get creative with how to engage volunteers while the “shelter at home” mandate is in place for the next weeks or months:

  1. Connect, Connect, Connect – The Arsht Center started a private Facebook page literally with the word “connect” in the title and invited our volunteers to join. We encourage them to post pictures, and fun and lighthearted memes and videos
  1. Weekly remote check ins – Each week at a set day and time, we invite everyone to join in on a virtual meeting on zoom and check in with the team. Invite your CEO or some of your artists to say a little something to remind them just how important they are to the organization.
  1. Ask the volunteers how they can help from home and to share their ideas. This one is huge! Your volunteers may have secret talents that you had no idea of! They may be able to provide an idea that could change the organization, even remotely! You never know until you ask.
  1. Remote work – Volunteers can be very helpful during this time with:
    1. Webpage review – Making sure the organization’s web pages are all up and running smoothly with correct information.
    2. Research – Have volunteers search for information that can be helpful to your organization.
    3. Writing – Does your organization put out a newsletter and you need content? Ask your volunteers to write articles based on their current and/or previous professions/expertise as content for the newsletter.
  1. Remote Trainings – Keep volunteers engaged by offering virtual trainings. It can be a good way to keep their skills fresh and even learn new ones.
  1. Virtual Happy Hours – have an online social hour for your volunteers to see each other and connect. If your organization has volunteers that work together on the same day every week or month they are missing each other. Set up small group social hours for them to catch up with their volunteer friends.
  1. Start a Book Club – Research books that are edifying and match the mission and vision of your organization and encourage volunteers to read. Then schedule a virtual meeting to have a discussion about what they read and how it applies to the mission and vision of the organization.

If you are a fellow manager of volunteers and/or interns in any capacity, you are not in this alone! There are many volunteer and internship manager private Facebook groups where managers and coordinators share ideas give each other support. Be sure to check them out.

You can sign up for mine! I launched The Underestimated Workforce Private Facebook Group for Volunteer and Internship Managers.

We are in this together. We are stronger together.


Nicole is a Panamanian-American, single mother, workforce development specialist, dancer, motivational speaker and published author of Game On! Relentlessly Pursue Your Dreams,   Her experience in sports and entertainment, radio, TV and the performing arts has spanned nearly 20 years she has prepared more than 500 interns to enter the workforce. In addition, she has inspired crowds upwards of 2000 regarding how to truly integrate volunteers and interns into your organization.  In March of 2019 she was listed as one of WLRN’s “Local Women Who Inspire You” . In November 2019 she was selected as one of Legacy Miami’s MOST PROMINENT AND INFLUENTIAL BLACK WOMEN IN BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY OF 2019 and has recently becoming a contributing writer for The Life of a Single Mom.

Connect on:

Instagram at @theunderestimatedworkforce

Facebook  Page @theunderestimatedworkorce

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