4 Lessons Learned As We Take Volunteering Virtual

This blog was posted on behalf of Katelynn Loughrin, an intern with the Public Affairs group at Intel New Mexico. Katelynn is a native New Mexican and has lived only miles away from an Intel site her entire life. Passionate about Corporate Social Responsibility and the community, she joined the team in January 2020 and has since helped with the transition of Intel volunteerism from in person to online.

 

Volunteering happens here now – at home and on computers

Volunteering at Intel is a huge part of working for the company – at least it is for me. While I’ll admit it may technically be in my job description as an intern in the New Mexico Public Affairs Team to help drive volunteering opportunities for Intel employees, it doesn’t take away from how important giving back to our community is for myself and so many volunteers I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with.

At the New Mexico site, one of our most popular events, and one that makes some of our biggest impacts in our community, is our annual Back2School Backpack and School Supplies Drive. Usually, we host the event onsite and encourage employees to purchase backpacks and supplies in stores – something we couldn’t do this year with necessary coronavirus restrictions. So, as the start of the school year drew near, we knew we had to modify this annual event into something that was COVID-safe.

New Mexico Back2School Drive 2019

Thankfully, Rachael Hamer, Community Engagement Manager for MA and TX, found a solution in an organization that specializes in sourcing, creating, and shipping “kits” purchased online to organizations. For a month in the summer, we asked our New Mexico Intel volunteers to purchase one (or several!) backpacks with basic school supplies students need no matter where they’re learning. The backpacks would be shipped directly to the benefitting school district once the drive had ended, and the supplies would make it to students and families who needed them most. Understandably, we were unsure of how well-received this option would be – it was completely new and totally virtual! But we remained hopeful; Intel New Mexico volunteers have a history of showing up for our communities.

As it turns out, we had little to be concerned about. By the end of the drive, our New Mexico employees’ contributions led to a donation of over 110 backpacks filled with standard school supplies for the district, roughly matching our donation from last year – a major success!

As the year has progressed, we’ve adopted virtual opportunities like this one and have hosted new events as well. Despite our successes, our volunteer events have not always gone the way we expected or planned. I think I can safely say that, in the past few months, we’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons. Here are some of our main takeaways in taking volunteering virtual:

  1. Keep in touch with key stakeholders. These days, maintaining contact with stakeholders has never been more vital. If you haven’t already, check in with nonprofits, schools, and your volunteers to understand what and how they are doing – keep these relationships going and make sure to prioritize them.
  2. Ensure your volunteers and company are making large, lasting, and helpful impacts. The first step in doing so is simply asking what the needs are in your communities and what your volunteers can do. This will save time and effort, and you will know you made the biggest and best impacts possible just simply through listening to stakeholders’ needs and planning with them in mind.
  3. Be innovative – adapting events to be virtual might be easier than you think. Sometimes, even doing a simple internet search can lead you to an organization that does exactly what you’re looking for.
  4. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Doing so might just work out in the best way, and if it doesn’t, you’ll likely learn something valuable. I know we have.

 

New Mexico intern volunteer event, 2020

While figuring out what worked best for our New Mexico employees in the past few months, we’ve provided other virtual, socially distanced volunteer opportunities – and many have been eager to get involved. Working with Rio Rancho Public Schools, I ran a virtual event for other New Mexico interns to make an impact with local students while school was out for summer break. In early July, Public Affairs interns from across the United States came together to create a 2020 U.S. Summer Intern Program Giveback Week with over 100 participants, benefitting the Red Cross. And just a few weeks ago, one of our New Mexico volunteer champions organized a socially-distanced animal food and cleaning items drive for on-site employees to help a local shelter.

How we give back to the community has certainly changed, at least for a while. I hope our learnings help you in the journey of finding what volunteering looks like for you and your volunteers. If these experiences have proven one thing for sure, it’s that volunteers are ready and willing to give back to their communities in need. Give them an avenue to give, and they will certainly do something wonderful.