As we heard from our campaign partners last year, there was an uptick in interest around virtual volunteering opportunities. This change was in large part due to COVID-19 – employees found themselves working from home and missing the opportunity to give back on local, national and international levels with their team members.

While many charities excelled in offering group and individual in-person volunteer projects pre-pandemic, converting these to virtual opportunities in order to meet demand was a challenge. And it showed – in 2020, volunteer hours decreased by 20% year-over-year. However, this challenge also presented an opportunity for charities and companies to reimagine their volunteering efforts and pivot to an environment where they could engage employees all over the world virtually.

Leveraging skills-based volunteering 
There are many different ways to volunteer virtually, but one model that lends itself to this format is skills-based volunteering.

Through this method, a company’s individual employees or teams can put their professional skills and talents to use by addressing an issue or project with a charity, thus strengthening both the employees’ professional development and the charity’s capacity and outreach – a win-win. While skills-based volunteering has been around for decades, many charities and companies struggle with the time, sustainability and resources to implement. In order to navigate this roadblock, many organizations such as Common Impact, Taproot Foundation and Venture2Impact offer to serve as intermediaries and address the components needed to create these high-impact projects.

So what does this look like in practice? Building off these challenges and their volunteer program strengths, ChildFund International, a global child protection and development organization that currently works in 24 countries with more than 11 million children and family members, decided to expand their volunteer outreach and offer the opportunity for their corporate partners to support program initiatives.

Working alongside Venture2Impact, an organization specializing in matching corporate volunteers to nonprofits and the global communities they serve, they developed a skills-based volunteering initiative to address ChildFund Uganda’s challenge: Serving 29,000 children with wellbeing programs and community partners while getting real-time data to make informed evidence-based decisions quickly.

Video call with six people.

Creating the Virtual Volunteer Hackathon
As part of the discovery process, ChildFund Uganda and Venture2Impact met to review program needs, which led them to co-create a problem statement and a specific project plan that included an outline of goals, outcomes, outputs, inputs and activities. Additionally, specific roles and time commitment of volunteers helped shape the structure leading up to the meeting of ChildFund Uganda, Venture2Impact staff and corporate volunteers in a 2-day Hackathon.

The purpose of hackathons is to get together with individuals to work on creative solutions over a 24-hour period or a weekend. It goes beyond creating a marketing plan and involving just technology experts, but goes deep into a problem that a nonprofit can benefit from resources and expertise they normally do not have access to. In this particular case with ChildFund, the hackathon’s focus was on companies leveraging their employees’ expertise to give back and help solve a nonprofit or social impact challenge.

Here are some of the project goals, as outlined on the Venture2Impact website:

  • Co-create a real-time data management system and process for CF Uganda
  • Increase data collection and analyses efficiency and effectiveness
  • Increase evidence-based decision making
  • Increase CF Uganda’s programming responsiveness and ability to improve the well-being of children in Uganda

Although the results of the virtual Hackathon are still being fleshed out, other opportunities to support global program needs, such as digitizing program activities and website development, are already being explored in Indonesia and the Philippines.

“ChildFund’s corporate partnerships aim to go far beyond traditional philanthropy. By engaging corporations and their skilled employees in projects that help innovate and digitize our work, ChildFund is able to improve its capacity and expand our reach to even more children around the world. Different stakeholders coming together and exchanging expertise is critical for achieving ambitious global development goals.” – Christina Becherer, Director of Global Corporate Partnerships at ChildFund International

Thinking outside of the box
Over the last year, we’ve seen everything from virtual walks/runs for charity, to seed packing events, but skills-based volunteering stands out. It’s always been a way to give back without necessarily being somewhere physically – it’s perfectly suited to a remote environment.

Skills-based volunteering gives employers a unique chance to allow their employees to use their skills for good, learn new skills that could come in handy at work, and advance their social impact efforts. And there are so many different ways to get involved – the hackathon was just one option!

Want to get in on skills-based volunteering, or looking to work with ChildFund to help advance their initiatives? Reach out to us!