Supporting Communities in the Time of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Volunteer health guide

Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has changed, and will continue to change, how we are supporting communities. Calls for physical distancing (sometimes referred to as social distancing) remind us how connected our actions are to the lives of everyone around us. Communities have rallied to provide care for those who are vulnerable or whose livelihoods are precarious in the face of changing suggestions and legislation. We know that we are sick together and well together. Our actions shape our communities’ health, in the most literal sense of the word. 

Many direct service organizations, businesses, and higher education institutions work with populations particularly vulnerable to coronavirus, which makes it extremely important that we all find ways to keep our communities together and cared for while also being careful not to spread illness. We’ve been working to gather resources, processes, requirements, and tools to help our partners — institutions, nonprofits, volunteers, and communities — find the best paths forward for supporting communities.

We are actively seeking input from our partners to ensure that we are making changes that best reflect the pressure points for these organizations and institutions. Please fill out our surveys for both higher education and community organization partners to help us make changes to our platform that will support you at this time, and email our Emergency Response Team at or schedule a call if you have any additional suggestions, questions, or concerns.  

We will update this blog over the coming days and weeks and keep you informed on social media and through support articles as we make changes to our platform in order to best continue supporting communities at this time. Below are highlights of how community engaged teaching, nonprofit work, and volunteering are changing in light of COVID-19, as well as further resources for you to dig into. If we’ve missed a resource, feel free to send it to us through our support channel and we will add it to the list.

We know that many institutions and organizations are engaged in conversations like this, and that information is changing quickly. We hope that we can be a hub for disseminating this information widely in order to ensure that the work of our incredible volunteers and partners can continue as our understanding of this virus and its impacts continues to grow.

Community Engaged Teaching 

Engagement with partners is a core aspect of any engaged pedagogy for supporting communities. With both universities and nonprofits shifting away from face-to-face interactions, this engagement will have to shift accordingly. Here are some of the crucial steps to take in addressing these changes: 

  • If you have not done so yet, contact your community partners and learn how to best support them. Many are no longer doing any face-to-face service; however, some still are, in which case students leaving campus might create a sudden burden through lack of volunteers. 
  • Determine the best path for moving community based teaching online (see resources below from our partners for some excellent suggestions). 
  • Come up with alternative ways to have students volunteer. Ask your community partners if your students can help with research, content creation, or virtual forms of connection, or if there is any other form of virtual volunteering that they can help with. Keep an eye out for updates from GivePulse about how we are working on our platform to best support virtual volunteering at this time. 
  • Use this as an opportunity to dive deeply into student reflections. You may not be able to track hours, but you can active your group wall and encourage students to discuss their experiences so far and their feelings at this time, getting a robust sense of how engagement has impacted their semesters thus far. This feedback will help you develop contingency plans now and plan for direct service going forward, and will also offer students an opportunity to engage with their community based learning in a different but still useful way. 
  • Work with us to integrate with your current Learning Management System. Be it Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard or some other variant, let us know; there are currently a few different mechanisms to facilitate the integration. If it’s too soon for the spring semester, we can help gear you all up for the fall semester.

Below are resources that offer further support and ideas: 

  • The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning at Indiana University Bloomington have come out with resources for community engaged teaching at this time. In this blog, they also talk about how to utilize the concept of Retrieval Practice (recalling information when it is not in front of you) as an aspect of this online learning. 
  • Iowa Campus Compact has put together a guide based on communications with other Campus Compact schools to help engaged campuses at this time. Going forward, Iowa & Minnesota Campus Compact will host a weekly virtual discussion on this topic every Friday at 2:30 pm central, which you can register for here. Campus Compact has also created an extensive resources list for institutions in this time. 
  • Vanderbilt University’s teaching in a time of crisis article helps guide those who are teaching online courses. They recommend providing resources and guidance to students in this time, and acknowledging the mental stress that students are under. Inside Higher Ed also has helpful suggestions for creating community in a time of crisis. 
  • This one-hour video by the Bonner Foundation offers helpful tips and suggestions for teaching an online social action course. From planning, establishing community norms, and creating an online community to structuring and evaluating, this video offers step-by-step and thorough information to help move teaching online. 

Brands, Businesses and Member Organizations

Corporations that regularly engage with their communities will need to move away from a focus on direct service. Corporations should now focus predominately on pro-bono skills and project-based endeavors, as well as donations and corporate matching campaigns: 

  • If you have not done so yet, contact your community partners and learn how to best support them.
  • Consider how your products, skills, or services might benefit those in your community (see resources below for some ideas). Offer up these services pro-bono in order to alleviate newfound burdens due to COVID-19. 
  • Encourage donations — now might be an excellent time to engage in a corporate matching campaign, particularly to organizations that are directly involved with the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • Use this as an opportunity to learn more about the causes that team members value most. You may not be able to track hours, but you can active your group wall and encourage robust discussion, learning more about how to encourage corporate giving moving forward. 
  • If your employees are able to work from home, encourage them to do so. If not, work to create a hygienic space, keeping surfaces clean, offering antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and maintaining six feet of distance between any two individuals within this space.

Below are resources that offer further support and ideas: 

  • The US Chamber of Commerce Corporate Aid form tracks private sector giving; submit your information to benefit other corporations, and look to see what other corporations have been offering at this time. 
  • This Google Doc tracks ways in which corporations have been working to alleviate the burdens on communities at this time (for example, Zoom is offering K-12 schools videoconferencing tools for free) — check to get ideas for your own business, and include any actions that you have taken so that organizations can reach out and benefit from your generosity. 

Nonprofit Managemen

Nonprofits will have to decide how best to continue supporting communities and vulnerable groups in the weeks and months ahead. Some will be able to move away entirely from face-to-face engagement; others may find such engagement even more crucial at this time. In either case, we hope that the below suggestions will be helpful. 

  • For organizations that require the help of volunteers in person, work to create a hygienic space, keeping surfaces clean, offering antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and maintaining six feet of distance between any two individuals within this space.
  • Ask that any volunteers avoid engaging if they may be sick. Add registration questions and pop-up banners highlighting the steps volunteers need to take before engaging with the organization’s communities when physically present. Below is an example template of questions as requirements asked by  Mile High United Way on their GivePulse events

Wondering if you should register to volunteer. Based on the CDPHE and the CDC, we are asking you the following questions. 

  1. Have you or someone in your household traveled to a country on the CDC’s Level 3 watch list in the last 30 days? At this time, these include China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. These may change. See the CDC’s guidelines for the most up-to-date list. 
  2. Have you been exposed to someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19? See the CDC’s risk assessment guidance
  3. Do you have symptoms consistent with COVID-19? Symptoms can include a fever, cough or shortness of breath. See the CDC’s symptom information
  • Share the Volunteer Health Guide graphic above with your volunteers to help them to practice safe measures when volunteering.
  • For organizations working with vulnerable populations who may have considered or decided to stop all in person direct service, we can help facilitate shifts to digital work (or opportunities to be completed remotely) for supporting communities from a distance. Some online and remote efforts that volunteers can help with include tutoring virtually via webinars and conference applications or helping with creation of educational videos that can be shared in lieu of in-person mentoring, virtually connecting with vulnerable populations who may be lonely or anxious, donating in-kind supplies and money, and more. 
  • Nonprofits and Directors of Volunteers should update their liability and release forms, ensuring that volunteers know their rights when volunteering and the risks associated at this time. 
  • Start fundraising campaigns and enable donations on your GivePulse page, and publicize these as an alternative to direct service. Volunteers who are looking for ways to help may be able to donate money in lieu of time.  

Below are resources that offer further support and ideas: 

  • The CDC has offered resources for community based organizations. 
  • The National Council of Nonprofits has created a guide to how your nonprofit can plan and organize at this time. 
  • The New York Council of Nonprofits has created an article informing nonprofits about how COVID-19 might impact nonprofit insurance.
  • The Center for Nonprofit Studies at Austin Community College has compiled a list of of resources for nonprofits.


For many individuals, volunteering is the best way of supporting communities. Yet at this time, this has been severely interrupted. Some volunteers may be quarantined, isolated, or practicing physical distancing; others may hope to continue face-to-face service, but are unsure of the best way to do so given constraints on organizations. We hope that the below may help you to make decisions that will allow you to continue your engagement and support your community at this time:

  • Make sure that you are healthy before volunteering. If you or someone you know has traveled to a country on the CDC’s Level 3 watch list, if you have come into contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19, or if you are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 (such as fever, dry cough, or shortness of breath), you should not volunteer. Keeping those around you safe is the most essential component of supporting communities in these times.
  • If you are going to volunteer face-to-face, maintain six feet of distance between you and any other people you come into contact with if at all possible, wipe down surfaces with disinfectant wipes if you can, and wash your hands often. See the above Volunteer Health Guide graphic for more information.
  • If you do not believe you should engage in face-to-face volunteering, look for virtual opportunities. Contact your local partners and ask if you can help them with organizing fundraising campaigns, help to create content, or perhaps even connect virtually with those they assist. 
  • Donate money and in-kind supplies to organizations. Food banks have been hit particularly hard at this time. Use GivePulse to search for your local food banks and contact their admins to see what you might be able to provide.

Moving Forward

We at GivePulse pledge to continue to work alongside you in supporting communities across the country. Over the upcoming weeks, we are working to create designations for COVID-19 related opportunities and virtual opportunities and to identify resource gaps, as well as learning how to best support our partners in other ways. If you have been sent our higher education or community organization surveys, please fill them out when you have the chance. We will be using this to inform our changes, and will also be highlighting the data gathered in upcoming blog posts and social media campaigns. 

We will continue to update this post and our related support articles. Again, you are always welcome to schedule a call with our success team. Please let us know how we can best support you at this time. We are grateful to be part of this community.

To learn more about how GivePulse can help you make a difference in your community, schedule a call.