As part of our ongoing series of Case Studies, VQ Volunteer Strategies is sharing a story from WomenOnCall, a unique, online network created to connect professional women with meaningful causes and skills-based volunteer opportunities in the Chicago area. We at VQ Volunteer Strategies have known Erin Beauprez for years, as she has worked as a volunteer director in Colorado and beyond. This is her story of finding a way to share her skills and experience as a volunteer – and to do so remotely. Thanks to WomenOnCall for allowing us to reprint excerpts from Erin’s story.
Erin Beauprez has been volunteering in some capacity since she was about 10 years old. “It’s just part of who I am,” she explains simply.
Erin turned her early interest into a lifetime career. Today, she is a training specialist for a medium-sized, faith-based nonprofit in Michigan, where she and her family relocated two years ago. Before taking on her current job, she was struggling to find her path. “I had gone from working full time outside of the home to being a stay-at-home mom. I still wanted to use my skill sets and help organizations, but I thought: Now, how can I do that?” While scanning an online networking group, Erin came across a post for WomenOnCall. “It captured my attention. We had just moved, and I was looking into things that I could do remotely. I didn’t want to be limited to only projects in Michigan. This seemed like a great fit.”
Now, a year into her full-time job, Erin continues volunteering remotely through WomenOnCall. “Volunteering is extremely important to me. But with work, kids, activities and the pressures of daily life, it can be challenging to fit it in. WomenOnCall has made it easy for me. I get to see the opportunities that match my skills and interests. If I’m too busy, I can graciously decline. Or, when I do have time, I can accept the invitation and learn more about the project.”
Erin’s most recent project was helping DuPage Children’s Museum (DCM) revise volunteer training materials to clearly communicate the expectations and requirements of DCM volunteers. “I reviewed their volunteer handbook and the volunteer orientation materials, looking at them from the perspective of how to make them clearer for the volunteer while effectively communicating key risk management issues.”
The entire project was handled via email, and Erin had a few weeks to provide her input—plenty of time to work within her busy schedule. “My contact at DCM prepared well for our phone calls, so I felt like my time was used wisely. To have nonprofits that are organized like that and to have the materials ready is a win-win. It makes it a good experience for everyone.”
Of her overall experience with DCM and WomenOnCall, Erin says: “It was efficient, accessible and made me feel like I was really able to give, even during a period in my life when time was extremely limited.”
Here are a few things to consider when engaging and supporting volunteers remotely. Remember, supporting virtual volunteers (those who work remotely) is similar to supporting volunteers who show up at your offices or programs – it simply takes a bit more intention because you may not see them every day! Before engaging a volunteer virtually, consider the following questions and discuss them with the volunteer, as well:
- What is the scope of the project and what will success look like?
- Is the volunteer qualified to do the job and/or can we train the volunteer to be successful?
- What resources will the volunteer need? (e.g., access to documents, special software, information, other?)
- How will we check in on progress? Who is available to answer questions or help the volunteer troubleshoot?
- Is the volunteer part of a team? If so, how can we build and strengthen the team through virtual meetings and activities?
- How will we measure the outcomes of this work and with whom will we share these results? How will we show our appreciation to the volunteer?
As always, we recommend starting small – with just one or two discrete projects. Once complete, evaluate how the process worked and build from there. Be sure to check out WomenOnCall as well to learn more.