Last updated 29/05/2020
- Protecting the health and safety of staff and volunteers are the most important things to consider.
- Most Volunteer Involving Organisations (VIOs) suspended non-essential volunteering programs involving face-to-face contact from late March 2020.
- With the changes to restrictions from 18 May 2020 in Western Australia, many programs are now considering whether and how to safely remobilise volunteering programs and volunteers.
- This Volunteering WA resource provides information about Returning Volunteer Programs and Volunteers during COVID-19.
- It provides a six-step approach to evaluating your organisational capacity which may have been impacted by the pandemic, links to up to date information on what activities are permitted in WA, specific information on safety during COVID-19 including protocols if a volunteer suspects they have or is confirmed to have contracted COVID-19, actions to reconnect or recruit new volunteers and follow up to review progress and make any changes.
- Most formal volunteers are considered workers under work health and safety laws and as should be afforded the same considerations as paid employees.
- For more information for employers refer here.
- For more information on COVID-19 and safe work refer here.
- If you organisation is running programs and services involving volunteers, every measure should be taken to protect their health and safety.
- This includes sharing and reinforcing information provided by the Australian Government about hygience and social distancing.
- Look out for specific advice that might impact your area of service delivery, particularly as it relates to vulnerable members of our community including:
- People in aged care facilities
- People with chronic illnesses or who are immune-compromised
- People who are homeless
- Victims of family or domestic violence
- Those with disabilities
- Be prepared to continue to review these programs and adjust to Government directives, advice or changes in your organisation’s risk assessment.
Support self-care and communication for volunteers
- Ensure volunteers feel supported to make decisions in their best interests around whether to continue to volunteer or not.
- Keep volunteers informed about what is happening with regard to:
- Any changes to service delivery
- Any changes to communication channels (ie should they email queries if people are now working from home?)
- Ensure volunteer contact information is up to date.
- Did you know that Volunteering WA’s VIRA platform can be used to manage volunteer information? Find out more here.
- Set strict expectations on unwell volunteers
- Clearly communicate that it they are unwell they should stay home and seek medical attention if needed.
- Volunteers are used to helping others. But let them know its ok to ask for help if they need it.
Make sure your volunteering programs compliant with restrictions & consider changes to ways of working with volunteers
- The State Government has implemented a number of stages of restrictions in response to the pandemic to limit the risk of widespread community transmission.
- Latest changes came into effect from 18 May 2020 with relaxation on some restrictions, including the ability to now meet indoors and outdoors in groups of 20 or less. To find out more click here.
- For suspended volunteering opportunities:
- Communicate the decision clearly and promptly to volunteers.
- Let them know that you value their contribution and want to continue to work with them in the future.
- Ask them to contact you if they have any of your equipment that you may need/or they have personal property on your premises.
- Commit to increasing ongoing communications with them and let them know how you will do this, e.g. this could be a regular phone call or email.
- Be creative in recognising their contribution and how to keep them engaged until volunteering programs resume.
- Provide them a contact point to keep in touch and ensure their contact details are up to date.
- For a step by step guide on how to pause volunteer recruitment on the online Volunteering WA VIKTOR platform click here.
- Consider changes to your programs to improve service delivery, engage with volunteers or reduce costs that can be implemented.
- For example, we have learned that many training programs and meetings can be held online.
- Some organisations are reporting that they are getting better attendance at online meetings, which can also help to reduce the risk of community transmission.
- Supporting older volunteers to use digital technology can provide a benefit to them in the longer term.
- Consider online volunteering opportunities
- There are free online resources available for VIOs to develop online volunteering programs including the 'Tips on Optimising Virtual Volunteering' resource developed by Volunteering WA.
Review your contingencies and insurances
- Your organisation may have a business continuity plan for how it will operate if a significant proportion of staff or volunteers are unavailable or there are interruptions to key services (such as IT) or suppliers.
- It may provide guidance on how to manage this period of transition, back to full or partial operation, during COVID-19 restrictions.
- Or if you would like to develop one, here's a link to a template for a business continuity plan https://www.publications.qld.gov.au/dataset/business-continuity-planning-template
- Every insurance policy will have varying terms and conditions so you should check directly with your insurance company or broker.
- It is not recommended that volunteer-involving organisations place volunteer staff in roles that were previously held by paid staff or have been identified as paid jobs.
- For more information on managing employment issues in not-for-profits during COVID-19 crisis, refer here.
Take action to manage finances
The Federal Government has announced a range of financial measures to provide financial relief to the community and not-for-profit sector and their staff. They include:
- Australian Government “JobKeeper” payment of up to $1,500 per fortnight for not-for-profit organisations and staff. Note that the Government have amended the eligibility criteria for those NFPs experiencing a reduction in turnover of less than 15% (lower than criteria for business).
- Applications close on 31 May 2020
- Australian Government temporary relief from demands from creditors and for some bankruptcy or insolvency arrangements.
- The WA State Government has also announced a range of measure including:
- $25 million rent relief in Government-owned premises (state and GTEs) - 6 months rent relief – waiving feeds for lease holders.
- Moratorium on termination of lease for non-payment of rent for six-months for commercial tenancies suffering financial stress.
- Electricity bills for around 2,800 charities will be reduced, with a one-off $2,500 credit provided for groups on community service and charitable accommodation electricity tariffs with Synergy and Horizon Power. The credit will be allocated from May 1, 2020 to reduce current and future bills and is expected to provide an estimated $6.9 million in assistance. Find more information here.
- The WA State Government is also supporting funded organisations with two important measures:
- Funding certainty has been provided to community service providers, with government agencies to continue to pay contracts with the sector until at least June 30, 2020, even if providers are unable to deliver services due to impacts caused by COVID-19.
- The State Government, through Lotterywest, is also committing $159 million into a COVID-19 Relief Fund to respond to the hardship being experienced by the Western Australian community as a result the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund includes three major programs:
- Crisis & Emergency Relief
- Event Cancellation Relief for Arts, Sports and Community Groups
- Resilient Arts, Sports, Events and Community Groups
More details the program are listed here.
- Lotterywest has advised that:
- If an organisation has an existing funding agreement, to get in touch with them by visiting http://www.lotterywest.wa.gov.au/grants or by calling 133 777 to explore options to previously agreed activities, due dates or budget lines (to repurpose funds) or
- If you have an application with Lotterywest for funding, it may need to be withdrawn if it does not align with the objectives of the COVID-19 Relief Fund.
- The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission have provided a blanket extension to the filing of 2019 Annual Information Statements (and annual financial reports for some organisations) with due dates between 12 March 2020 and 30 August 2020 until 31 August 2020.
- The Commissioner for Consumer Protection in WA has also provided updated advice for incorporated associations and clubs. Applications can be made online to delay an AGM and fees have been waived. Find out more here.
- Talk to your bank if any special arrangements need to be put in place.
- Consider a recruitment freeze on any vacant positions.