b'BACK TO NAVIGATIONOnly twenty-eight percent of firms with volunteering programs said they monitored the levels of staff participation, but a further fifty-six percent said they were currently developing systems for future reporting. The average participation rate reduced from forty-one percent to thirty-seven percent which is an expected result given the impacts of COVID restrictions on volunteer opportunities. Challenges and Opportunities Volunteer programs always benefit from significant and consistent commitment by firms through strong connections to selected programs. More than ever community service organisations lack skilled workers and financial means to build their existing volunteer base and engage effectively with corporate organisations. Thirty percent of organisations were unable to engage their optimal number of volunteers because there were not enough suitable candidates, or the organisation was unable to locate them. It is tragic juxtaposition that while COVID produces an explosion in the demand for health, economic and social support from the most vulnerable in the community, the ability of volunteers to respond is being reduced drastically. The unmet gap cannot be filled with a business as usual approach to how we volunteer. Firms should not just wait for the crisis to abate before restarting their existing programs.Adjustments to volunteering roles may include:engaging with organisations that firms have a relationship or alignment with to assess their developing needsengage with Emergency Volunteering platforms that provide a coordinated referral service to match volunteer community organisationswork with partners and service providers to innovate new options to delivering volunteer servicestrain and equip volunteers in COVID safe working including virtual volunteeringmaintain engagement with volunteers in your firm to respect the strong social connections and return to pre-pandemic or new normal operations. volunteering Australia is urging all Volunteer Involving Organisations to prepare further for how COVID-19 will disrupt operations including updating or creating a business continuity plan. Several resources are available to help organisations undertake this planning. Visit your State or Territory volunteering peak body for further information andrelaxing and service or contractual obligations related to NGOsThe growth of the community partnerships model applies volunteering activities in a strategic way that makes commitments and investments based on the needs of organisations and to achieve agreed objectives.This approach can provide a greater opportunity to focus a more agile and responsive way to deliver programs and activities to meet the challengers of COVID.Firms may also need to review their risk assessments and mitigate any new or heightened risks posed by COVID-19. This should include an assessment of how volunteer insurance is impacted by the new conditions and the various state of emergency declarations.While firms pivot and respond to rapidly emerging needs, they need to continue their work on the foundations of their programs. The investment in non-legal volunteering programs or initiatives at individual law firms involve significant time and financial costs. Established systems are in place to record and reward lawyer time provided on pro-bono legal matters, however, systems to record non-legal volunteering time and recognise their contribution are rare. Improved monitoring and evaluation systems will assist the firms to understand and tell the story of the benefits that come from this investment. Volunteering is an act of freewill and so firms also need to find and promote opportunities that are attractive and varied and allow volunteers to follow specific interests or causes where they personally value the difference they make. PARTICIPATION MONITORED%Yes 26% No 22%Currently in Development 52%43'