A few months ago, I bought a car. I sat down at my computer, researched different models and searched inventory for a few days. When I found what I was looking for, I signed a contract and paid for it, and was promised it would show up in my driveway a couple of days later. All of this was possible without leaving my home, while sitting at my computer.
These days, more and more services are offered virtually. Everything from ordering groceries (or almost anything else) and finding a date, to telemedicine can happen online. Even those of us who didn’t grow up with internet technology love the convenience, expediency and the seemingly limitless choices that are available by going online.
The nonprofit sector is no different.
I am the Chief Programs Officer for national nonprofit Hire Heroes USA. Our organization provides employment services to empower veterans and military spouses to find quality employment, and we do it virtually. Last year, we helped more than 6,300 clients find jobs through phone calls, texts and online interaction. With so much of the employment-seeking process taking place online – from applications to online networking – our virtual service delivery complements the virtual skillset a modern-day job seeker must have to succeed.
We are not unique in this. One of our partner organizations, The Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University, uses online classes to help veterans throughout the country gain certifications to enhance their competitiveness. Virtual service delivery greatly enhances accessibility for clients, while also cutting costs.
I often get questions from curious parties or skeptics about the effectiveness of virtual service delivery. “How effective can you be if you’re not working with clients in person?” they ask. As a nonprofit, we exist to provide high-quality services to a demographic in need. That essential function and mission doesn’t change. In fact, we find that by keeping regular contact via phone and email with our clients, we’re able to assist many more individuals than if we only helped them in person. In addition to that, virtual service delivery expands our reach, since each one of our Transition Specialists can help a veteran regardless of where they are – whether that’s Michigan, Georgia, Hawaii, or another location around the world.
The virtual model doesn’t work for all organizations. But the notion that nonprofits which offer virtual service delivery are somehow undercutting clients by not interacting with them face-to-face, is one that I would like to put to rest. In today’s environment, a nonprofit needs to prove it can make an impact on the communities it serves, while using donor money as efficiently as possible.
During the lifetime of our organization, Hire Heroes USA has confirmed over 15,000 individuals hired into quality jobs, and our cost per hire is currently under $1,200 a client. We wouldn’t be able to accomplish those remarkable numbers without virtual service delivery.
Instead of asking why we offer our services virtually, my question is: Why not? Why not do everything we can to make sure as many clients as possible are receiving the high-quality help they need?
Written by Hire Heroes USA Chief Programs Officer Christopher Plamp.