Pandemic Recovery Volunteering Trends

The COVID-19 pandemic greatly disrupted numerous aspects of daily life, and included in that was the ability to volunteer. As organizations resume operations and volunteer events at increased capacities, important trends are emerging that nonprofits should be cognizant of to maximize their recovery efforts.  

  1. Overall: organized volunteering that dropped 93% has now rebounded ~50%
  • The impact of COVID on nonprofit agencies has resulted in both reduced resources, as well as reduced capacities. Although organized volunteering has started going back to normal, many places are still operating with fewer resources, compared to pre COVID-19 times. Yet, most volunteers see volunteering as an important post pandemic activity.
  1. Increased Commitment: 73% say volunteering is more important after the pandemic

  1. Types of involvement: A Shift towards mutual aid and activism
  • With the rise of numerous online mediums, the use of digital platforms to find volunteers is a smart strategy for engaging potential users. The results of micro-volunteering have become much bigger, as thousands of people continue to take part in signing petitions, donating, joining and following organizations on social media, and sharing their time and resources across digital platforms. Converting active volunteers into donors has allowed organizations to receive contributions throughout the pandemic, when folks did not have the same capacity to actively engage in the communities.  
  • Volunteers are also demanding more short-term projects and flexibility, a trend that has been heightened by the impacts of the pandemic. The need for micro-volunteering has grown exponentially as many face unpredictable lifestyles, and therefore must make the appropriate adjustments.
  1. Corporate: 36% of CSR professionals still searching for the new normal
  • Many corporate social responsibility professionals are still searching for what they want to do with volunteerism. There is an increased opportunity to educate and partner with companies that promote civic engagement, as social responsibility is a top priority for many industry leaders and consumers. 
  1. Donors: K-shaped recovery further bi-furcates donor capacity
  • The K-shaped recovery refers to the divergent distributions of wealth during the recovery from the economic crisis that resulted due to the coronavirus. The gap between the upper class and lower class widened further and further apart, as white collar jobs such as those in tech were less affected than blue-collar, labor intensive jobs. This lopsided impact of the pandemic also resulted in a divergence in donor capacity in 2020, including trends like women giving significantly less given the ramifications of Covid-19 on the economy. From the donor side, micro-donations and peer-to-peer campaigns can be meaningful for both organizations and those looking to get involved. As we explored in our piece on the K-Shaped recovery of the economy, adjusting the level of donation ask is important. A helpful tip would be to engage donors as volunteers, so even if their giving capacity has been affected, they are still able to make an impact through the gift of time and energy

  1. Your organization & volunteers have changed
  • Do not force your organization to go back to the way it was before, if it poses more difficulties than rewards. Frequently talk to your volunteers, to make sure they are on the same page. 
  1. Reassure your volunteers, consider micro-volunteering, and focus on needed skillsets 
  • There are many other options that organizations can turn to, if people are feeling uncomfortable resuming activities as usual due to safety concerns, time constraints, or income worries. Also, make sure that the tasks you are giving volunteers are aligned with their skill sets, or allow them to cultivate new strengths. Focus on the fact that volunteers are oriented toward personal fulfillment to bolster retention, engagement and loyalty. 
  1. Opportunity to lock-in habits with Gen Z
  • Stay up-to-date of the trends of this generation, and engage where they are. 
  • Organizations should focus on building multi-age volunteer communities that foster spaces for a mix of all generations to volunteer collectively. 
  • Younger generations are more technologically-inclined, so creating media campaigns and content appeals to a Gen Z audience could be an effective way to activate new, young volunteers. 
  1. Companies are looking for guidance
  • Reach out to different companies that are looking to improve their corporate social responsibility, and help them help you. 
  • Take advantage of the fact that companies are more inclined toward social impact than ever before and the fact that consumers are interested in holding the for-profit sector accountable for their statements and values. 
  1. Leverage volunteering to engage and broaden your donor pool
  • Volunteering should be used to both engage donors and broaden the donor base. Because of the K-shaped recovery, adjustments may need to be made here. 

Steps for relaunching your volunteer program

Below are steps that organizations can use as a foundation to relaunch their programs. These questions can be utilized as a guide for making sure needs are met and operations are effective and efficient. 

  1. Reassess your needs & capacity 
  • What are your organization’s core services and capacity? Where can volunteers help most? 
  • What skill set specific needs does your organization have and how can they be converted into volunteer opportunities? How can you create a program that harnesses the power of young volunteers that identify as Generation Z?
  1. Talk to your volunteers 
  • What interests your volunteers today? What concerns do they have? Do/did they like new forms of volunteering? 
  1. Legal and safety 
  • What new legal documents do you need (e.g., waivers)?
  • What policies and physical space changes do you need to make?
  1. Clear communications & expectations
  • What has changed from before and why? Do you need new training and onboarding? What is the impact of the volunteering work? 
  • Sharing the impact of volunteer service is key to volunteer engagement- it may be time to spend more time and energy on digital recruiting. 

Civic Champs' Mission is to deliver the most intuitive and impactful volunteer management and engagement software for nonprofits and their champions

About the Author:
Theresa Wu