As nonprofits look to adapt and stay nimble throughout pandemic recovery, applicable trends within volunteering can help them build and strengthen their volunteer programs. Read on for data-backed insights into what volunteers are keeping top of mind in 2022 and what to focus on as you look to cultivate, maintain, and engage a powerful volunteer community at your organization. In this article we will take you through the following 4 trends: 

  1. Donations are at and above pre-pandemic levels while volunteerism is harder to track.
  2. Pandemic safety and protocol are still top of mind for volunteers.
  3. Volunteers and prospective volunteers want to know more about an organization’s cause and how their work can make an impact.
  4. Digital Donation methods are on the rise and in demand.

Overall, donations are exceeding, or at the very least reaching, pre-pandemic levels, while volunteerism is more difficult to track.

Recent polls from Gallup and CivicScience report that donations are on the upswing. 81% of Gallup respondents donated money to charitable organizations in 2021, an 8% increase from the year prior. This is in line with donation levels in 2013 and 2017, pre-pandemic, and supports previously-surveyed Americans’ intentions to maintain or increase their amount of donation in the near future.

CivicScience finds a favorable look on donations, as well. Reporting on Q2 of 2022, researchers found that donations are increasing compared to one year ago. The most common area for donating is humanitarian aid, with 64% of U.S. adults donating to health and human service non-profits yearly, an almost 10% increase from 2021. Additionally, almost twice as many respondents are donating at grocery checkouts compared to this time than one year ago.

All in all, giving seems to be heading in a positive direction. Indeed, GivingUSA predicts that philanthropy will grow in 2022, in line with the strength of the 2021 stock market and the significant success of GivingTuesday 202 (a record-setting $2.7 billion was donated in the U.S. to nonprofits and community organizations). Volunteerism, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to track.

Gallup reports that volunteering is below pre-pandemic levels, at 56% of Americans reporting participation in volunteer activities. This is similar to levels faced during the Great Recession, over 10 years ago. On the flip side, CivicScience, finding similar levels of volunteerism in their respondents (49%), reports that volunteerism is actually exceeding pre-pandemic levels. In fact, 26% of their respondents say they volunteer every month or more.

That, with similar percentages, Gallup and Civic Science make different conclusions about the trend of volunteerism pre-pandemic and currently indicates that the pre-pandemic volunteerism statistics are different for each source. As such, it is difficult to see exactly how the state of volunteering states today as opposed to two years ago. It is safe to say, however, that around half of U.S. adults are participating in volunteer activities at this point in time. There is a hope that this will increase: 36% of those surveyed in the latest Points of Light report plan to volunteer more than before the pandemic, with 24% saying that volunteering is more important now than ever. 

Takeaway: It is difficult to compare current levels of volunteerism to those pre-pandemic, as there are varying pre-pandemic statistics, but higher levels of charity and notable intentions to volunteer more give a bright outlook for nonprofits and their volunteer programs.

The pandemic is still top-of-mind.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a likely reason that volunteerism is not as high as it could be. According to Points of Light, the foremost reason for lack of social issue involvement was discomfort around those who may not be vaccinated against COVID-19. Another top reason was the inability to financially support causes because of the pandemic.

At the same time, CivicScience has noticed that the recent rise in mutual aid is significantly led by people in households that have had COVID-19. Points of Light respondents consistently ranked COVID-19 as a top cause of interest for civic engagement and action. This is especially true for millennials, as 36% rank it as their top social issue.

Takeaway: Nonprofits need to recognize that the pandemic is still a point of concern for many of their volunteers. They should be open about their health and sanitation practices, as well as any vaccination requirements, to help volunteers feel safe and anxiety free as they  attend events. Furthermore, when it comes to volunteer and fundraising campaigns, messaging, and marketing strategies, connecting the cause to the pandemic could be a strong motivator for people to engage as Covid-19 is a universally relevant social issue. 

People want to know an organization’s cause and how their work can make an impact.

Individuals increasingly want to know about the cause they are supporting. According to this Points of Light report on Global Civic Engagement, 46% of respondents believe the most critical action to support a cause post-pandemic is to learn more about it. Almost half had done such an action within the last 30 days.

26% of respondents believe it is “more important than ever to listen to and learn different perspectives that educate, challenge and better prepare [them] to take action in [their] community.” In their millennial-specific report, Points of Light reported that millennials spend the highest amount of their civic action time learning about social issues of interest. Education is a major driver in cause participation especially in the information age. 

When it comes to charity, donors want to know that their giving is creating an impact. In Classy’s latest report, the #1 factor donors say makes their experience superb is a nonprofit clearly outlining their donation’s impact. Relatedly, the #1 reason that they think twice about donating is not understanding the impact. Such findings reiterate the importance of having donors interact with the change that they make, a concept that is well-explained in Elizabeth Dunn’s popular 2019 Ted Talk.

Takeaway: Nonprofit managers must prioritize communicating the importance of their cause and the effect that a person’s time or donation may have. Using storytelling and reporting to rally support are skills many nonprofits already want to grow, and data from the last year tells us that volunteers and donors would respond well.

Digital donation methods are on the rise and in demand.

The last two years of the pandemic have undoubtedly turned much of nonprofits’ operations digital. According to a CAF America global nonprofit report, fundraising is not immune to this modernization, with about 60% of responding nonprofits saying that they are efficiently using digital technology for fundraising. Further, when asked where they would want support or advice, around 74% of nonprofits said digital fundraising, and 31% listed their new fundraising strategies and campaigns as one of their successful innovations since the beginning of the pandemic.

On the donor side, having a diverse set of payment options, including digital payment, is important. Classy reports that PayPal and Venmo are the top means of donating across age groups. 72% of those surveyed said they would donate through those platforms or through cryptocurrency, if those options were available.

PayPal and Venmo are the top means of donating across age groups

Though cryptocurrency is new, Giving Crypto Tuesday raised $11 million for charity in 2021, and 7% of CivicScience respondents have donated via the medium. Further, donors have expressed that a top factor in a great donating experience is a variety of payment options, with the lack of such options being a reason to reconsider donating.

Digital fundraising also provides opportunities for diversifying outreach, donor audiences, and types of asks. A majority of donors are as likely or more likely to find out about, and donate to, causes via social media than in 2020. Using social media also allows nonprofits to put out timely asks, which is especially engaging for donors. Additionally, a varied set of fundraising platforms attracts different audiences. For example, crowdfunding donors are more likely to be younger, single, less religious, and more diverse than “traditional” crowds. Finally, asks can be made through a variety of different digital platforms. Donors can be prompted to give through a website, app, or text message. Individuals may also donate through online business programs such as the AmazonSmiles program or Paypal Giving Fund. Almost 33% of those who use such websites and/or apps have made a donation through that type of program, with most reporting that they would do it again.

Takeaway: Digital donation methods are increasingly the preferred means of charity, and for good reason: 91% of donors who have donated online have had good or excellent experiences according to Classy’s Why America Gives report from last year. Digital fundraising allows for timely campaigns, a wider range of potential donors, and ask flexibility. To remain current and to appeal to a growing group of donors, nonprofits should implement fundraising strategies that implement the power of one if not multiple digital platforms. 

Covid transparency, educating your volunteer force on the causes they care about (especially millennials and younger volunteers), and a fundraising strategy that leverages the power of digital giving platforms will serve you well as you look to recruit and retain volunteers this Spring and Summer. Are you a volunteer professional that has noticed a trend that didn't make this list? We would love to hear your thoughts and feedback! Reach out to our Editorial Director at darcy@civicchamps.com.