The dust is settling on the pandemic and lockdowns, and we can finally see where the third sector currently is. It’ll come as no surprise that this drastically changed how charities operated, but it’s only now that we can get a full view of what this means. Thanks to various reports over the last couple of years, we can see the shift in volunteer numbers and make educated guesses on how this is going to affect the future.
Volunteering has changed, and it’s likely going to stay that way. Numbers are down. The amount of unpaid time contributed by volunteers fell by 38%. The range of activities presented by charities decreased 40%. And the intensity of volunteering also suffered. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
Let’s take a look at how volunteering changed for the better – and what this means for the future of volunteering.
More professional skills
Some of this change will come down to how charities shifted their services during the pandemic. At that time, 90% moved operations online. This opened the door to a different kind of volunteering, and showed people that the traditional way isn’t the only way.
With some people on furlough and with time to spare, they put their professional skills to good use to help charities. In a report on this, many charities reported volunteers bringing “digital, marketing, or other organisational skills” that they didn’t previously have. 26% were recruiting volunteers with different skill sets to their normal volunteers.
This could include graphic design, copywriting, management, law, or social media skills. Or anything, really. The sky’s the limit on what volunteers can contribute.
Rise in digital volunteering
Beyond that, the pandemic showed us how people could help out even without new skills. There are apps that let you “be the eyes” of blind or low-vision individuals as they go about their lives. Birdwatchers could report sightings to help conservationists. People can connect with children overseas and mentor them in their education.
The possibilities are endless, and now people know they don’t necessarily need to be out on the streets to help out. It can be done from the comfort of their own homes. All they need is a digital device, an internet connection, and some spare time. There’s also the idea of micro volunteering, which is about bite-sized chunks of helping here and there.
We can’t forget about traditional volunteering
As great as this surge of digital volunteering is, it can’t replace traditional, in-person volunteering. One point rightfully brought up as a counter is that extra reliance on digital skills could leave some people excluded. So services can’t go 100% digital, especially when this negatively impacts the older and less-able populations.
The pandemic left 64% of charities feeling their services would see a “moderate or significant” negative impact. All while demand rose by 66%. So the future of volunteering would need to see the two worlds work together. We can have digital skills play their part while people still give their time in-person.
It’s been a rocky couple of years for the sector, and there’ll no doubt be some more to come. But these figures show us there’s plenty to be optimistic about. At a time when many were suffering, there were plenty of people ready to help out. Many of whom had never volunteered before. To us, the future of volunteering looks very bright indeed.
Make sure your charity is ready for whatever change is coming. CHARiotWeb is an EPoS solution created for the charity sector. It has been specifically designed to be as simple to pick up as possible, making it a breeze to train any new volunteers. It’s the digital upgrade you need to be your best. To find out more, schedule a demo with us, or reach out on 01204 706000.