The Volunteer Perspective - Part 1
The Volunteer Perspective - dig deeper with me!
In response to the narrative that volunteers aren’t around and ready to support community - we see a deeper story in the reams of data we have. It still speaks to stress of nonprofits that need to adapt … but we see plenty of volunteers!
Three key trends inform volunteerism right now:
- Formal volunteer programs that rely on an aging volunteer base that is stepping back are struggling to adapt.
- This was happening prior to the pandemic and, anecdotally, we heard stories of baby boomers stepping back due to volunteer burnout as soon as pandemic began. This means this volunteer base is not returning the same way.
- A highly engaged new generation of volunteer in Gen Z that is careful about how they spend their time.
- Important to this demographic is that their volunteer efforts be connected to social justice and/or climate action. If an organization can’t clearly demonstrate their connection to these two causes then these volunteers are willing to look elsewhere for their opportunity to engage in their community.
- Grassroots initiatives have been growing, possibly at the expense of formal volunteering in organizations that uphold the barriers to community engagement.
- There are many barriers that still exist related to volunteer engagement. Because of that, and the expectation that volunteers want to connect to their preferred cause (not organization), grassroots initiatives have been on the rise. (Barriers are covered in our report An Anti Racist Approach to Volunteering).
It is definitely challenging for organizations to adapt to these changing trends, especially as increase demand for services further stresses out staff. There are probably no end of organizations that could provide the perspective that volunteering is down.
But from the volunteer perspective #impact #connections and #belonging have never been more important!
Our data, based on volunteer behaviour all over the nation is something we have been able to track throughout the pandemic. Briefly the pandemic story has been:
- A hastening of the above trends
- A surge of volunteer interest at the beginning of the pandemic which we attribute to neighbours wanting to care for neighbours
- Tiny blips of volunteer interest that coincided with the various levels of government putting out conflicting messages of “stay home and distance” and “get back to normal . . . maybe”. But even then they were tiny blips that lasted only a week or two.
Happy to connect to dig deeper with anyone interested in telling the story for the volunteer!