You're probably wondering if you can volunteer during COVID-19.
If you take a moment to picture what a volunteer looks like in your minds-eye, what do you see? We’re willing to bet that your mental image has become a bit blurry over the past year. After all, can anyone truly volunteer effectively from home, or with a 6-foot distance between themselves and the community members they’re supporting?
The answer is a huge, resounding “yes!”
The need for volunteers in the social good community is a big one, especially now that COVID-19 has brought an increased need for exactly the kinds of services and programs that charitable organizations and volunteers provide.
This National Volunteer Week, we want to celebrate the shifts, changes, and adaptations that the social good community has made in the past year so you can feel good about volunteering again. After all, you shouldn’t need to put your safety at risk, or undergo undue stress, in an effort to serve your local community.
Volunteering During the Early Days of COVID-19
On March 15th, 2020, the World Health Organization declared, officially, that COVID-19 was a pandemic. Here in Canada, people were directed to stay at home as much as possible, wear a mask, and keep a physical distance between themselves and others.
Charitable organizations were faced with determining which programs and services to suspend, cancel, postpone or adapt. As these decisions were being made, many volunteers waited at home for further instructions, or for a day when they felt safe returning to their previous roles.
Those who had previously considered volunteering, but hadn’t, were understandably discouraged. After all, beginning any new endeavour felt like an up-hill battle at the start of the pandemic. Thankfully, in the last year, we’ve all learned how to pivot and adapt to our circumstance as best as we can. Charitable organizations, of course, have made adaptations of their own.
How Organizations are Adapting Volunteer Programs
As of October 2020, nearly half of all Canadian organizations had begun restarting suspended programs, and 48% had redeveloped new programs or services. Organizations began to reach out to engage volunteers again, with 43% deploying their volunteers (new and returning) once again.
Despite the ongoing effort to reengage volunteers, 41% of organizations are still feeling the sting of not having enough, and it all comes down to decision making; volunteers are staying home to eliminate as much risk of contracting COVID-19 as possible. It’s understandable, when you consider that the vast majority of volunteers who were active in 2019 were above the age of 65 – the age at which one becomes most susceptible to contracting the virus. In fact, 41% of volunteers who are inactive due to the pandemic are over the age of 65, and 25% live with someone over the age of 65. Younger volunteers, who aren’t as susceptible to the virus, have largely remained active in their roles despite the pandemic.
Of course, taking measures to keep yourself safe is never a bad decision. Thankfully, virtual volunteering is here, so you can serve your community from the comfort of your home. It’s a great solution for those of us who may not feel comfortable returning to in-person volunteering just yet.
Taking Volunteering Online
COVID-19 brought many home and kept them there, and most folks needed to adapt to working, interacting, and socializing via their internet connection. The same goes for the social good community, with 38% of organizations re-engaging their existing volunteers in virtual volunteering roles by October 2020. It’s estimated that now 56% of charitable organizations offer virtual volunteering roles. Almost half of these volunteer roles will remain virtual for the foreseeable future, so it looks as though virtual volunteering is here to stay.
Virtual volunteering roles are allowing those who are tech-savvy to use their time and talents to support charitable organizations from home. 40% of organizations are developing new programs and services which require volunteers with different skills and more technological ability. Some of the most popular roles are digital content creation, proposal writing, translating documents from English into other languages, and researching.
These new virtual roles are making waves in the social good community, as 57% of active volunteers say they are comfortable using technology to volunteer and 50% have access to the technology they need. The pandemic, which left cancelled leisure-time activities in its wake, has meant that many people (42% to be exact) actually have more time to volunteer now than ever before.
While virtual volunteering is becoming part of our new normal, there are certain personal elements of serving communities that the virtual world simply can’t replace. Thanks goodness, then, that in-person volunteering is making a comeback too, and changes have been made with health and safety at top of mind.
In-Person Volunteering: Health and Safety is the Goal
Those who require the kinds of programs and services that charitable organizations provide need human connection and caring – and virtual interaction won’t ever fully take the place of in-person relations. For now, providing care and support at a physical distance is the best we can do, but this important work must carry on.
Of those volunteers who are in-active due to COVID-19, 80% have stated that they want to return to their in-person volunteer role if adequate health and safety measures are put in place. Organizations have heard the call for better health and safety procedure, and 69% of organizations say that it’s at the top of their list of critical issues to address. Many organizations have already put new, more stringent health and safety measures in place, and as a result 43% of organizations have already begun to re-engage volunteers for in-person volunteering.
Organizations are also trying to put forth significant effort when it comes to communicating these changes to volunteers and potential volunteers. So, if it’s been a while since you checked in with the Volunteer Manager at your favourite charitable organization, now is great time to give them a call and ask them what’s changed, what safety measures are in place, and if you’re a good fit to help support their team.
If you’ve never volunteered before, or if you’re unsure where to start, you’ve gotta get on Gigit and there’s no better time to begin than National Volunteer Week. We offer a whole community of non-profits, charities, foundations and other community service groups who could really use an extra set of hands, and those hands could very well be yours.
If you’re ready to build a Gigit profile so organizations can find you, and so you can find them, click here. It takes less than 10 minutes to start making a difference in your community.
Source: Volunteer Canada