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Financial Planning > Charitable Giving

Pandemic Taking a Toll on Volunteerism: Report

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Nonprofit organizations may face a shortage of volunteers as the holidays approach — a time of year when they might have had to turn away volunteers in pre-pandemic times, according to new research from Fidelity Charitable.

Sixty-five percent of volunteers reduced the time they contributed or stopped volunteering altogether because of the pandemic, the study found.

Of those who continued to volunteer, two in three turned to virtual or remote opportunities, compared with 81% of people who volunteered in-person before the pandemic.

Sixty-four percent of those who had not tried virtual or remote volunteer activities were not sure how to find them.

“This lack of awareness has hurt nonprofits at a time when they are already suffering more than ever before,” Amy Pirozzolo, head of donor engagement for Fidelity Charitable, said in a statement. 

“Charities essentially lost access to millions of dollars in volunteers’ time,” Pirozzolo said, citing Independent Sector’s estimate of $27.20 as the average value of a volunteer’s hour.

According to the study many nonprofits include information about current volunteer needs on their websites, and organizations such as VolunteerMatch, local United Way chapters and Points of Light offer listings of volunteer opportunities at multiple charities. 

The findings suggest that nonprofits should be proactive about informing their supporters of ways they can continue to safely offer help, as they adapt their volunteer programs.

In a hopeful finding, 73% of donors surveyed planned to return to pre-pandemic volunteerism when it is safe to do so. Still, nonprofits may have to develop new models for the long term as social distancing continues, Fidelity Charitable said.

Artemis Strategy Group in March surveyed 1,842 adults in the U.S. who donated at least $1,000 to charity in 2019. Later, in August, a survey was conducted among 491 Fidelity Charitable donors about how the coronavirus had affected volunteerism. 

Generational Shift 

Fidelity Charitable’s research indicates that understanding key differences between millennial volunteers and older ones can help nonprofits in shaping their approach to engaging volunteers in both the short and long term. 

The study found that millennials have a stronger preference for skills-based volunteer opportunities, whereas other generations prefer to serve in less skilled roles, such as serving in a food kitchen.

A third of millennials say they give more to the nonprofit they volunteer with than they would if they did not volunteer. In contrast, less than a quarter of Gen X donors and about one in 10 baby boomers say the same thing.

Thirty-five percent of millennial respondents report that they recently volunteered for three or more organizations, compared with less than a quarter of Gen Xers and boomers who did so.

Nearly half of younger donors said the amount they volunteered pre-pandemic increased in the last two years, versus a quarter of boomers and 29% of Gen Xers.


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