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January 19, 2021
Donors Have Cut Volunteering during COVID-19 Pandemic

November 12, 2020 — Two-thirds of charitable donors who volunteered with nonprofits before the coronavirus pandemic erupted said they have decreased the amount of time they volunteer with nonprofits, or have stopped entirely, since March, and the majority who continue to volunteer have shifted from in-person to virtual activities, according to a recently completed study.

The study, conducted by Fidelity Charitable, based on a study of 1,842 people in March and a follow-up study of 491 in August, found that:

  • 66% have decreased or stopped their volunteer activities, as follows: 21% decreased their activities somewhat, 24% decreased a lot, and 21% have stopped volunteering.

  • Of the remaining 34% who have continued to volunteer during the pandemic, 11% said they have increased the time spent volunteering while 23% said their time commitment remains unchanged.

  • 65% of those who have continued to volunteer have shifted from in-person to virtual activities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 81% said they volunteered via in-person activities.

The vast majority (83%) volunteers prefer in-person activities, with only 11% expressing a preference for virtual or remote activities, according to the study.

Nonprofits looking to rely on virtual volunteers, especially if the pandemic wears on, have their work cut out for them. According to the study, 58% of volunteers are not aware of virtual volunteer opportunities; 64% said they are not interested in volunteering virtually; and 64% said they are not sure how to learn of virtual volunteer activities.

Of those who prefer in-person volunteer activities, 75% said doing so makes them feel part of their community and54% said they like socializing with others.

Virtual volunteering also has its appeal, as 54% of those who prefer this mode said it gives them flexibility to fit volunteering into their schedule.

When the pandemic ends, 73% of current volunteers said they expect to return to their pre-pandemic volunteering routines.

Fifty-three percent of volunteers said they give money to an organization before volunteering, according to Fidelity Charitable. However, 39% said they’re more likely to volunteer first, which means that for a significant subset of donors, volunteering can be an important way of evaluating an organization for future financial support.

According to Fidelity Charitable, 77% of donors said that they give the same amount to their favorite charity as they would if they didn’t volunteer there.

Spending time volunteering with an organization is a bigger driver for financial support among Millennials than other generations. A third of Millennials said they give more to the nonprofit they volunteer with than they would if they didn’t volunteer, compared to 21% of Gen X and 12% of Boomers.

Older generations are more traditional volunteers, while Millennials prefer to get involved in unique ways, according to The Role of Volunteering in Philanthropy, the report summarizing study findings. Sixty-three percent of Baby Boomers and Gen X donors prefer to serve by lending a hand to their favorite charities, doing activities like delivering meals or participating in a neighborhood cleanup, while 65% of Millennials donate skilled labor that requires training or experience.

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