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May 12, 2021
 
Virtual Volunteer Opportunities Expected to Grow in 2021
Volunteering

January 17, 2021 — While in-person volunteering at nonprofits went into a deep dive as the coronavirus pandemic unfolded this past year, offset to some extent by virtual volunteering, recent trends suggest that both forms of participation will grow in 2021.

According to VolunteerMatch, a nonprofit that serves volunteers and nonprofit organizations across the country, which tracked volunteer trends throughout 2020 through surveys of 5,600 people:

  • 51% of respondents last fall said they were creating more virtual volunteer opportunities, continuing a steady upward trend from 32% last March.

  • 7% said they were creating more in-person volunteer opportunities, up from 2% in March.

“Growth of virtual volunteer opportunities is a significant success for the social sector and shows its ability to adapt,” VolunteerMatch noted. “Virtual volunteering allows those sheltered-in-place, or in a high-risk group, to continue to serve their communities, and could be a good option for those organizations who can employ it to augment program and mission delivery as we head into 2021.”

As of October, 41% of participating nonprofits reported experiencing “some cancellations” of volunteer attendance, about even with 40% reporting “heavy cancellations.” However, from July to October, “some cancellations” jumped nine percentage points while “heavy cancellations” dropped eight percentage points.

Businesses, which are a large source of volunteers for nonprofits, have been adopting a hybrid approach—meaning in-person and virtual—to their corporate social responsibility programs. Specifically:

  • 38% of respondents are creating more virtual and continuing to engage employees with in-person opportunities.

  • “Canceling all scheduled group activities” has decreased, which, according to VolunteerMatch, “means that businesses are finding creative solutions for both in-person and group service.”

  • Only 13% of respondents said they are “putting workplace volunteerism on hold” – down from 38% in March.

VolunteerMatch said that offering a hybrid structured approach with in-person and virtual opportunities will provide you nonprofits the most flexibility, and suggested:

  • Educate volunteers on how the organization’s rules have changed with regards to the COVID-19 guidelines in your jurisdiction.

  • Emphasize to virtual volunteers how their work connects with the mission and impact of the organization.

  • Market for the right volunteers. Who’s the right volunteer for your in-person opportunities? How about your remote ones? Do they require different skills?
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