The volunteering landscape is a dynamic entity; it shifts and changes with time, current affairs, and the culture of the community. These developments affect how volunteers interact with nonprofit organizations, as well as how they view volunteering as a whole, and it is critical to understand and navigate the changes in the volunteering landscape. That way, organizations can map volunteer engagement in service opportunities, and volunteers can find the opportunities that best suit their livelihoods.
Currently, there are a multitude of factors that are shifting the volunteering landscape in America: the increasing elderly population, the understanding of the correlation between volunteering and skill building, social media, and most apparent, the COVID-19 pandemic.
First, the population of older individuals in America is increasing due to the sizable amount of “Baby Boomers” reaching their senior years. As Baby Boomers grow older, they have a greater need for healthcare and the services of the younger generation. These services come in the form of volunteering and caretaking. Furthermore, many of those Baby Boomers, once they retire, will also turn to volunteering in their free time, leading to a rapid increase in volunteer engagement.
Second, there has been a recent emphasis on volunteering for skill-building in the nation; in other words, volunteers have begun to realize that community service teaches valuable practical skills that can be applied in the workplace. The potential to gain resume-building skills and expertise has drawn many in the working class to volunteer as well. Overall, these effects have caused an escalation in volunteer engagement over multiple generations.
While many people believe that the primary focus of volunteering is the actual work put into service, the real focus of volunteering is social interaction. Volunteering brings you closer to your community and gives you the ability to connect with new people in an altruistic environment. Many people have noticed this benefit to volunteering, and, through social media, have expressed its importance. Social media, which has only grown in popularity in recent years, has been a cardinal agent in increasing volunteer engagement. It helps to underscore the values of volunteering, and it also has made it easier for people to find service opportunities to participate in. Observing the trends in social media in terms of volunteering, a prediction can be made that volunteering in groups will become heavily popular in the volunteering landscape.
Of course, the biggest effect on the volunteering landscape has been the pandemic; the spread of Covid-19 has been detrimental on all organizations, especially nonprofits, who rely on in-person volunteers to keep their organizations functioning. According to trends analyzed by VolunteerMatch, many volunteers were afraid to participate in volunteer opportunities due to a fear of exposure to the virus, as well as a fear of exposing others. For the first time in years, volunteer engagement faltered due to the disruption of the pandemic. However, the volunteer landscape adapts. Nonprofit organizations began to implement virtual opportunities to reinvigorate volunteer engagement, and the amount of virtual opportunities offered by nonprofits increased by 159% between March 2020 to October 2020. Encouraged by the safety and easy access of virtual opportunities, volunteers became even more engaged in service.
What can be gained from this information? It is useful to understand the volunteering landscape if you are interested in community service. This knowledge can help you recognize the current trends in volunteering and plan your volunteering efforts accordingly. If you want some guidance on some interesting opportunities, visit Triangle Cares’ website for a variety of easily accessible service options.
Jordan Hannan and Jordan Lappin