Employers can help fill gap as volunteer demand surges

Covid has changed the world. Whether the changes are permanent or temporary remain to be seen.

Two areas that have been greatly impacted are the volunteer and charitable sectors in Canada.

Volunteer Canada conducted a survey of 321 non-profits and charities and 604 volunteers in June 2020 to determine what the impacts of the pandemic had been so far, particularly with regards to volunteers.

Active volunteerism dropped from 74% to 34% during the first 4 months of the pandemic.

Volunteering pre-march 2020 versus during covid-19. Pre-march 2020 74 per cent were an active volunteer. During covid-19 only 34 per cent were an active volunteer.

There are several reasons for the decline in volunteering during the pandemic and not all are because of the volunteers themselves. Many charities have gala events each year to raise funds to keep operating and servicing their communities. These events typically require dozens to hundreds of volunteers to make them happen. However, due to the pandemic, 73% of the decline in volunteering since March 2020 has been because of the postponement or cancellation of these charitable events and services.

As well, “an abundance of caution during this time”, has caused 56% of non-profits to decide not to engage any volunteers at all until the pandemic is over. Finally, with 46% of volunteers in Canada falling in the age range of 54-75+ years of age, the seniors and retirees who have traditionally made up the bulk of our country’s volunteer base, have been largely unavailable with an understandable 41% decline in volunteerism due to concerns of contracting COVID 19.

reasons for decline in volunteers

Many organizations that cannot accommodate volunteers during the pandemic will need to re-engage their volunteer base when “normal” returns to society. Corporations and small businesses can help by having volunteering programs or initiatives in place to encourage volunteerism. Waiting to see what the demand will look like isn’t enough: if they don’t already have them, employers should put those policies and plans in place now to help ensure a faster recovery for the charitable sector.

While “matching employee donations” has always been a popular way to incentivize charitable giving within an organization, companies might now consider matching volunteering time as well by allowing employees to volunteer for a certain number of business hours per month while still being paid. Another great way to support employee volunteer engagement is through company volunteering initiatives where an entire company, or group of employees, volunteers together for a specific event or action a non-profit is planning.

Corporate social engagement is not a “thing” anymore. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic it has become a necessity if we are to see our non-profit sectors survive and thrive into the future. There are great resources on https://volunteer.ca/covid19 for both volunteers and non-profits.

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