Pandemic has sparked a digital volunteering boom, research indicates

The coronavirus pandemic has sparked a rise in digital volunteering, according to new research. 

It comes in the latest data from the seventh monthly Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer, which asked 579 organisations across the UK questions about the impact of the pandemic on volunteering within their organisations.

Led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in partnership with Nottingham Trent and Sheffield Hallam universities, the results reveal increased positivity among charities and an expansion of online and digital volunteering.

The study found that 92 per cent of respondents said they had moved services online in the past year, while the number of volunteer roles being carried out remotely increased in 39 per cent of organisations. 

As a result, more than a quarter of respondents said they found it necessary to recruit volunteers with different skill sets to their usual types of volunteer.

Researchers found that 31 per cent of the organisations experienced a decrease in the number of older volunteers (classed as those aged 50 or over) actively engaged in their organisation, which was put down to concerns about the virus. 

Elsewhere, the impact on volunteer numbers was mixed. 

Researchers reported that, despite large numbers of first-time volunteers coming forward during the pandemic, just under a quarter of charities reported an increase in volunteer numbers since March 2020, compared with 36 per cent that noted a decline.

In addition, 38 per cent of charities reported a decline in the amount of time contributed by volunteers, with just 29 per cent saying there had been an increase since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The range of activities undertaken by volunteers also reduced by two-fifths.

In the past month, 20 per cent of organisations said they expected an increase in volunteering, with 19 per cent expecting a decrease. 

For the first time during the pandemic, the survey shows more organisations (22 per cent) said they were expecting their short-term financial position to improve than those that expected it to deteriorate (19 per cent). 

Alex Farrow, head of networks and influencing at the NCVO, said: “Overall, we see a mixed picture for formal volunteering during the pandemic, with some organisations seeing many new volunteers, from all walks of life, many volunteering for the first time.

"Other organisations have struggled, either through volunteers having to shield, or having to suspend volunteering altogether.

“As we move out of lockdown this is a pivotal moment for all volunteer-engaging organisations to build on the positives we have seen in the pandemic and plan strategically for the future of volunteering.”

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