Two in three volunteers stopped or cut back due to COVID, survey finds

Two in three volunteers stopped or cut back due to COVID, survey finds

As of Labor Day, two out of three volunteers in the United States had stopped or cut back on their volunteering activities due to COVID-19, a report from Fidelity Charitable finds. 

Based on a survey of nearly five hundred Fidelity Charitable account holders conducted in August, the report, The role of volunteering in philanthropy (19 pages, PDF), found that 21 percent of respondents had stopped volunteering as a result of the pandemic, 24 percent were volunteering "a lot" less, and 21 percent were volunteering "somewhat" less. By comparison, 23 percent reported volunteering the same amount, while 8 percent were volunteering "somewhat" more and 3 percent were volunteering "a lot" more. Of those who continued to volunteer, 65 percent did so through virtual or remote activities, while 35 percent participated in in-person activities, compared with 19 percent and 81 percent, respectively, before the pandemic. According to the survey, 58 percent of respondents had not heard about virtual or remote volunteering opportunities, 36 percent said they would be interested in participating in such activities, and 64 percent said they weren't sure how to connect with such opportunities.

Based on a survey fielded in March of more than eighteen hundred Americans who donated at least $1,000 to charity in 2019, 30 percent of respondents who volunteer said their volunteer hours had increased over the last two years, including 47 percent of millennials. The survey also found that younger volunteers were more likely to report participating in skills-based activities (65 percent) and advocacy work (20 percent) than boomers (47 percent and 6 percent) and Gen Xers (47 percent and 11 percent), who were more open to "lending a hand" (63 percent for both).

"This lack of awareness [of virtual or remote volunteering opportunities] has hurt nonprofits at a time when they are already suffering more than ever before. Charities essentially lost access to millions of dollars in volunteers' time," said Amy Pirozzolo, head of donor engagement for Fidelity Charitable. "But nonprofits have found creative new ways that people can safely engage, and we strongly encourage donors to explore how they can continue giving both their time and much-needed financial support. This can be as simple as reaching out to a nonprofit you care about and asking how you can assist, even if that looks different than it has previously."

"The role of volunteering in philanthropy." Fidelity Charitable report 11/11/2020. "Study: Two-in-three decreased or stopped volunteer activities due to COVID-19." Fidelity Charitable press release 11/11/2020.