Charities recruiting fewer volunteers as sector recovers from pandemic

Charities are recruiting and retaining fewer volunteers and asking them to do less, latest findings from research into the state of the voluntary sector amid the Covid-19 pandemic has found.

More than a third (36%) of charities have seen a decline in volunteer numbers since March 2021, compared to just under a quarter (24%) which had reported an increase.

The amount of unpaid time contributed by volunteers has fallen among 38% of charities, while in comparison 29% reported an increase.

The results have emerged in the latest survey of charities by the Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer, which is led by the NCVO and academics at Nottingham Trent and Sheffield Hallam universities.

It also found that 40% of charities reported a decrease in the intensity of volunteering in their organisations. This involved “less activity being undertaken by their volunteers as well as less frequent and shorter time of availability”.

Where volunteers are being recruited charities are increasingly asking for digital and technical skills due to the increase in online and remote working during the health crisis, the research found.

The average age of volunteers is also dipping, the research suggests.

One in three (31%) of organisations looked at had seen a fall in the number of older volunteers, aged 50 and over, actively engaged in their organisation.

One respondent said: “People from all areas of the city have come to help and we have a wider age range. We have had people from a range of expertise and racial and cultural backgrounds.”

According to one senior manager at a council, a boost in interest in volunteering at the start of the pandemic for charities last year has not been sustained one year on.

“Because there was a pandemic, people responded and said ‘right I’m going to do something for my community’ and all of a sudden there was this huge social action movement, but it only lasted a few months and then everything went back to normal,” said the manager.

“We missed an opportunity to capitalise on that and say to those people ‘right, you volunteered, how can we engage you in continuing to give your time up to help a local cause’.

“How about becoming a trustee of a local charity? You’re an accountant, you work for an accountancy firm, do you know there’s a local charity, if you gave one day a month to them, you would help that organisation help so many people.”

The findings are based on the seventh wave of the survey, carried out between 19 and 26 April.

Research from the Impact Barometer’s findings earlier this year found that a lack of digital skills among volunteers was contributing to a decline in interest in people giving up their time to work for charities for free.

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