‘People want to be useful’: is the Covid volunteering boom here to stay?

From picking up shopping for neighbours to participating in vaccine studies, the coronavirus pandemic has prompted more of us than ever to donate our time to volunteering. Of the more than 12 million adults in the UK who offered their services during the last year, a third did so for the first time – and most volunteers plan to continue helping out in the longer term. 相似地, across Europe, organisations reported a surge in volunteer numbers.

In Ireland too, as elsewhere, people felt the need to do something, says Amy Woods, communications and advocacy manager at Volunteer Ireland. “The start of the pandemic was such a rare time, and more people felt compelled to do something to help. We saw a huge increase in the number of people wanting to volunteer, 和 30,000 people on our database saying they wanted to help out with Covid-19. While some existing opportunities, such as volunteering in charity shops, fell away, a lot of new ways to volunteer popped up, such as grocery shopping for older people, or helping out at vaccination centres.”

And the majority of the volunteers want to carry on helping out, says Woods. “Last year, when we asked if [人们] planned to continue volunteering when the pandemic was over, 62% said yes, which is huge. It’s a great opportunity for nonprofit organisations in terms of the sheer number of people who want to volunteer, and the public’s awareness of volunteering.”

在英国, even before the pandemic, the volunteer movement numbered more than 19 million. 然后, within seven days of the first lockdown being announced, 300,000 people had volunteered with a charity 并且超过 750,000 had signed up as NHS volunteers. 现在, a new cohort has had the opportunity to experience the value of volunteering first-hand, from connecting with others and providing a CV boost, to the possibility of improved mental and physical health.

“As well as logistical, practical things that made it easier for people to volunteer, such as the furlough scheme and the big uptick in the creation of local mutual aid groups, there was a real appetite for volunteering,” says Janet Thorne, chief executive of Reach Volunteering, which connects skilled volunteers with good causes.

“People had that sense of wanting to be useful, of wanting to give back and to do something to help make things better for people. They also had that desire for connection,“ 她说.

But does she expect this enthusiasm to continue once people resume their busy lives? She thinks it’s very likely, saying that the experience of the past year has made her feel like there is a large untapped audience out there for volunteering: “A lot more people would be excited to volunteer, 我认为, if they knew about it.”

Working out how to attract even more new volunteers, as well as holding on to those who joined in throughout 2020 is one of the challenges charities will face as the nation continues to emerge from lockdown. Keeping volunteers engaged, especially through digital tools, will be key. Through the Power of Us programme, Salesforce.org offers registered charities 10 free licences for its customer relationship management (CRM) software, to help nonprofits become digital-first, expand their reach and drive more impact.

Charities can use the software to encourage and manage volunteers by matching them with the right opportunities, delivering onboarding and training, and helping them feel valued. High rates of volunteering have been linked to organisations that make regular contact with potential volunteers and have strong structures in place that support volunteer engagement and development – which, says Woods, is a crucial factor when it comes to management.

“Managing volunteers well is what’s going to keep them volunteering after the pandemic,“ 她说. “Capturing that desire to give something back requires a holistic approach – giving people meaningful tasks and opportunities to train, and showing them how they’re making a difference.”

Increasingly, volunteers also want flexibility, says Woods, such as “shorter roles and ad hoc or one-off tasks, rather than committing to the same day every week for six months”.

“Using Salesforce helps charities provide that flexibility, as well as creating a huge amount of data that they can use to show the impact they’re having,“ 她说.

Salesforce’s commitment to the charity sector goes back decades and includes not only free and discounted products for nonprofit organisations, but also volunteering and pro bono work. 在 2019 alone, Salesforce employees brought $19m in pro bono value to the sector and have also volunteered more than 5.5m hours to date. The company’s pro bono programme includes helping charities make the most of Nonprofit Cloud, which is tailored to support core tasks, such as managing donations and shift work, safeguarding, and reporting on the impact of beneficiary programmes.

“The way some software is sold is like getting a box of Lego with no instructions,” says Salesforce.org nonprofit industry adviser Michael Duggan. “We appreciate that nonprofits have limited resources, so we build software specifically for them, which they can use straight out of the box.”

One of the goals is to help charities retain volunteers. “The expectation of modern volunteers is that their experience will be a digital one, and we can help with that,” says Duggan. “A lot of the time, when a technology company talks about the nonprofit sector, it can feel like a case of: ‘What do you know about what we do?’ But because of our extensive volunteer programme, we understand what nonprofits need – we get it.”

Learn more about Salesforce.org’s Nonprofit Cloud