A new research paper from Volunteering Australia aims to provide a more detailed portrayal of the volunteering experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had profound implications for the volunteering ecosystem as we have witnessed a dramatic decline in volunteering. Whilst this data is without doubt cause for concern, it is not the full story.
Volunteering Australia’s latest research paper ‘Continuity and change: volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic’ shows there is more to the experience of volunteers during the pandemic than figures alone can capture.
Millions of people have continued to volunteer since the pandemic hit our shores early in 2020 and this new research shares their story. Based on 800 qualitative responses gathered as part of the Life in Australia™ survey, the research reveals a striking picture of diversity and resilience.
Many of the insights show a positive experience of volunteering. Volunteers reported how their voluntary work helped maintain a connection with others, kept them active and busy, and gave them a sense of purpose. Others pointed to how their volunteering had helped them gain new skills and an opportunity to understand others better.
However, volunteering during the pandemic has not been an easy experience. Many volunteers reported increased workloads, heightened stress, and concern over putting themselves and others at risk. Volunteers were also worried about the people they were helping (and those they couldn’t help) and the impact COVID was having on their wellbeing. And whilst virtual volunteering was a positive experience for many, others reported how it had contributed to ‘technostress’ and feelings of anxiety and mental fatigue.
This research raises important questions about how we might better support volunteers as the pandemic continues and how we might prepare for the future. As Volunteering Australia takes forward the development of a new National Strategy for Volunteering, in partnership with the volunteering ecosystem, we will consider the vital role of volunteers during emergencies and how we best protect their wellbeing.