Volunteering doesn’t exist in a bubble — it’s reflective of the people and the societies they live in. Therefore, when major shifts take place, be they economic, cultural or political, it’s reasonable to presume that some aspects of volunteer behavior will be influenced. For example, increases or decreases in the numbers of active volunteers, volunteer hours, or types of volunteering being done.
We already see this with the sense of time poverty that most people feel. Consequently, there has been a steady decline over the past few decades in the number of people volunteering and the number of hours given, coupled with a growing trend of episodic volunteering.
With the most recent presidential campaign, the U.S. saw a major upswing in civic engagement behavior, including protests, marches and large donations to specific causes and organizations. However, no one was tracking whether there were also changes happening to volunteer behavior. So I, with the help of many others including VolunteerMatch, embarked on a study to find an answer using data.
What we found was most organizations saw a small increase in the number of volunteer applications and people becoming active volunteers. In addition, many organizations identified that they were receiving expressions of interest in volunteering from people they normally wouldn’t, as well as those who had no prior affiliation with them.
Organizations said that over a fifth of volunteer applicants referenced the political climate as a motivation to volunteer. Meanwhile, almost a third of volunteers in the study indicated that what was happening politically in the U.S. was a motivation for them to volunteer.
A significant number of brand new volunteers were inspired by the political landscape to become volunteers for the first time — almost 10% of the individual respondents. Happily, almost all of these new volunteers strongly intend to continue volunteering.
Overall, the study found that it was those who feel the least aligned with the current political leaders who were most motivated to make changes to their volunteer behavior. However, even those volunteers who said the political leadership didn’t influence any changes to their volunteerism but who also felt the least aligned with the political leadership still made similar changes. It may be accurate to say that it’s the degree of alignment with the values of our political leaders that most impact our volunteer behavior.
All of these findings and others are summarized in a new, free research report available from spinktank. Sign up for your copy of the executive summary and the full research report to read more.
Guest Author Erin Spink.
Erin is an internationally recognized thought leader in the field of volunteer engagement, advancing the profession through research, articles and training.