Most non-profits know better than to take volunteers for granted. They are true “essential workers,” whose passion and dedication are vital to the daily operations that allow these organizations to carry out their missions of service. However, over the past few years, and especially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, volunteers have become more of a luxury. Simply put, they are in high demand and short supply.
Research supports the anecdotes currently echoing throughout the nonprofit sector. A Gallup poll in January 2022 found that charitable giving in the U.S. had seemed to rebound post-pandemic, with 81% of Americans saying they donated money to a religious or other charitable organization in the past year. Rates of volunteerism, however, were still below pre-pandemic levels, with 56% of Americans saying they volunteer. Nationally, the number of volunteers has dropped 10% since 2013.
The shortage of volunteers is taking a toll on organizations across the country, many of which are already struggling to keep up with an increasing demand for services.
Nearly every type of nonprofit is feeling the impact.
In Arizona, for example, Junior Achievement of Arizona is in dire need of volunteer mentors and businesses to help teach their financial literacy and entrepreneurial programming to tens of thousands of students across the state. They need 6,000 volunteers to deliver their programs to students this year, so every volunteer helps them get closer to changing the futures of a classroom of students. Fewer volunteers mean fewer students receive the tools and confidence that have the power to break poverty cycles and promote achievement.
Lost Our Home Pet Rescue relies heavily on volunteers for nearly every aspect of its operation. The no-kill pet rescue based in Tempe, AZ, provides compassionate services to pets and pet parents in crisis. They need volunteers to help at the facility with cleaning, walking and playing with the pets and they are one of the only shelters that allows children over the age of 8 to volunteer with an adult.
Duet: Partners In Health & Aging is also dealing with a drop in volunteers. The nonprofit works to promote health and well-being through crucial services to homebound adults, family caregivers, and grandfamilies. Volunteers perform a variety of essential services, from supporting homebound adults throughout the community, to becoming a peer mentor for family caregivers. They also help with general office tasks and take phone calls at Duet’s headquarters. Many also help with special events.
Finally, volunteering not only benefits nonprofits and other organizations, but it also has serious benefits for the volunteers themselves. Giving time and energy can foster connections with others, boost mental and physical health, teach valuable job skills, and serve as a fun, easy way to explore interests and passions.
So this year if you are looking for ways to give back, consider looking at the nonprofits in your area. You just might be the missing piece that helps them fulfill their mission.
VP, Strategic Impact
Junior Achievement of Arizona