Over the past decade, the level of international support for volunteering has grown phenomenally. Between 2012 and 2013, 62.6 million people volunteered regularly.
As well as this, in most developed countries, the rate of volunteering is around one-third of the population.
As such, it seems clear that there is a massive level of support for volunteering that by all accounts is only continuing to grow. Volunteering and philanthropy, in general, seems more popular than ever.
For society, volunteers can actually be a beneficial force that can help those in need and provide assistance in key situations where there is a limited or unstable workforce.
It can provide skilled workers in populations where education is lacking and greatly help those in need. For the volunteers themselves, the act of helping other people is also greatly rewarding leading to a higher level of personal growth.
The volunteering sector is constantly changing and evolving. For individuals and organizations it is important to keep track of the latest trends and understand how the sector is changing. For instance, organizations need to be aware of the demographics who are more likely to volunteer so that they can market towards them.
Volunteers themselves should be aware of new trends so that they can keep up with the latest occurrences in the sector and know the popular places to volunteer. They should also be aware of what organizations provide the best group structures, particularly when travelling abroad and which not for profit organizations support their own goals.
Often, when we think of people volunteering, we imagine young, dreamy-eyed students on gap years looking to experience different parts of the world before they settle into a full career.
Or, perhaps completing the obligatory work needed to boost their CV and gain the best chance at being considered for top positions.
Statistics do show that right now the young are the most likely to volunteer, particularly those under the age of 25.
Interestingly, those that fall into the age group between 26-34 engage in the lowest rates of volunteering regularly, supporting the notion that these individuals are more focused on their own careers and their well being.
One of the factors that is beginning to shape volunteering and will continue to have an impact over the next through the years is the ageing population. By 2050, 17% of the world population will be 65 and over.
Well, for volunteer organizations it could be seen as a fantastic opportunity. Once people reach 65, they begin to think about retirement and have a lot more spare time on their hands.
As well as this, they may have accumulated enough wealth where they can travel or afford to work without being paid. In the UK it was estimated that by 2020 volunteering work from older people would be worth as much as £15bn.
As such, there is a staggering level of opportunity and potential here that volunteering organizations right now may be missing out on. It’s likely though that over the next few years, organizations will realize the potential of an ageing population and will market their efforts more towards them.
There is definitely a growing trend of micro-volunteering worldwide. To understand why this is, it’s important to be aware of the idea behind the concept. As already mentioned, when discussing the importance the elderly population, people do have incredibly busy lives.
In their late twenties, individuals are working to get their career started and on the right track. Between thirty and fifty, people are working to support their families and ensure that they have a solid financial structure in place for their future.
By sixty, they have more time but may not be in the best state of health to work more. As such, people looking to volunteer throughout their life may be working with limited periods of free time.
That’s why the concept of micro-volunteering is proving to be so popular lately. Micro-volunteering involves individuals spending small amounts of time to help others.
This is partly due to the growth of FOMO or fear of missing out. Essentially, people want it all. They want to travel, work, give back, socialize, stay fit, explore new cultures and the list goes on.
Since people feel time poor, more individuals are looking for possibilities where they can do a little volunteering in a short amount of time.
In 2013, a study explored the characteristics that make micro-volunteering opportunities more popular.
They found that low time commitments, immediate possibilities, convenient options, informal agreements, online options, flexible time management and take oriented possibilities were all attractive characteristics.
The same study also highlighted the fact that despite there being a high level of demand for micro-volunteering, the number of opportunities for this type of work is quite limited.
That said, there have been notable cases of micro-volunteering campaigns that have proven to be very popular.
One company used the popularity of music festivals to encourage people to volunteer for a limited time with great non financial reward.
Starting in Los Angeles in 2005, volunteers working for just four hours could gain a free a concert ticket. Since its inception, 160,000 people have participated and the campaign has taken place in ten countries.
Micro-volunteering and a massive growth in the use of technology has also lead to a unique opportunity for organizations and volunteers alike. We are of course talking about the concept of virtual volunteering.
Virtual volunteering is one of the most popular forms of micro-volunteering in the world today.
Through virtual volunteering, people can work individually or come together as a group and complete work for a cause. This could be part of a social media campaign or any type of work for an organization or charity.
For instance, charities need content for online marketing campaigns. Rather than hiring a full marketer, these charities are often able to attract freelance writers to work for them for free in their spare time.
As well as this there are plenty of organizations set up that use the support of volunteers to complete numerous activities such as blogging, policy work, web testing, translating, graphic design and much more.
The benefit of this type of volunteering is that it can take place any time at any place and is incredibly flexible for the individual. Due to the time constraints for most people in the world today, this has become an increasingly popular form of volunteering.
As such, it is important that organizations are aware of this trend and work to accommodate the level of demand.
Virtually volunteering can be an incredibly powerful force, particularly in the wake of disasters, as was the case in Haiti in 2010. During this time of crisis volunteers online were able to map disaster zones for workers in the area and help them quickly locate survivors.
They were able to do this by sharing images online, passing them on to agencies that could then provide the necessary support. It was a huge voluntary movement that ultimately was able to be a great support for the forces working to save lives
Unfortunately, while there are forces that are leading to more opportunities for volunteers, there is a growing trend in the sector that is inhibiting it. This is the increased level of bureaucracy that has swept across the volunteering industry. Governments have pushed and put in place more processes that are required for volunteers to participate and complete work.
This includes DBS checks, training and interviews. Furthermore, volunteers are also monitored through time sheets, reports and assessments. Essentially, the structures of contracted work have entered the world of volunteering and this of course makes it less attractive to individuals.
Particularly, when you consider that one of the recognised traits that makes volunteering projects attractive is ease of access. It’s also another reason why micro-volunteering is such a fast growing trend.
The good news is that another trend that is steadily growing has seen individuals and organizations challenge the so-called ‘red tape.’ People have started to ask whether such high levels of bureaucracy are necessary in the volunteering sector and whether it can be avoided.
It seems organizations are becoming more willing to avoid the red tap and instead decide their approach based on the individual. Unsurprisingly technology is also being used to make sure processes are as fast and efficient as possible.
While potential volunteers may still have to answer surveys or complete training a significant portion of this can now be completed online so that volunteers can help people as quickly as possible.
Some voluntary work online can even be completed with complete anonymity, requiring virtually no checks during the recruitment stage at all.
It seems then that there are a number of trends that are shaping volunteering right now. However, looking at them, they all seem to be tied into the concept of making volunteering more accessible and ensuring that the opportunity to help others is available to as many people as possible.