Trends in Volunteerism for 2018 and Beyond

Major Changes in volunteerism have been underway for a few years now, and those trends are accelerating. In this article, I will first summarize those trends then follow up with details, research credits, and anticipated impacts on the work we will be doing here at The Conservancy Project.

A Summary of Major Trends in Volunteerism

  • Micro-volunteering (task-based, rather than role-based)
  • Virtual Volunteering (Place-shifting – working remotely)
  • Increasing availability (discretionary time) and desire to fill that time with meaningful work
  • Technology (making it easier to donate)
  • Technology (making volunteer training better, faster, and cheaper)

Micro-volunteering: Tapping a massive scientific/technical resource pool

The Management Centre, a UK-based consultancy, writes in its recent article: “Demand for short term volunteer opportunities is increasing, as people feel the pressure to be able to do it all, the age of FOMO (fear of missing out) is on the rise. Work, childcare, socializing, going to the gym, hobbies, ‘me time’ are all encroaching on people’s time and ability to make long-term commitments and people feel increasingly time poor. As a result a simple, fluid approach to volunteering is on the rise – ‘micro-volunteering’.”

Why does this matter to The Conservancy Project? One of our themes is “Do you have a few hours or more per month to volunteer for our National Parks and other lands?” The confirmation from external sources that micro-volunteering is a validated trend certainly reinforces our commitment to this important principle.

Virtual Volunteering: Place-shifting the workplace (same time, different place)

Traditionally, work teams were organized in such a way that entire teams worked in a same-time same-place arrangement. Several years ago, globalization disrupted that model. Around the same time, internet network speeds and reliability improvements made it possible to work in a same-time different-place arrangement. Technologies like Webex, Gotomeeting, and others have seamlessly blended the traditional face-to-face conference room with the convenience of collaborating at a distance. Virtual meetings do present some new challenges, to  be fair. Among the challenges are time zones, maintaining a professional space and personal appearance at-a-distance, and providing a high-speed high-quality network connection at home.

In its February 6, 2018 post, the blog Engaging Volunteers wrote: “Volunteering online allows people to make a meaningful impact without encountering some of the common obstacles that can ultimately convince individuals to delay their intentions to get involved. It also helps them ease into volunteering and learn about its benefits.”

Why does this matter to The Conservancy Project? Like micro-volunteering, virtual volunteering is a potentially important way to engage with the best experts in many fields to obtain the best analysis of field data to solve serious problems facing our National Parks, and falls directly into line with our scientific/technical volunteerism principles. Engaging Volunteers also points out the importance  of ‘meaning impact’ to today’s demographic of the volunteer workforce.

Increasing availability: More discretionary time and desire to fill that time with meaningful work

The Management Centre, a UK-based consultancy, writes in a recent article: “Studying the demographics of volunteers, we know that most volunteers are at either end of the age spectrum, the shortfall is in the 45-64 age gap. How can we engage this group for the long-term to see them choosing to volunteer with us when they do reach retirement?

Why does this matter to The Conservancy Project? It is one thing to propose that volunteers are more likely to engage on short-term ‘tasks,’ rather than longer-term ‘roles,’ as we do with our question “Do you have a few hours each month…?” but we must match each work opportunity with real people who have time available to volunteer. The Management Centre has helped us identify the demographic most likely to have not only the best skills and experience, but also the most likely demographic to have some time availability.

Technology: Easier donations, Faster, Better, Cheaper Volunteer Training

Each of the external resources quoted above, as well as other resources we have found, believe that technology has already made it possible to raise funds for operation and design and deliver essential training to volunteers using distance-learning and virtual reality. Our experience also confirms this as factual.

I have personally developed instructional design, learning plans, and delivered live-over-internet training sessions for a major US Navy contractor, and large multi-national enterprises including Procter & Gamble. That experience solidified not only my experience but also my belief in technology as the present and future ‘best idea’ to engage with the target demographic of The Conservancy Project in our mission to engage all generations, but especially the age 46-64 demographic. For those reading this article who may be thinking, “But, aren’t older people technically challenged?” That is problematic thinking, and I am proof – I’m 68 years old, and I’m a Serial Learner.

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