A new report has found widespread levels of fatigue and anxiety among those who volunteered during the pandemic.
The latest research from the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, published today, also found that some people felt guilty after the height of the Covid-19 crisis.
The report, Time Well Spent: Impact of Covid-19 on the Volunteering Experiencefound that this sense of burnout was exhibited by people who were already volunteers before the pandemic took hold and continued for them after the Covid-19 outbreak, as well as those who volunteered for the first time during the coronavirus crisis.
The report said: “Evidence from this research consistently showed high levels of anxiety and fatigue among pandemic volunteers as well as their strong sense of guilt. Guilt-ridden volunteers suffer from burnout.
Of those who stopped volunteering during the pandemic, the report found the main reason was a “combination of Covid-19 restrictions and health issues”.
Charities that recruit volunteers “must therefore prioritize supporting and rebuilding the emotional well-being of volunteers before encouraging them to continue or resume volunteering,” the report says.
Elsewhere, the publication painted a mixed picture of volunteers’ experiences with digital technologies during the pandemic.
While moving online “helped them feel connected during lockdowns”, the report added that “increased use of digital technology has undeniably led to low levels of satisfaction among volunteers”.
The report was based on desk research, a practitioner workshop and four volunteer focus groups.
Last year, industry leaders called on the government to provide more support to charity staff and volunteers at risk of burnout after working through the first 12 months of coronavirus restrictions.
Rei Kanemura, Head of Research and Knowledge at NCVO, said: “Our research shows that as the pandemic has changed the way we give and receive help, people have risen to the challenge of serving their communities. by volunteering in the most difficult times.
“With severe restrictions on social interactions, voluntary organizations have used creative ways to recruit, communicate with and support volunteers, while struggling to preserve essential channels of support for those in need.
“But we have seen that volunteers, and volunteering more broadly, are at a crossroads. As we move from the pandemic to the cost of living crisis, charities and other voluntary sector organizations are seeing their funding shrink and declining volunteer numbers coincide with increased demand for services.
“The message from our research is clear: Organizations that rely on volunteer support need to act quickly to address welfare issues and find creative ways to re-engage former volunteers.”