Pandemic Spreads Volunteering, Study Shows

Coronavirus and social justice have contributed to what appears to be a boost in volunteering in recent months. New data from LinkedIn shows that its members in the United States added more than 110,000 volunteer activities to their profiles each month, more than twice the rate in 2017.

Volunteering for humanitarian and health causes surged in April, after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and for civil rights organizations in June, following protests reacting to the death while in police hands of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

LinkedIn published the top 10 organizations with the highest average number of monthly volunteers, which includes some large, well-established charities as well as smaller, younger organizations:

  • American Red Cross
  • Crisis Text Line
  • Toastmasters International
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA)
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of America
  • Boy Scouts of America
  • Meals on Wheels America
  • Team Rubicon
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Rotary International

“This is consistent with our research (a crisis triggers a surge in volunteering),” said Nathan Dietz, a senior researcher at the Do Good Institute at the University of Maryland’s School of Public Policy and co-author of “Community In Crisis: A Look at How U.S. Charitable Actions and Civic Engagement Change in Times of Crisis.” The 12-page report examined charitable behavior after three crises: The Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks; Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans region in 2005; and, the Great Recession of 2007-09.

It’s also consistent with a report that published a couple of years ago by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), he added. “People who are out of work right now have every incentive to advertise their skills as volunteers, because that has been shown to help them get jobs,” he said.

Team Rubicon is on pace for its biggest year ever, nearly doubling last year’s totals. From January to August, the El Segundo, Calif.-based nonprofit has gone from 108,574 volunteers to 132,519 volunteers — an increase of 22 percent in sign-ups, according to President and COO Art delaCruz. During the course of 2019, Team Rubicon launched 101 operations and to date in 2020, has launched more than 300.

Since March, the American Red Cross has seen an approximately 20-percent increase in new volunteer applications, including youth and young adults, according to a spokesperson. This year, almost 30 percent of its volunteer workforce are ages 25 to 49.

People younger than 25, a.k.a., Generation Z, are the most likely to list volunteering activities, relative to their overall share in total LinkedIn membership. People older than 55 are least likely to list volunteering activities, according to the LinkedIn data.

Volunteering activity, as reflected on LinkedIn members’ profiles, is tracked for start dates between January 2017 and July 2020. The analysis is based on the proportion or share of specific activity among all volunteering experiences, rather than raw counts. LinkedIn compared specific values in two time intervals to calculate year-over-year or month-over-month growth. Types of volunteering in the analysis included volunteering events provided by a specific organization, or for a specific cause.