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Make a Difference 2021

How the pandemic has changed company employee volunteering

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Terri O’Brien

Corporate and Programmes Manager,
Volunteer Ireland

In Spring of 2020, most company employee volunteer activities were postponed or cancelled as workplaces adapted to remote working. Companies and non-profits had to adapt their volunteering opportunities to meet the changing landscape.

As the pandemic escalated many non-profits closed, older volunteers withdrew from volunteering to self-isolate and at the same time non-profits offering essential services ramped up their programmes to meet the social demands of the growing pandemic.  

The rise of virtual volunteering 

In response, Irish companies and their employees quickly turned to charitable giving activities. Examples included matching employee donations and payroll deductions along with organising a raft of virtual and individual fundraising activities from virtual pub quizzes to sporting challenges and virtual jumper days.  

As time went by non-profits and companies started to consider new ways they could work together and how they could re-engage employees in volunteer activities. The creativity flowed and a host of virtual volunteering resulted from: spring cleaning your hot-press for Dogs Trust, transcribing stories for Meitheal Dúchus, participating in Irish Wildlife Trust’s ladybird and hedgehog surveys to supporting older people to use technology via Age Action’s Keep in Touch Programme. 

When we return to more ‘normal’ times it’s likely we will see a hybrid model of volunteering. 

Hybrid volunteering  

While many employees were ‘zoomed out’ and had an aversion to participating in yet another virtual meeting, some companies noticed an increase in volunteer participation due to the shorter time-commitment and ease of engaging with virtual volunteering activities.  

When we return to more ‘normal’ times it’s likely we will see a hybrid model of volunteering. A return to in-person volunteering is on its way with the rise in companies looking to engage in safe, outdoor, in-person activities such as litter clean-ups.

Things companies should keep in mind 

It’s important for companies to be aware when engaging employees in volunteering that many community organisations are not fully open and may not be ready to accept volunteers. Non-profits may also not have much time to arrange volunteering for company volunteers.  

All volunteering should meet an identified need and it’s essential to recognise that there are costs for community partners in organising volunteering activities for your employees, so bringing a budget is a must. 

Volunteer Ireland runs a monthly virtual coffee morning for companies to come together to share and learn from one another on what’s happening in the world of employee volunteering.  

The next coffee morning takes place on Thursday 14th October, 11am-12noon. Visit to register your attendance. 

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