Continuity and Change: Volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic


Date of Publication:  December, 2021

Authors: Jack McDermott: Volunteering Australia

Published by: Volunteering Australia

The COVID-19 pandemic has had widespread consequences across all aspects of community life in Australia. This includes its economic consequences and the increased strain it has placed on community services, the health system, and individual wellbeing.

Based on analysis of the responses from over 800 volunteers, this report presented the main themes which characterised the experience of volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key findings

  • The experiences of volunteers were diverse, with responses highlighting the benefits of volunteering to wellbeing during the pandemic, the advantages and challenges of remote volunteering, the difficulties and hazards of providing voluntary support during the disaster, and ongoing shifts in volunteer engagement.
  • People who volunteered at the same frequency or more often in the 12 months prior to April 2021 than they had before were more likely to report positive experiences, while those who volunteered less were more likely to report negative experiences.
  • Many volunteers had positive experiences (e.g. maintaining a connection with others).
  • Those who volunteered less during the pandemic also reported benefits, but often indicated that public health restrictions reduced their satisfaction (e.g. reporting a loss of connection and less of a sense of making a difference).
  • For some, volunteering during the pandemic had negative impacts (e.g. increased workloads and heightened concern over the risks to themselves and others).
  • Some types of volunteering (e.g. remote roles like committee work) were largely unaffected by the pandemic or adapted in response to public health restrictions.

The results illustrate the diversity of the volunteering experience, highlighting both the benefits and challenges of volunteering, and the ongoing shifts in volunteer engagement which may remain significant as the pandemic response progresses. These insights will be crucial to understanding the changes in volunteering in the future, and in planning to support a more dynamic, accessible, and resilient volunteering ecosystem.

The full report is available here.