COVID-19 Volunteering: Looking at the numbers

Volunteer Ireland CEO Nina Arwitz takes a look at the numbers around COVID-19 and examines a phenomenon seen in Ireland and many countries around the world – that there are more people signing up to volunteer than there are available volunteer roles. 

We have seen a huge outpouring of support from people across Ireland wanting to offer their help to others in response to COVID-19. Thousands of people have signed up to the national volunteering database, I-VOL, over the last 2 months. Given the large number of people willing to volunteer we haven’t been able to find a role for everyone and that can understandably cause frustration. People want to help but sometimes there is nothing for them to do. But why is that?

The main reason is actually a pretty great one. Ireland already has a really strong culture of volunteerism. On average, over 1 million people in Ireland volunteer their time for others each year. We’re in the top 10 in the world for volunteering! This means that a lot of organisations already have a full complement of volunteers and were able to respond to COVID-19 immediately. This is really good news for our communities and our most vulnerable friends and neighbours.

Along with us, the network of Volunteer Centres and Volunteering Information Services, work with organisations and volunteers all year round – supporting them, advising them and matching them. Thanks to this vital service, many organisations had an existing support system in place.

Unfortunately, the onset of COVID-19 meant that many organisations had to suspend their services until restrictions are lifted meaning that the requirement for volunteers has been much lower than normal. It’s important to remember that as we move to the ‘new normal’, many organisations will once again be in need of volunteers to support their services, which will be in demand more than ever.

One piece of comfort is that we are not alone. Having spoken to colleagues across Europe and as far off as North and South America, Asia, Australia and New Zealand – they are all in the same boat: more people want to volunteer than are needed right now. While it can be very frustrating if you want to volunteer and there is no role for you, it’s good to remember that this is actually a positive thing – that so many people are willing to help!

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