The recent coronavirus pandemic has had an immeasurable impact on countless sectors of the American economy, most spoken about being its crippling effects on employment, travel, financial markets, shipping, and more.
But less spoken about is the effect that COVID-19 has had on mutual aid in the United States. Volunteers are important parts of the local, national, and international communities they support, and the pandemic has brought even more challenges to the space than ever before.
Although, as of this writing, Americans seem to not have let the added challenges stop them. Despite the expected dip in volunteering in the early days of the pandemic, when the entire country seemed to be in a state of panic and chaos and everyone was confined to their houses, community service has thankfully bounced back post-2020. In fact, mutual aid in the U.S. has not only bounced back, but is at its highest point in years (with more than 45% of U.S. adults participating in community service). This rise followed a significant dip in April of 2021, where the percentage of Americans volunteering dropped to an extreme low of 37%.
According to the United Nations, more than one billion people volunteer per year (as of 2018). Considering that giving back to the community was an important part of the lives of many Americans before COVID-19, how have their mindsets changed regarding volunteering in this post-pandemic world?
In an attempt to answer this question, CivicScience asked over 1,400 U.S. adults who have previously volunteered whether the pandemic has made them more likely, just as likely, or less likely to participate in mutual aid. The majority (62%) report that they are just as likely to volunteer now as before the pandemic, which is definitely uplifting. Just over one-fifth report being less likely, while 17% report that they are more likely to volunteer.
Americans who have had COVID-19 themselves or have had someone in their household diagnosed with the virus are more likely to volunteer now than ever before. Perhaps this is because they have witnessed first-hand the devastation that the virus can and has caused and are more motivated to give back to the community because of it.
Age also plays an important role in how COVID-19 has impacted previous volunteers’ willingness to continue to give back. On average, younger adults tend to be more likely to volunteer than older generations. However, young adults (Gen Z and Millennials) seem to be both more and less willing to participate in mutual aid post-2020 when compared to other age groups. Whereas 16% of those between the ages of 18 and 24 report being more likely to volunteer now than before the pandemic, only 9% of those aged 55 and older report the same. Similarly, 18% of 18- to 24-year-olds report being less likely to volunteer, compared to only 10% of those aged 55 and older. So, although the younger generations are volunteering at a greater rate, the pandemic seems to have had a larger impact on their volunteering habits than any other generation.
It seems that even in the face of hard lockdowns and social distancing, Americans have still found ways to give back to their communities, be it fully online or through other avenues entirely. And so, with restrictions easing every day and most people fully vaccinated, the volunteering space seems to be looking more optimistic than ever.