Christina 20 March 2019 | 5 min read

6 Volunteering Trends to Watch in 2020

Ready or not, volunteerism is evolving. Here are 6 trends we think will make waves in 2020 and beyond.


#1 Special Skill Sets

More and more volunteers are going to volunteer in areas related to their career field or industry. In the past, this has been mainly in the medical or construction industries: imagine doctors, dentists, or nurses serving overseas or builders working to rebuild after the hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. But there’s a new trend we’re seeing in everyday volunteerism. Now, photographers, social media experts, marketers, accountants, and business strategists are donating their specific skill sets to their favorite nonprofits to help them thrive.


#2 Flexibility

Constraints that we may have associated with volunteering in the past, like physical location and office hours will not be as important in the future. As more volunteers offer their professional services to organizations, timeframes and the ability to work from offsite locations will look very different than they do today. This is the rise of the virtual volunteer.

Virtual volunteering is nothing new. Volunteers have been operating on the world wide web since the earliest beginnings of the internet (think Project Gutenberg, Wikipedia, Librivox, and other digitized community projects). The future of the virtual volunteer is moving beyond transcribing, recording, or collecting data. With the ease of internet access and group efficiency tools such as Trello, Slack, Dropbox, Google Hangouts and Asana it’s never been easier to keep connected and organized across time zones and even oceans.


#3 Generational Service

Stereotypes might imply the average volunteer is a senior adult with plenty of extra time on their hands, but those views are quickly shifting. According to research done by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016 (the most recent year available), those most likely to volunteer were Generation X (people ages 35-44) and Baby Boomers (ages 45-54) tied at around 28%. While the lowest volunteer rates were seen among Millenials (ages 20-34) at 18%. Leaving Generation Z (people ages 15-19) solidly in the middle at 26%.


What will the future look like? Expect to see a lot more Millenials and Generation Z getting involved. In her book Thrive, Arianna Huffington reported that recent studies show Millenials will soon lead the way in volunteering with 43% engaging in service.


#4 Volunteer Training

With so many changes in the structure of volunteering (especially with virtual volunteers) training and orientation will be more important than ever before.


While orientations and new member trainings may seem pretty obvious, best intentions don’t always equal reality. Some studies show that less than 75% of organizations with volunteers actually take the time to train their team members and as few as 25% of responding organizations had adopted a strong culture of training, even though they know such practices are tied to greater retention.


As more volunteers join organizations from beyond the local community, training will become even more vital as team members learn the more about the organization’s history, culture, vision, and values, as well as their specific job role, tasks, and other information important for the success of their mission. That’s one reason we’re so passionate here at Volunteer U about helping organizations train their teams. The best volunteers are ones who have been prepared and are confident in themselves and their organization.


#5 Recruiting Platforms

The old ways of recruiting volunteers are no longer getting the job done. Gone are the days of putting a flyer on bulletin board and having twenty people show up to work. It’s time to get creative.


Thankfully, the future of recruiting volunteers is lined with help. Now, sites like Volunteer Match, Create the Good, Idealist, Network for Good, and many others are ready to connect volunteers and their dream organizations with just a few clicks. Social media has also become a wealthy source of connecting with individuals who share your organization’s passion and values. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Reddit…the list goes on and on. Sharing what you love doing and finding people who share those interests has never been easier.


#6 Online Giving

For nonprofits and churches, volunteers don’t just represent a non-paid labor force, in many cases, they are the biggest supporters of the organization financially as well. In fact, volunteers are twice as likely to donate than those who don’t volunteer. As we move into 2020 and beyond, the way people give to organizations is going to look different than it has in the past and organizations need to be ready or risk missing out.


According to Blackbaud’s 2017 Charitable Giving Report, in 2017, charitable giving online increased by 12.1% which accounts for over 7% of all fundraising efforts. Here’s the crazy part. 21% of those online donations were done through a mobile device and 40% of a nonprofit’s website views are by mobile phones. A branded giving page (a webpage specifically designed to gather donations) makes up 60% of online giving.



Historically, December is the largest giving month, representing over 18% of overall giving for the year, partially due to last minute end of year donations. Now, picking up steam is the global charity movement #GivingTuesday. A grassroots movement started by the nonprofit 92Y, #GivingTuesday is now celebrated internationally on the Tuesday after the U.S. Thanksgiving Holiday. On #GivingTuesday in 2018, over 380 million dollars in charitable donations were raised in the United States alone.


Moral of the story? The future is online giving.


Did we miss anything? What would you add to this list of emerging trends in Volunteerism as we move into the 20s?