NCVO warns of volunteer burnout and guilt  

Woman at work desk, looking at laptop, fatigued
Image Credit: 
Pexels, energepiccom
27 July, 2022


The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has just published their report Time Well Spent: Impact of Covid-19 On the Volunteer Experience, and in it they say as a result of the pandemic, volunteers are at risk of burnout. 

This is NCVO's fourth thematic report on volunteering and it found that health was a major barrier to volunteering during the pandemic, which led to a shift to online activities. It says some volunteers felt guilty during the pandemic because they were unable to help as much as they wanted which then led to emotional fatigue.  

The research says “guilt was a prominent feeling for volunteers” and this featured strongly in the groups of people who volunteered before and continued volunteering during the pandemic.  

“The sense of guilt was strongly linked to the sense of duty, and for some volunteers these were inseparable. Many shared their feeling of guilt for not helping more,” it explains. 

In actuality, the report notes that pandemic restrictions increased volunteers’ responsibilities and they took on activity that had previously been undertaken by people in paid roles. 

The report also indicates that volunteer burnout should be a real concern for charities, as interviews of volunteers have revealed a high level of wellbeing issues as a result of pandemic volunteering.  

NCVO’s research states: “Volunteer-involving organisations must therefore prioritise supporting and rebuilding the emotional wellbeing of volunteers before encouraging them to continue or return to volunteering.” 

Adding: “The long-term effect of the trauma incurred during the pandemic is yet to be seen, and tensions remain between their selfless commitment and their need for self-care. The challenge for volunteering organisations is to acknowledge and re-build on the new landscape of healing from Covid-19.” 

Rei Kanemura, research and insight manager at NCVO, said: “Volunteer burnout after a challenging few years is a real problem for charities and organisations which rely upon volunteer generosity.” 

Kanemura said: “The message from our research is clear: organisations who rely on support from volunteers need to act quickly to address the wellbeing issues and come up with creative ways of re-engaging former volunteers.  

NCVO has urged charities to prioritise supporting and rebuilding the emotional wellbeing of volunteers before asking them to continue or return.  

After an inspiring celebration of Volunteers' Week in the Southwest, here at Voscur we wanted to sincerely thank all of the extraordinary volunteers who underpin so much of the work in our sector. We understand and recognise the findings in the NCVO report. So, as a small gesture of thanks we have commissioned Tom Dewey, a Bristol poet, and a brilliant member of our team, to bring together the 'voices of thanks' and create a legacy poem. You can listen to the poem here. We hope you enjoy it.