Survey shows volunteers want to help, but are concerned about exposure to COVID-19

In June, Hands On Nashville invited community members to take a survey gauging their thoughts and attitudes toward volunteering during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hope was to get a clearer picture of how volunteers felt about weighing the risks of volunteering against the expanding needs in our community, so that we can work with our nonprofit partners to carve out safe and impactful ways volunteers can help Nashville get through this tough time.

Thank you to everyone who took the survey and shared their thoughts with us! 

The survey was completed by 223 individuals, the majority of whom identify as having volunteered through HON before.

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Respondents indicate an increased desire to volunteer in part because of events including the March 3 tornado. However, more than half of respondents also report worrying that volunteering will increase their risk of exposure to COVID-19.

Respondents also report that they don’t necessarily have more time to volunteer now than they did earlier in the year, before the tornado and pandemic hit. A solid majority indicated they would volunteer more once the pandemic was over.

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We asked respondents to evaluate a handful of volunteer scenarios and and gauge their comfort levels with each. Overall they reported greater comfort levels with outdoor projects and projects capped at 10 people. Their comfort levels fell the larger the project attendance grew. Respondents also report feeling much more comfortable volunteering at a project where all the other volunteers are known, as opposed to volunteering with a group of strangers. (To create a volunteer team that can sign up for projects together, click here.)

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We asked respondents to share any additional thoughts they had on volunteering during the pandemic, and several respondents replied that they are in a high-risk category — either through their age, their baseline health status, or both — and do not feel comfortable volunteering. A good portion of Nashville’s volunteer base is retirement age, so we anticipate this consideration is having a substantial impact on the number of overall volunteers serving at this time. Some respondents also replied that they are a caretaker for someone in a high-risk category, and do not want to expose themselves for fear of transmitting the virus to the high-risk person in their care.

Several respondents also commented about how they would prefer to volunteer remotely — from home or delivering things in their car — during this time. (To see a roundup of virtual volunteer projects, click here.)

Some other comments:

I’m more than willing to volunteer as long as I am protected and those around me are as well. If proper guidelines are being followed and there aren’t a mass of people on top of each other, I would also feel comfortable.

I would absolutely love to help, but until the pandemic is over, I am extremely uncomfortable participating in any volunteering event where I’d be in close proximity to anyone else, especially if they aren’t required to wear a mask at all times.

I, like many, am unsure of what to do. Really want to volunteer, but unsure if bringing myself into a scenario will put others at risk. Also, unsure if I will need to limit my exposure to my workplace or to family, etc. as a result.

There is no question that fear of COVID-19 is limiting my willingness to volunteer these days though I have made some food deliveries and done a few solo clean-up projects.

I am reluctant to be around individuals I do not know. I am learning more and more that many people are being quite cavalier about their exposure to COVID-19.

I have less time with kids home and a son with a mild heart condition. So, I can possibly do things out of my house or where I can run around in my car (with some of my kids possibly). My kids would like to help as well, just worry about Covid right now.

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