Two-thirds of the ACT's volunteers stopped donating their time due to COVID-19 safety fears since February, but a new digital platform will allow people to help from a safe distance.
Analysis from the ANU found 65 per cent of volunteers in the ACT had stopped since February to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Researcher Professor Nicholas Biddle said the decline in volunteering could reduce the amount and quality of services available in Australia, and there would likely be "large flow-on effects" for volunteers and those that rely on them if things didn't pick up.
"The way people want to engage in volunteering is changing," Volunteering ACT CEO Vicky Darling said, who believes a shift to virtual volunteering will open doors for the sector.
The organisation partnered with digital connection network Comuniteer to launch the Virtually Together campaign on Monday. It connects volunteers with community organisations and vice versa, to donate their time in socially distanced and digital ways.
As the pandemic hit, Ms Darling said there was a lot of people wanting to help but finding ways to do so safely took time.
"A lot of services that help vulnerable people have, by necessity, been face to face. It's quite difficult to redesign this," Ms Darling said.
Connections Program volunteer Jessica Donaldson has not needed to stop donating her time but said transitioning online highlighted the importance of her role.
As a friendship mentor she has built a relationship with a socially isolated person. Measures imposed in March put an end to coffee dates and brunches, replaced by weekly video calls, an easy shift, Ms Donaldson said.
While the initial bout of isolation has ebbed allowing charities more freedom in providing their services, there remains a reliance on remote working - and possibility of a second wave.
"As everyday volunteering resumes, there will still be a need for charities to complete projects," Ms Darling said
The ANU report found volunteers had a higher level of life satisfaction prior to COVID-19 than non-volunteers.
"Volunteering provides an opportunity for people to participate, make new friends, and connect with their community," Ms Darling said.
"Volunteering is an antidote to many of the pervasive problems in our society, and we suggest access to meaningful volunteering opportunities will become more important for peoples' mental health and wellbeing as we emerge out of COVID-19 into the new world."
Ms Darling expected a change in the demographic of the ACT's volunteers due to the pandemic.
Over 55s volunteer the most hours in Canberra and many people, particularly those over 70 may not be able to get out in the community while the virus threatens.
Ms Darling expected increased demand for volunteers in mental health support, aged care and bushfire recovery.
Professor Biddle said finding a way to harness the volunteer workforce through the pandemic was a vital challenge for policymakers.
"Volunteers have done their part in following the physical distancing requirements, but at a large cost to themselves and to the communities that they serve."
"Finding a way to harness this volunteer workforce throughout the current pandemic is a vitally important policy challenge."
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