The national volunteering event the Big Help Out is set to return next year and spans three days instead of one, from 7 to 9 June 2024.
This coincides with the end of Volunteers’ Week and the Big Lunch, which take place on the first week and weekend of June each year, respectively.
Organisers estimate that 7.2 million people took part in the inaugural Big Help Out this year, which was in conjunction with King Charles’s coronation bank holiday.
Participation numbers were based on polling by Walnut Unlimited on the weekend of the Big Help Out 2023 and “has subsequently been verified through re-polling in forthcoming research”.
Co-founder Catherine Johnstone said extending the event over three days in 2024 would increase accessibility and allow more people to get involved.
Having the event on a bank holiday this year meant it excluded schools and businesses, Johnstone told Civil Society.
The Royal Voluntary Service chief executive added that the event would not be linked to a royal event this year, which she said had been an “amazing opportunity” in 2023 but was a “turn off” for some people.
“We need to stand on our own two feet this year,” she said.
Encouraging ‘active citizenship’
Johnstone said that the UK had focused on “early retirement and later life volunteering” and needs to promote “active citizenship” across all age groups, which she believes the Big Help Out encourages.
“We hadn’t, as many other countries have done, thought about or implemented lifelong active citizenship programmes, right from primary school all the way through.
“And when that happens, you get a permanent pipeline of people who are active in their communities and active citizenship is the third critical ingredient to economic prosperity.
“If you don't have active communities, then you get things like loneliness agendas, isolation, exclusion and more civil unrest. So actually, active citizenship is not just ‘a nice to have’ it's an essential part of civic society.”
‘Plan to target communities who were less likely to take part’
Matt Hyde, Scouts chief executive and co-founder of the Big Help Out, said: “We were bowled over by how many people took part in the Big Help Out in 2023 and told us they were inspired to volunteer in the future.
“In 2024 we will extend to three days to make it easier for schools and businesses to get involved.
“We also plan to target communities who were less likely to take part in traditional volunteering. This is a hugely exciting opportunity to turn the dial on volunteering.”
How can charities get involved?
Some 35,000 voluntary organisations and 2,000 businesses signed up to the Big Help Out this year.
Organisers will be contacting those that were involved last time with communications and media packs with the opportunity to participate again.
Charities will be able to list volunteering opportunities on the Big Help Out website from late January onwards.
The RSPCA was involved with the event this year and saw over 850 people signed up to become “wildlife friends”, where they helped by litter picking, building hedgehog homes and creating wildlife-friendly habitats.
A further 1,250 volunteers have joined the RSPCA initiative since the Big Help Out, the charity has reported.
NCVO: ‘If you want to recruit more volunteers, then please get involved’
Sarah Vibert, CEO of the NCVO, said: “Our latest research shows that for many charities, recruiting more people to volunteer is their top priority.
“Without volunteers, some charities wouldn’t be able to make the huge differences to people’s lives that they do.
“If you’re an organisation that wants to recruit more volunteers, then please get involved – it’s a great way to promote your amazing work and the positive impact volunteering makes to local communities.”
The event is backed by 30 volunteering charities that include RVS, Scouts and NCVO.
It is being funded by a “significant investment” from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and led by the company Together.