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NCVO reports volunteering downturn in the UK

01 May 2023 News

By Drazen, Adobe

Some of the key ways people volunteer have declined over the past years, according to a report published today.

The preliminary Time Well Spent 2023 report from NCVO says that since 2018, the proportion of people raising money or taking part in sponsored events has gone down from 11% to 6%.

Those organising or helping to run an activity have halved from 14% to 7%, it says, as have those campaigning on behalf of a group, club, or organisation (from 8% to 4%).

The report found a decline in the reported diversity of volunteer groups and in the satisfaction of those that took part.

Decline in volunteer satisfaction 

The report also says that 92% of those surveyed who had volunteered in the last 12 months through a group, club or organisation, said they were very or fairly satisfied with their experience.

Moreover, 89% said they felt like they made a difference and 75% said it improved their mental health and wellbeing.

However, compared to the previous data, overall satisfaction levels decreased. In 2018, 96% of volunteers said they were very or fairly satisfied with their experience.

As well as a decline in overall satisfaction, the overall likelihood to continue volunteering declined from 80% in 2018 to 77% in 2022.

Meanwhile, fewer volunteers said that their volunteering group was diverse. In 2018, 73% of volunteers said there were people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures in their group. In 2022 this has dropped to 66%.

The report reads: “Since 2020, the voluntary sector has been working to improve diversity issues in its workforce. However, our data shows equity, diversity and inclusion continue to be a challenge in volunteering.”

‘The Big Help Out is the much needed shot in the arm’

Sarah Vibert, chief executive of NCVO, said: “The impact of Covid on volunteering has been profound. People who were lifelong volunteers broke their habit during the pandemic and haven’t yet got back to it.”

The figures in the report come just one week ahead of the Big Help Out, on the king’s coronation weekend.

Vibert said: “Given how important volunteering is to our social fabric – and how much people get out of it – we need an urgent focus on helping people find opportunities that suit them. The Big Help Out in just one week’s time is a much needed opportunity to do just that and we’d urge people to have a go, and realise how life-enhancing volunteering can be.”

She added that the continued high levels of volunteer satisfaction was also “testament to the hard work of volunteer-involving organisations that satisfaction levels with volunteering are so high”. 

The survey also found that virtual volunteering is now commonplace, with almost a third of those who volunteered in the last 12 months doing at least some of their volunteering this way. 

Matt Hyde, chief executive of the Scouts said: “This data sets out the scale of impact of Covid on volunteering rates, but it also shows how much people benefit from and enjoy it.

“From our own volunteering numbers we think we’re starting to see some of the green shoots of a volunteering recovery but the Big Help Out is the much needed shot in the arm the sector needs. It would be an amazing legacy if the coronation were to be a turning point in national volunteering rates.” 

NCVO commissioned YouGov to recruit a nationally representative sample of 7,000 adults aged over 18 in Great Britain to carry out a survey focusing on volunteer participation and volunteer experience.

The fieldwork took place from 23 November to 6 December 2022, and the survey was carried out online. 

A full version of the Time Well Spent 2023 report is due to be published next month.

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