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Public sector volunteers 'less satisfied' than charity volunteers, NCVO research suggests 

13 Jan 2020 News

People giving their time to public services are less satisfied with their experience than those giving their time to charities, according to new research published today by NCVO.

The Time Well Spent: Volunteering in the Public Sector research is based on a survey of 10,000 adults in Great Britain, conducted with YouGov, which explored who volunteers, where, why, and how they feel about their volunteering. 

Public sector volunteers were more likely than charity volunteers to plan to quit their volunteering. A total of 76 per cent said they would continue volunteering in the future compared to 83 per cent among charity volunteers.

The research also finds that 94 per cent of those volunteering in the public sector say that they were satisfied with their experience. But only 47 per cent said they were very satisfied, compared to 58 per cent among charities.

‘Too much bureaucracy’ and unreasonable expectations

Indeed, although the level of satisfaction is strong among public sector volunteers, they are more likely to report that their experience is too bureaucratic and less likely to feel a sense of belonging to the organisation that they are volunteering with.

Public sector volunteers were almost twice as likely as charity volunteers to say they expected the process of getting involved to be quicker, and they were around 50 per cent more likely than charity volunteers to report that there is too much bureaucracy.

The research also found that one in four public sector volunteers thought that their experience was too much like paid work.

Over one in five public sector volunteers, 22 per cent, felt organisations had unreasonable expectations of their time, compared to 14 per cent of charity volunteers.

Volunteers at larger public sector organisations expressed frustrations surrounding bureaucracy and hierarchy more than those at smaller organisations. 

Karl Wilding: 'Make roles flexible and minimise bureaucracy'

Karl Wilding, chief executive of NCVO, said: “Volunteers in public services do amazing work, sometimes in incredibly tough roles. We owe it to them to make the experience as positive as possible. And getting public sector volunteering right holds the potential to make a really positive difference to services by harnessing people’s desire to help out in their communities.

“The differences we found in the survey are not always dramatic but along with what we heard in focus groups they do hint at areas for improvement in public sector volunteering programmes, particularly in terms of making roles flexible and minimising bureaucracy. I firmly believe that public services are able to do this, even in the context of financial pressure, and I sense a great willingness to do so from the public sector leaders I speak to.

“Good volunteering programmes can deliver great returns for communities and public sector bodies, but they do require investment, both financially and in terms of a real commitment from organisations to truly understand volunteering. There are some excellent volunteering programmes in the public sector and the question now is how we help all organisations match these examples.”

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