People don’t volunteer because of work and ‘other things’, finds survey 

26 Jul 2018 News

Just over 50 per cent of people who don't volunteer say it is because of work commitments, while 37 per cent say they have “other things” to do with their spare time, according to the latest Community Life Survey

The annual survey, carried out by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, was published this morning. It says that overall volunteering levels have remained broadly the same as last year. 

The fieldwork is conducted by Kantar Public and is an annual household survey, conducted via self-completion questionnaire. Between April 2013 and March 2018 10,217 people took part.

Some 22 per cent of people surveyed said they took part in formal volunteering at least once a month, which is the same as last year, but lower than the 27 per cent reported in 2013/14. 

In 2017/18 38 per cent said they had volunteered formally at least once in the last year, which is one percentage point higher than last year but lower than the 45 per cent reported in 2013/14. 

People aged 25 to 34 had the lowest levels of regular volunteering at 15 per cent. Those aged 65 to 74 reported the highest levels at 29 per cent. 

Barriers to volunteering 

For those who did not volunteer formally at least once a month the most common reason was work commitments, with 51 per cent saying this was a barrier. 

The other barriers were: 

  • I do other things with my spare time – 37 per cent 
  • I have to look after children/the home – 26 per cent 
  • I have never thought about it - 15 per cent 
  • I don’t know any groups that need help – 12 per cent 
  • I haven’t heard about opportunities to give help/I couldn’t find opportunities – 12 per cent 
  • I have to study – 11 per cent 
  • I have an illness/disability that I feel prevents me from getting involved – 10 per cent 
  • I have to look after someone who is elderly or ill – 8 per cent 
  • I’m not the right age – 7 per cent 
  • I’m new to the area – 6 per cent 
  • It is not my responsibility – 4 per cent

Reasons to volunteer 

For those that volunteered formally the biggest reason for doing so was that they wanted to help improve things/people, with 46 per cent saying this was the case, followed by 31 per cent who said the cause was important to them. 

Other reasons to volunteer were: 

  • I had spare time to do it – 25 per cent 
  • I wanted to meet people/make friends – 25 per cent 
  • I thought it would give me a chance use my existing skills – 24 per cent 
  • I felt there was a need in my community – 21 per cent
  • It’s part of my philosophy of life to help people – 19 per cent 
  • I t was connected to the needs of my family/friends – 18 per cent 
  • I thought it would give me a chance to learn new skills – 17 per cent 
  • My friends/family did it – 16 per cent 
  • It’s part of my religious belief to help people – 16 per cent 
  • I felt there was no one else to do it – 7 per cent 
  • It helps me get on in my career – 7 per cent 

Social action 

The survey also asks questions about social action, which it defines as being involved in issues affecting the local area by doing things like setting up a new service, stopping the closure of a service, running a service on a voluntary basis or organising a community event. 

In 2017/18 15 per cent of respondents said they had been involved in social action at least once in the last year. This is compares with 16 per cent in the three previous years. 

People living in rural areas were more likely to have been involved, with 22 per cent saying they had been involved, compared with 13 per cent of those living in urban areas. 

Those living in the most deprived areas were less likely to have been involved in social action, with 10 per cent saying that they were involved, compared with 20 per cent in the most affluent areas.  


Three quarters of respondents said they had given money to charitable causes in the last four weeks, which is the same as in 2016/17 but lower than 2013-14 when 82 per cent had donated. 

The mean amount given in the four weeks prior to completing the survey (excluding those who donated more than £300) was £22, which is the same as last year, with 13 per cent donating more than £50.

Women and older people reported giving more than men and younger people, which is consistent with previous surveys.

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