‘Perennial challenges’ reported as most charities still struggle to recruit volunteers

30 May 2024 News

By Drazen / Adobe

Over half of charities are continuing to find volunteer recruitment difficult, with almost double compared to last spring reporting the commitment is too big for volunteers, according to a new survey.

Some 61% of charities reported difficulty recruiting volunteers in response to the latest survey by Nottingham Trent University’s VCSE Data and Insights National Observatory and Pro Bono Economics (PBE).

Charities have listed volunteer recruitment challenges as a top three concern in previous surveys over the past year, with 47% of the 560 organisations that responded to the latest survey not seeing an increase over the past 12 months. 

Some 42% (compared to 23% a year ago) said that the commitment is too big for their volunteers while 42% said the time contributed by their volunteers has increased over the last year (compared to 35% in the previous survey).

Barriers to recruitment

Charities said a lack of time (59%) and lack of interest (50%) were the most significant barriers to recruitment. 

However, the report states there may be early signs of improvement when comparing current data to the situation 12 months ago. 

Fewer charities reported decreases in volunteer numbers (down from 19% to 17%), while more organisations reported increases (up from 28% to 31%). 

Nonetheless, four in 10 said they do not have enough volunteers to meet their objectives.

Findings also indicate that organisations are less likely to invest in recruitment methods which require time, money and skill, with a decline in in-person recruitment events and social media activity and 84% mainly using word of mouth to recruit volunteers. 

Retention difficulties

One in three charities reported difficulties in volunteer retention, with almost 70% saying volunteer family and caring responsibilities were a significant barrier, and work responsibilities and a decline in flexible working also had an impact.

The two most common methods charities reported using to aid retention were training and development opportunities (74%) and payment of out-of-pocket expenses (64%). 

Fewer organisations said they had adopted flexible working as a retention incentive (46%) compared to a year ago (54%). 

“Given the reported increase in both flexible and virtual volunteering, flexible working may now be seen as standard practice rather than an incentive”, the report states.

‘There are some perennial challenges’

Daniel King, director of the National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory, said: “The results of this wave are very similar to last spring, which shows that there are some perennial challenges facing voluntary organisations.

“It’s hard out there, and while some organisations are adapting and having some success, others are experiencing tensions with balancing the needs of the organisation with the needs of volunteers.”

He added: “Longstanding challenges highlighted in our report are requiring the sector to think differently about volunteer participation”.

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