8 Feb 2019
Research conducted by NCVO sought to find out more about volunteers’ experience, in order to inform recruitment practice and policy.
More than 10,000 adults undertook an online survey and the data
was weighted to reflect key characteristics of the national
population (England) in regard to age, gender, education and social
Who gives time?
Seven out of every 10 people surveyed had volunteered at some
point in their lives, mostly through groups, clubs and
organisations. Involvement is frequently 'light touch -
dipping in and out of opportunities over time, depending on what
else is happening in their lives. It is a minority that sustain
intense involvement over their lifetime - but these are the people
that so many organisations depend upon.
Current or recent volunteers tend to be older, better educated and
from higher socio-economic groups. Some demographic groups
that are underrepresented in formal volunteering participate in
more informal ways, such as neighbourly acts.
Volunteers are most likely to give their time in their own local
neighbourhood and for third sector organisations, though some
volunteer for public sector organisations such as the NHS or
police. A significant proportion took part in one or more
'one- off' events rather than volunteering on a regular
Satisfaction levels are high, however some frustrations were
reported. In particular, young volunteers, disabled
volunteers, occasional volunteers and those involved with the
public sector reported less positive experiences - so there is
little room for complacency!
Public sector volunteers were twice as likely to agree that their
volunteering was 'too structured or formalised' than third sector
volunteers. On the other hand, over a third of volunteers
agree that 'things could be much better organised.' There is
a challenge to get the right balance here between too much
bureaucracy and poor organisation.
Frequent volunteers often felt under pressure to give more of
their time than they wished.
Volunteering can be a burden when it starts to feel like work, and
the risk of this appears greater in public sector settings.
Improving career prospects is a significant motivation for
volunteering among 18 - 24 year olds but not for older age groups;
far more want to use the skills and experience that they already
have - and to do something that is different from their day to day
work, if they are in full time employment.
Volunteers experience a wide range of personal benefits of
volunteering, including enjoyment and wellbeing. Many,
especially younger volunteers, say that it helps them to feel less
Volunteers are most likely to continue volunteering in the future
if they feel part of an organisation or common cause and, not
surprisingly, if they enjoy the experience.
An eight point summary of what a quality volunteering experience
looks like can be described, under the following headings:
inclusive, connected, voluntary, flexible, balanced, meaningful,
impactful and enjoyable.
These eight points are an excellent starting point for reviewing
volunteering practice, and to ensure that volunteering is indeed
time well spent.
Download the full
report or a summary
Read a blog about the
launch of the Time Well Spent report, which took place on
25th January. You can also link from here to the
live stream recording from the launch event.