UK Civil Society Almanac 2015 /
Volunteering overview

Rates of formal volunteering continue to show stability…

Formal volunteering is described as giving unpaid help through a group, club or organisation. In 2013/14, around two in five adults aged 16 and over reported volunteering formally at least once in the previous year. Although this represents a decrease from 2012/13, it is a return to the 2008/09 figure. Since 2001, the rates of adults formally volunteering at least once in the last year continue to be within five percentage points of each other.

The rates of adults volunteering at least once a month have remained steady since 2001. In 2013/14, just over one in four adults volunteered at least once a month (described as ‘regular volunteers’ in the Community Life survey) which is a slight decrease from the previous year.

If the survey results are extrapolated to the UK population as a whole, this would produce an estimate of 21.1 million people formally volunteering at least once in the last year, and 13.8 million people formally volunteering regularly.

Proportion of people volunteering formally, 2001 to 2013/14 (% of respondents)
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Source: Citizenship and Community Life surveys

Like overall rates of volunteering, the average (mean) number of hours of formal volunteering undertaken per month by individuals has remained relatively stable since 2001. There are small fluctuations on a year-by-year basis, however, with the highest average observed in 2008/2009 at 12.6 hours per month and the lowest in 2010/11 at 10.1 hours per month.

Average number of hours of formal volunteering, 2001 to 2013/14
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…as do rates of informal volunteering

Informal volunteering is described as giving unpaid help to individual people who are not relatives. In 2013/14, 64% of adults reported volunteering informally at least once in the last year and 35% have done so at least once a month. These figures for informal volunteering are similar to the previous year (62% and 36% respectively). Since 2001, these figures have remained fairly stable, bar a dip in 2009/10 and 2010/11.

If the results of the survey are extrapolated to the UK population as a whole, this would produce an estimate of 33.3 million people who volunteered at least once in the last year and 18.4 million people who volunteered regularly.

Employer-supported volunteering is on the rise

Employer-supported volunteering includes activities such as volunteering days provided by an employer during work-time or voluntary activities that are organised through a workplace. The Community Life survey describes these as ‘schemes for employees to help with community projects, voluntary or charity organisations’ that are ‘encouraged by employers’. Recent data show increases in the number of people who take part in employer-supported volunteering activities. Regular employer-supported volunteering – that is, at least once per month – remains rare, and despite a gradual rise, is reported by less than 3% of all respondents to the most recent Community Life survey. Less regular participation in employer-supported volunteering, however – that is, at least once in the last year – has risen sharply in 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Proportion of people taking part in employer-supported volunteering, 2008/09 to 2013/14
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Source: Citizenship and Community Life surveys

The majority of respondents to the Community Life Survey reported that they did not have an employer-supported volunteering scheme available to them, with fewer than one in ten (8%) working in an organisation that had a scheme that was helping community projects, voluntary or charity organisations. However, where volunteering schemes are made available by employers, uptake is very high. Of these respondents, almost all (99%) had participated in the last 12 months, although only 3% had participated regularly (i.e. at least once a month).

Volunteering in the UK has a high economic value

The ONS estimated from 2012/13 Community Life survey data that engagement in regular (at least once a month) formal volunteering in the UK is worth £23.9 billion per year[1].

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UK Civil Society Almanac 2015 / The Voluntary Sector /Volunteers and workforce /Volunteering

Published: 04-06-2015

https://data.ncvo.org.uk/a/almanac15/volunteering/