UK Civil Society Almanac 2012 /
Has the number of people volunteering changed over time?

During the beginning of the recession, evidence was beginning to suggest that volunteering levels were likely to increase during the recession with 87% of Volunteer Centres reporting an increase in the number of enquiries since the start of the recession.[71a]

Participation in formal volunteering in England, 2001 – 2010/11 (%)
Chart showing the trend in participation since 2001. Participation seems to have peaked in 2005, when 44% of people participated in formal volunteering once a year, and 29% once a month.

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Latest research suggests that rates of formal volunteering declined during the recession, from 43% of people formally volunteering once a year in 2007/08 to 39% of people in 2010/11. Twenty-five per cent of people reported that they volunteered formally at least once a month in 2010/11, the same proportion as in 2009/10, and lower than in all years between 2001 and 2008/09.71b The reasons for this fall are not yet clear but as the figures have been increasing between 2001 and 2005, it appears that the recession (and its aftermath) is likely to be a significant driver of this trend.

It may be that the beginnings of the recession did see a boost in interest in volunteering but that this interest was not converted into people actually volunteering. Some have argued reduced capacity in volunteer involving organisations and intermediaries has been a factor. Similarly whilst we know that rising unemployment offers people more time (lack of time being a significant barrier to volunteering); we also know that those out of work are generally less likely to volunteer than those in work (34 per cent compared to 42 per cent for formal volunteering).[71b]

Just over one in seven registered charities (15%) were satisfied with the support available in their local area from all bodies to help their organisation find volunteers whilst 10% were dissatisfied.[71c] Just over one-quarter of registered charities reported that they had insufficient numbers of volunteers over the last twelve months.[71c]

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UK Civil Society Almanac 2012 / The Voluntary Sector /Volunteers and workforce /Volunteering

Published: 17-02-2012