UK Civil Society Almanac 2017 /
Volunteering overview

Definitions

Our volunteering statistics distinguish between formal and informal volunteering.

  • Formal volunteering means giving unpaid help through a group, club or organisation,
  • while informal means giving unpaid help to individual people who are not relatives, and not through a group, club or organisation

In addition, we distinguish between regular volunteering, where people volunteer at least once a month over the course of a given year, and irregular, where people have volunteered at least once over the course of a year.

Formal volunteering

Rates of formal volunteering are broadly unchanged

  • In 2015/16, around two in every five adults aged 16 and over (41%) reported volunteering formally at least once in the previous year.
  • This figure is unchanged from the previous year, and continues to indicate stability: 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 also remained steady since 2001. In 2015/16, just over one in every four adults (27%) volunteered at least once a month, the same as the 2013/14 and 2014/15 figures.

Proportion of people volunteering formally, 2001 to 2015/16 (% of respondents)
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Source: Citizenship Survey, Community Life Survey

If the survey results are extrapolated to the UK population as a whole, this would produce an estimate of 21.9 million people formally volunteering at least once in the last year, and 14.2 million people formally volunteering at least once a month.

Like overall rates of volunteering, the average number of hours of formal volunteering undertaken per month by individuals has remained relatively stable since 2001: in 2015/16 the estimated mean hours per month among regular volunteers was 11.6.

  • There are small fluctuations on a year-by-year basis, 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.
  • The ONS estimated the value of formal volunteering to be £22.6bn in 2015, down from £22.8bn in 2014. This was mainly due to a fall in the total number of hours volunteered between these years.[1].
Average number of hours of formal volunteering, 2001 to 2015/16
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Source: Citizenship Survey, Community Life Survey

Informal volunteering

…as are rates of informal volunteering

  • In 2015/16, 60% of adults reported volunteering informally at least once in the last year and 34% have done so at least once a month.
  • These figures for informal volunteering are unchanged from the previous year within the space of 2%.
  • Since 2001, these figures have remained largely stable, with the exception of a dip in 2009/10 and 2010/11.
  • In 2015/16 the estimated mean informal volunteering hours per month (among people who reported regular informal volunteering) was 7.1.

Proportion of people volunteering informally, 2001 to 2015/16 (% of respondents)
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Source: Citizenship Survey, Community Life Survey

If the results of the survey are extrapolated to the UK population as a whole, this would produce an estimate of 31.9 million people who volunteered informally at least once in the last year and 18.0 million people who volunteered regularly.

Employer-supported volunteering

Employer-supported volunteering rates remain low

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.

  • Compared to other types of volunteering, employer supported volunteering is relatively rare: data from previous years had suggest however that interest and investment in employer-supported volunteering was growing.
  • This growth appears to have ceased and levels now remain stable. Occasional or one-off participation in employer-supported volunteering – that is, at least once in the last year – has remained at a similar level in 2015/16: 8.1% compared with 8.3% in 2014/15.
  • Regular employer-supported volunteering – that is, at least once per month – was reported by 2.7% of all respondents to the 2014/15 Community Life survey. However, this question has not been asked in the 2015/16 survey, meaning that regular employer-supported volunteering rates can no longer be tracked.

Proportion of people taking part in employer-supported volunteering, 2008/09 to 2015/16 (% of respondents)
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Source: Citizenship Survey, Community Life Survey

If the results of the survey are extrapolated to the UK population as a whole, this would produce an estimate of 4.3 million people who took part in employer supported volunteering at least once in the last year.

Since 2013/14, the survey has also omitted questions on whether employers made Employer-supported volunteering (ESV) schemes available to employees.

  • Data from the 2013/14 survey suggested that most respondents did not have an employer-supported volunteering scheme made 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 were made available by employers, uptake was very high. Of the respondents that had access to volunteering schemes, almost all (99%) had participated in the last 12 months, although only 3% had participated regularly (i.e. at least once a month).
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UK Civil Society Almanac 2017 / The Voluntary Sector /Volunteers and workforce /Volunteering

Published: 08-05-2017

https://data.ncvo.org.uk/a/almanac17/volunteering-overview/