To improve things and help others is the most prominent reason why people get involved
- Among those who formally volunteered at least once in the last 12 months, the most frequent reason given for volunteering is ‘to improve things and help people’: almost half of those volunteering (49%) said this.
- People also get involved because the cause is important to them (32%) and when they have spare time to do it (28%).
- Less frequently mentioned reasons include: feeling there is no one else to do it (8%), to get on in their career (7%), and to get a recognised qualification (2%).
Routes to volunteering
People get most often involved in groups or organisations they have a personal connection with
- Latest data (2016/17) shows that people who formally volunteer at least once a year, most often have found out about the volunteering opportunity from someone else already involved in the group or organisation (48%).
- Other routes to volunteering include previously using services provided by the group or organisation (23%), through school, college or university (22%), through their place of worship (19%) or by word of mouth (17%).
- People also find out about volunteering opportunities online, with 10% of people reporting they find the information on the internet and organisations’ websites.
- People very rarely find out about volunteering opportunities through the national newspaper (1%), the National Citizen Service (1%) or TV or radio (1%). Finding out from local events and sources is somewhat more common (between 9% and 4%).
Barriers to volunteering
Most people stop volunteering because of changing circumstances
- By far the most commonly cited reason for respondents to stop volunteering is lack of time due to changing home or work circumstances (51%). And 14% of respondents also mention the more specific issue of it taking up too much time.
- Almost a quarter (24%) of people say that they only get involved in a one-off event or activity.
- Other reasons include moving away from the area (12%) and health problems or old age (11%).
Paid work is the main barrier to volunteering more often or to getting into volunteering again
- For respondents who have formerly volunteered but not on a regular basis, the main reason given for not volunteering regularly basis is work commitments (62%), followed by commitments in the home or in caring for children (36%), along with other uses of spare time (36%).
- For respondents who have volunteered in the past (up to 5 years ago) but didn’t do so in the last year, the same three reasons are also the most common.
- Smaller proportions of people in both groups, former volunteers and irregular formal volunteers, report illness (their own or someone they care for) or ‘not the right age’ as a barrier to volunteering (less than 10% in each category).
Get the data
Access more data from the Community Life Survey here.