Voluntary organisationscontribute to society inmany different ways
Voluntary organisations are set up for different purposes supporting a range of beneficiaries, including people, organisations and the environment. As such they make a difference in a wide range of ways.
Research by Johns Hopkins University provides a useful framework to help improve understanding of the sector’s different contributions to society. It highlights five key roles:
self-expression and leadership
This research involved a comparative study across different countries. It found that the service role is the most commonly expected contribution of voluntary organisations, followed by the innovation role.
Types of support
When looking at the type of support voluntary organisations provide, service provision is the most common function. More than a third (36%) of organisations said they provide some kind of service.
Just under a third of organisations provide buildings and facilities (30%) or make grants to organisations (29%).
Acting as an umbrella body (9%), undertaking research (8%) and providing other financial support (6%) are the least common functions.
Service provision is the most common function of voluntary organisations
Voluntary organisations exist to support a wide range of beneficiary groups, covering all demographic groups within the UK population and people across the world, as well as the environment.
The most common beneficiary group is children and young people, which 59% of organisations support. They were followed by the general public (46%) and the elderly (29%).
Children and young people are the most common beneficiary group of voluntary organisations
Research by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) shows that the use of voluntary organisations is widespread. Nine in ten UK households have used a voluntary organisation at some point, and around three quarters (74%) have used a service provided by a voluntary organisation in the last 12 months.
Households which use voluntary organisations perceive a wide range of benefits from doing so. Most commonly this is having an enjoyable experience (17%) or receiving emotional support or counselling from a voluntary organisation (15%).
People are often not aware they are using a voluntary organisation. Almost 3 in 10 (29%) were unaware that the service they or someone in their household had used was provided by a voluntary organisation.
Voluntary organisations are widely used by households