What are the demographics of volunteers?
- In 2017/18, 30% of people aged 25–34 formally volunteered at least once a year, and 15% at least once a month (regularly), the lowest across different age groups. This remains unchanged from previous years.
- The highest rates of volunteering can be found among 65–74 year olds, with 42% at least once a year, and 29% regularly.
- Despite previous increases in volunteering rates among the youngest age group (16–24), levels of formal volunteering for this age group are similar to the overall population (39% vs 38%), including for regular involvement (24% vs 22%).
Across different age groups, 25–34 year-olds are least likely to volunteer and 65–74 year-olds most likely
- Women are more likely than men to have formally (40% vs 35%). There is also a difference between the two, though less marked, for regular volunteering.
- Our recent Time Well Spent report shows similar differences. It also highlights some gender differences in volunteering activities undertaken and causes supported. For example, it reports women are less likely to be in representative volunteering roles, and men are more likely to be involved in sports and political organisations.
Women are more likely to volunteer than men
By employment status
- Those in employment are more likely to formally volunteer on a regular basis than those who are unemployed (22% vs 19%), but those who are economically inactive are most likely to volunteer regularly (29%).
- Our Time Well Spent data highlights that the majority of volunteers who are employed give time outside of work time rather than through employer-supported volunteering.
Around one in five people in employment volunteer regularly
- In 2017/18, people living in rural areas were more likely to formally volunteer than those in urban areas (49% vs 35% at least once in the year, and 29% vs 21% for regular volunteering). This remains largely unchanged from 2016/17.
- In 2017/18, rates of formal volunteering were highest in the south-west, with 43% of people volunteering at last once in the year and lowest in the north-east (27%).
Volunteering rates are higher in rural areas
By socio-economic status
- In 2017/18, 15% were involved in formal volunteering regularly in the most deprived areas of England compared with 29% in the least deprived. There is less variation, however, for informal volunteering, especially for regular involvement.
- Data from 2016/17 also supported this, highlighting that those from lower socio-economic groups and education levels were less likely to volunteer. For example, 17% of those in routine and manual occupations formally volunteered on a regular basis, compared with 30% of those from higher managerial and professional occupations.
- These differences are confirmed by various other research evidence, which also suggests that these differences are more significant for formal than informal volunteering.
- It also highlights that for formal volunteering, volunteers from lower socio-economic groups are less likely to undertake leading or organising roles, such as being a trustee.
People from higher socio-economic groups and living in less deprived areas are more likely to volunteer, but with smaller differences for informal volunteering
Putting it into context
Diversity is a much-discussed topic, but discussions frequently focus on paid staff. The findings on volunteer profiles have not changed significantly in recent years, which highlights continuing inequalities regarding who is involved and not, particularly through groups, clubs or organisations, where differences are particularly apparent. Issues of diversity also relate to a number of different factors, not all of which are covered here, such as ethnicity and disability. More on these can be found in the research sources below.
More data and research
- Read the Time Well Spent report (section 3.4 on ‘who volunteers and who doesn’t’)
- Download the latest Community Life Survey data from 2017/18
- Read our blog highlighting some of the diversity issues in volunteering
- Look at reports from Jump on diversity and volunteering
- See this Charity Commission report on trustees, highlighting diversity issues on trustee boards
Links and resources
Notes and definitions
Findings from this page are largely taken from the latest data from the Community Life Survey (2017/18). Where other recent data is referenced, this is taken from Time Well Spent, which also looks at volunteer profiles. Differences in the sample and methodology should be noted. More on this in methodology.
- Formal volunteering: giving unpaid help through a group, club or organisation.
- Informal volunteering: giving unpaid help as an individual to people who are not a relative
- Regular volunteering: people volunteer at least once a month