How do people feel about volunteering?

Overview

  • Almost all (96%) recent volunteers report being very or fairly satisfied with their volunteering with their main organisation, and almost seven in ten (69%) have or would recommend it to others.
  • Volunteer journeys vary, therefore volunteer-involving organisations have a wide range of expectations to meet. Some groups tend to be less positive about certain aspects of their experience than others, including: younger compared with older, occasional compared with frequent, public sector compared with civil society and disabled compared with non-disabled volunteers.
  • Positive experiences are likely to lead to continued participation: how people experience the different elements of the volunteering journey matters for their overall satisfaction and likelihood to continue.

Volunteering is a positive experience for most

Volunteer management

There is a balance to strike between organising volunteering effectively and over-formalising it

  • The majority of volunteers feel positively about how their volunteering is managed, including feeling well supported (83%) and recognised enough (84%), both factors that are strongly associated with satisfied volunteers.
  • However, around one-third of volunteers (35%), feel that things could be much better organised. This needs to be balanced with not becoming too bureaucratic or formalised, which some volunteers also felt (24% and 13% respectively).
  • Most are happy with the way their time is managed, but one in five (19%) feel their volunteering was ‘becoming too much like paid work’ – this proportion of volunteers is higher in more formalised settings.

Relationship with the organisation

  • 87% of recent volunteers agree there is a culture of respect and trust – a factor that is important for satisfaction and retention.
  • Most feel a sense of belonging to the organisation (85%), especially those who volunteered frequently, but a lower proportion feel they had opportunities to influence the development of the organisation (66%).
  • Over three-quarters of volunteers feel the organisation communicated with them the ‘right amount’ about the difference being made by the organisation, but they are more likely to say the level of communication is ‘too little’ (13%) than ‘too much’ (2%).

Volunteers largely feel positively towards their organisation but even more could be communicated about impact

Quality

  • The quality of the volunteer experience matters in engaging existing volunteers over their lifetime and attracting new volunteers.
  • Overall, a quality experience is time well spent for volunteers. Eight key features that support this include volunteering that is: inclusive, flexible, impactful, connected, balanced, enjoyable, voluntary and meaningful.

The volunteer experience at its best is time well spent

Key features of a quality experience, 2018

Putting it into context

While the findings focus on formal volunteering, there is a spectrum of formality within volunteering for groups, clubs or organisations – from large organisations with paid staff and more formal procedures to more self-organised grassroots community groups. As well as the challenge of meeting a variety of volunteer expectations, volunteer-involving organisations have to balance volunteers’ needs with their own organisational needs. Therefore, the findings highlight the importance of being proportionate, recognising the varying contexts, but trying not to over burden volunteers unnecessarily.

The insights provided on the volunteer experience also highlight the value of stepping into volunteers’ shoes, and not just looking at measures in relation to the numbers of those involved but also the quality of their experience.

More data and research

Notes and definitions

The findings on this page are based on the Time Well Spent report, looking at the volunteer journey and experience.

Specific terms

  • Formal volunteering: giving unpaid help through a group, club or organisation.
  • Recent volunteers: those who have given unpaid help in the last 12 months.
  • References to volunteers’ main organisation: for those who have given time to more than one organisation these respondents were asked to identify the organisation they gave the most unpaid help to (the most time, resources etc). If they had given time to two equally, they were asked to choose the one they helped most recently
  • The further analysis to identify factors strongly associated with continuing to volunteer was done using multivariate logistic regression analysis. Details can be found in Appendix 2 (p99) of the full report.