Ten things we learnt about the voluntary sector in 2014

It’s been a busy year in the world of research, both for us here at NCVO and across the sector. There’s been some excellent and really challenging research published during 2014, and here are ten of my favourites.

Sport volunteering in the UK is worth £53bn

Research by Join In published in October, and supported by IVR, also found that seven out of ten sports clubs need more volunteers.

Young people in Scotland demonstrate the highest levels of social action in the UK

The research by Ipsos Mori also found that four in ten young people aged between 10 and 20 across the UK took part in ‘meaningful social action’ during the past year.

Total income for the voluntary sector has declined slightly…again

Our Civil Society Almanac, published in March, found that total income for the sector in the 2011-12 financial year was £39.2bn, down slightly from £39.9bn the year before. At the same time, the voluntary sector’s spending fell to £38bn, down in real terms from a high of £39bn two years before.

Volunteering is worth nearly £100bn to the UK – or is it?

Figures from the ONS value the ‘output’ of regular formal volunteers at just under £24bn and the well-being value to frequent formal volunteers themselves at around £70bn – but it’s not that straightforward as this excellent blog by Matthew Hill explains.

The charity Sue Ryder benefits from 111,000 volunteering hours by serving prisoners each year

Research by IVR and ICPR published in the autumn developed new guidance for organisations and individuals seeking to work with volunteers with offending records.

Deprived areas of the country tend to have fewer charities

A report by the Centre for Social Justice, Social Solutions: Enabling grass-roots charities to tackle poverty, discussed the idea of charity hotspots and coldspots, quoting that 9% of the population of England and Wales live in areas with just 1.6% of the total number of charities. My colleague David Kane unpicked these findings in his thoughtful blog on the matter.

41% of people volunteer formally at least once a year in England

The Community Life survey also found that 27% reported volunteering formally (through a group, club or organisation) at least once in the previous 12 months. While both figures had gone down from the previous year, we shouldn’t get too worried about a dip in volunteering rates as things are actually pretty stable over time.

Teenagers see charities and social enterprises as the most important agents for change in their communities

Research from Demos in February described today’s young people as ‘Generation Citizen’, finding that they are more engaged with social issues than previous generations of young people.

6.6 million Italians over the age of 14 volunteered during 2013

Italy is the latest country to take part in the European Volunteer Measurement Project which is being run by Johns Hopkins University, although I have previously blogged about the challenge of comparing volunteering globally.

Including the voluntary sector in national accounts increases UK GDP by £24bn

In May data from work undertaken by NCVO and the TSRC was used by the ONS to update a part of the UK national accounts called NPISH (Non-profit institutions serving households). Including this data has meant that ONS’s estimate of the UK’s GDP was revised upwards by 1.7%.

These are just my personal reflections so I’d love to hear what you thought were the most interesting findings from the year, and look forward to learning much more in 2015.

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Avatar photo Nick Ockenden is an NCVO research associate and former head of the research team. As part of this role he led the work of the Institute for Volunteering Research, where he worked from 2005.

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