10 things I’ve learnt about the voluntary sector and volunteering in 2015

There’s been a huge amount of research published on the sector and on volunteering over the past 12 months. I want to share 10 pieces that have stood out for me.

Fewer than 0.5% of trustees are 16-24 years of age

The research by CAF, published in August, also found that only 8% of trustees are non-white and just over one-third are women.

Two-thirds of employees would rather work for an employer which supports and encourages volunteering

CIPD launched the results from a new survey of more than 1,200 employees research in November, which also found that just over half of employees said that their employer supported volunteering. At the same time, and again working with CIPD, we launched our latest research into employer-supported volunteering.

There are 37,000 organisations in the sector whose core work is with children and young people

In June, working with the Children’s Partnership, we launched a Children’s and Young People’s Almanac which also found the total spend of these organisations to be £5.6 billion. The data is drawn from our annual UK Civil Society Almanac.

More than one billion people volunteer globally

This was one of the headline findings from the UN’s State of the World Volunteerism report, published in June.

Social capital does not appear to be in decline

In October we held an event with Understanding Society to ask what social capital looks like today. Anthony Heath’s (from the Centre for Social Investigations at Oxford University) opening presentation analysis of the survey since the early 1990s found that levels of trust in others had fluctuated but has been steady overall, neighbourhood trust has increased since 2002, and social support levels have increased since the 1990s.

Rates of youth social action are lower amongst more deprived people

Research by Ipsos Mori was launched on the second anniversary of Step Up to Serve in November and found that rates of participation are higher amongst young people from more affluent communities (49% participating in the most affluent compared to 38% in the least).

The Big Lottery Fund has made £9.5m of grants in my constituency since 2010

Before the recent spending review it looked like £300m could be taken away from the BLF, but we were delighted to see it survive intact. In the run up to the budget, my colleague David Kane developed this amazing tool to work out how much they have funded in individual areas.

Trust in charities is higher amongst younger people

My colleague Joy Dobbs published a review of literature on trust in charities in March which found no change in the public’s overall level of trust and confidence. It also found higher levels of trust in people aged 18-34 than compared to other age groups, and amongst people who work in the charity sector, have family or friends who do, or who have used or benefitted from charity services.

Charity closures are still quite a rare thing

While we shouldn’t get complacent in these challenging economic times, analysis by my colleague David Kane found that there has been no large rise in closures in 2014 and 2015.

Rates of volunteering continue to be stable

The latest results from the Community Life Survey, released in July, found that 42% of people volunteered formally at least once a year, which has not changed significantly from the previous year.

These are just a few of the many bits of research I’ve liked over the past year, and I’m looking forward to much more in 2016. I’d love to hear your favourites – or where you feel there are gaps – so feel free to add any to the comments below.


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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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