New volunteering data out today

This morning the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published the latest results from its Community Life Survey. This survey provides the most reliable data on volunteering rates in England. This blog presents some of the key findings from the 2017/18 data.

Overall levels of volunteering are stable

Today’s data shows that rates of volunteering have not changed: 38% of people reported they had formally [1] volunteered at least once a year in 2017-18. Although this is up 1% from 2016-17, this increase is not statistically significant, meaning that the increase is too small to be certain that it is not just due to chance. The same is true if we look at rates of ‘regular’ formal volunteering: over one in five (22%) of people reported they volunteered once a month, a figure that remains unchanged from last year.

Due to a change in methodology last year, when the survey moved from being a face-to-face interview to an online/paper version which respondents complete themselves, it is difficult to compare longer trends over time. The new data using online and paper surveys suggests, that volunteering rates might be slightly lower than previously thought when the data was collected through face-to-face interviews. However, across the same methodology levels of involvement remain stable over time.

25 to 34-year olds are the least likely to volunteer

People aged 25-34 years old are the least likely to formally volunteer with only 15% volunteering once a month. The highest rates of volunteering can be found among the 65-74 year olds, with 29% volunteering once a month and 42% at least once a year.

Despite previous increases in volunteering rates among young people (16-24 year olds), the new data shows that in 2017/18 their levels of formal volunteering at least once a year are similar to overall rates for the whole population and only slightly higher for regular involvement (24% vs 22% overall).

Volunteering rates are higher in rural and less deprived areas

People living in more deprived areas are less likely to volunteer formally. In 2017/18, 15% volunteered regularly in the most deprived areas of England compared with 29% in the least deprived. There is also divide between rural and urban areas: 29% of people living in rural areas volunteer formally on a monthly basis versus 21% of people in urban areas. These trends are unchanged from last year.

‘Wanting to do good’ remains the most important reason to volunteer

In 2017/18, improving things and helping others remains the most common reason why people get involved: 46% of people say that is why they volunteer. About a third (31%) of people said they gave time because the cause was important to them.

Having spare time is an important reason for people to get involved (25%) but also a barrier for people to get into volunteering or do it more frequently. One in two people (51%) said that work commitments are a barrier to volunteering and more than one third (37%) said they do other things in their spare time – up from 35% in 2016/17.

Find out more

If you want to find out more, you can have a look at the data yourself by accessing the Excel spreadsheet or read the DCMS summary report. When the full data is available, we will be doing further analysis which will be published next near in our 2019 UK Civil Society Almanac.

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Lisa Hornung Lisa Hornung is a senior data and research analyst in the research team at NCVO. She leads on the data collection, analysis and communication of the UK Civil Society Almanac. More widely, she helps to ensure that NCVO remains at the forefront of voluntary sector data collection and analysis.

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