Who volunteers as a family?

Daiga KamerādeDaiga Kamerāde is a reader in work, well-being and community at the University of Salford. She is an author of several research articles on the effects that volunteering has on well-being, mental health, employability and civic participation.

If your organisation offers opportunities for family groups to volunteer together or is thinking about developing this, then some of the recent findings from our research project of family volunteering may give you food for thought. These highlights are drawn from our analysis of the UK Time Use Survey looking at how different people living in the same household volunteer together, as a family, for or through a voluntary organisation or group. They complement the findings of the evidence review that was conducted for the project earlier this year.

Nearly half of family volunteers are older couples

This is, perhaps, the most surprising finding so far. The family volunteering taking place in the UK does not conform easily to the stereotypical picture of a family of one or two adults with children, all volunteering together. Our data suggest that nearly half (49%) of family volunteers are adults who volunteer with their partners. Couples in all age groups volunteer together but seven out of ten couples who volunteer together are adults aged 60 or over.

The second most common type of family volunteering is an adult volunteering with at least one child younger than 16. This was reported by nearly a quarter (23%) of adults engaged in family volunteering. Two adults volunteering with at least one child was the third most common arrangement (19%).

Family volunteering opportunities are crucial for getting families with children into volunteering

Families with children volunteer if they can all volunteer together. If they can’t volunteer together they’re much less likely than families with no children to engage in volunteering activities.

This is true for all families with children, but family volunteering opportunities are particularly important for families with children under the age of four. They’re the ones who are the most likely to not volunteer at all, but they have above average family volunteering rates.

Family volunteering activities seem to be the most attractive to families with children aged between 11 and 15. These families have much higher family volunteering rates than families with children under the age of 11.

Family volunteering makes a big difference

People who volunteer together with their family spend less time on volunteering, but it still makes a big difference. On a typical day a volunteering family spends nearly half an hour (27 minutes) per person on family volunteering. This is much less than the average of 47 minutes spent on volunteering without the family.

However, family volunteering still makes a significant contribution to the UK economy. The total minimum value of family volunteering in the UK, based on the National Hourly Minimum Wage, on a typical day is around £5.4m. That’s approximately £1.97bn worth of family volunteering per calendar year. But this doesn’t take into account the value of volunteering to the volunteers themselves.

These findings and those from other project activities will be brought together in our final report to inform and support organisations that want to create and develop family volunteering opportunities. We’re currently conducting the fieldwork for the organisational and family case studies. If you’re interested in this project and want to be kept informed of its progress, please let NCVO know by completing the expression of interest form.


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