Volunteering in England in 2032

Key messages from NCVO’s Vision for Volunteering submission

NCVO is currently collaborating with NAVCA, the Association for Volunteer Managers, Volunteering Matters and Sport England to develop a Vision for Volunteering in England.

With support from the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport we will develop an ambitious strategic plan for volunteering over the next ten years. In this blog we look at the key learnings and messages from NCVO’s submission to this piece of work.

There are some core challenges and changes we foresee for volunteering over the next decade, as well as opportunities to work together to bring about positive change.

NCVO’s vision for change

Our vision for volunteering in England is of a future where volunteers can give their time to the causes and organisations that matter to them, in the ways they want. We know that volunteering in all its forms is essential for a strong, inclusive, and prosperous society.

Volunteers bring distinctive value to paid staff and create and drive change. We want to see more people volunteering, having a better experience, and delivering a greater positive impact.

The next decade is likely to see continued change for many aspects of volunteering, including who gives their time, how they volunteer, and which causes and organisations they engage with. Volunteers increasingly look for more flexibility, the use of digital platforms and technology, and the opportunity to bring about positive change in society. The volunteering ecosystem has huge opportunities to understand and adapt to these changes.

What needs to change?

Volunteering opportunities are not currently equally accessible. Many factors can have negatively affected the impact volunteers have or stop them from volunteering altogether. One of NCVO’s strategic goals is to reduce and remove these barriers to volunteering.

We know that exclusion, discrimination, and oppression which exists in wider society has an impact on who volunteers and the experience they have. Experiences of poverty, racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia, poor mental health and physical wellbeing can all limit our ability to give time and energy to the causes we care about.

Both physical and social community infrastructure can be a sizeable barrier. We have elevated levels of local and regional inequality in England, and areas with fewer resources have less opportunities and capacity for volunteering.

Volunteers increasingly look for flexibility, with roles and activities which will fit in with their lives (see our Time Well Spent research series). There will continue to be a crucial place for formal and routine volunteering roles, but we also know that the voluntary sector needs to be able to understand the needs and interests of potential volunteers, and to adapt where appropriate.

Volunteering does not just happen within charities. People are interested in engaging with their communities, in corporate organisations and with broader social causes. Many people are motivated to give their time and energy to address systemic inequalities and create positive change through social action. We can do more to understand this, and to create and maintain opportunities to give time to issues that matter to us.

Making change a reality

A wide range of stakeholders create the environment where volunteering occurs, or the ‘volunteering ecosystem.’ This ecosystem is complex and dynamic, and influenced by many factors. Volunteers, communities, voluntary organisations, infrastructure, policy makers, funders, public sector, private organisations, and others, all play a role. We want to see increasing recognition of the vital role that volunteering plays in society, as well as sufficient and proportionate funding for organisations and communities, and collaborative working progressing within and beyond the voluntary sector.

At NCVO we recognise that we have a crucial part to play in supporting these changes. We continue to commit to working to reduce and remove barriers to volunteering. We will work in partnership with others to gather data and evidence, create and provide practical resources, and bring together volunteering networks to build and share learning and experience. We will continue to work with government and other key decision makers, using our evidence to make the case for charities and volunteers.

Volunteering in 2032

In combination, these elements have the potential to drive real, positive change for volunteering in England over the next ten years.

This will mean that volunteering in 2032 will be easier, more accessible, inclusive, and impactful. Volunteers will have a better experience and will be able to give their time more flexibly. Volunteering opportunities will be more balanced, enjoyable, and meaningful. The public will be more aware of the value of volunteering, its benefits, and how they can get involved.

How you can get involved with the Vision for Volunteering

On 6 May 2022 we will launch the Vision for Volunteering at the Volunteer Expo Live in Birmingham. We will share the insights, feedback and learning from the hundreds of volunteers and voluntary organisations who have been involved to date. It will be a step in our journey in creating positive change for volunteers and will set out how volunteers and organisations can get involved in building the next phase of the Vision. Sign up for updates and more information on the Vision for Volunteering website.

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Catherine Goodall is a senior policy officer at NCVO, working primarily on public services policy. She has a background in research and practice, working with local authorities and universities to drive service improvement and facilitating participatory action research.

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