Latest research shows volunteering in the UK is at its lowest levels in a decade (ref DCMS Community Life Survey 2021/22: volunteering and charitable giving).
To understand the reasons why, and what steps volunteer-involving organisations could take to boost volunteering levels in Buckinghamshire, Community Impact Bucks and Buckinghamshire Health and Social Care Academy commissioned independent research that took place December 2022 – February 2023.
Volunteering in Buckinghamshire, carried out by Laura Elson Consulting Ltd, explored volunteering needs and barriers for organisations, current and potential volunteers; tested and developed ideas about how to evolve the Buckinghamshire Volunteer Matching Service; and identified skills and training requirements for volunteers, and assessed whether a volunteer passport could support skills development.
Key findings regarding current volunteers in the county include:
- 3 out of 4 (75%) of respondents who currently volunteer use existing skills for good causes
- 86% said they volunteered as they enjoyed it, with other reasons for volunteering identified including for socialising (55%), mental health (54%) and being passionate about the cause (51%).
- 56% of current volunteers volunteer in multiple places, with 22% saying they would volunteer more.
Of the volunteering organisations which took part in the research, it was found that many are already offering lots of flexible volunteering:
- 60% offer weekend volunteering roles.
- 51% had evening volunteering opportunities.
- 40% also offered remote roles which could be done from home.
Research amongst those who do not currently volunteer found:
- Over three-quarters (78%) of respondents who do not volunteer said not having to sign up to a regular commitment would enable them to volunteer.
- 53% of those not volunteering would prefer to support one-off events.
- 1 in 2 (50%) said volunteering from or near home would help.
- Several barriers to volunteering were identified: nearly half (44%) said they didn’t have time, 42% said they didn’t know how to find opportunities, and a lack of flexibility in roles.
- The majority of volunteers (64%) said they had up to 5 hours per month they could give to volunteering, which is enough for many volunteer roles.
Other barriers to volunteering stood out:
- Onerous onboarding processes and training.
- Organisations ignoring applications – or being too persistent.
- Lack of relevant opportunities.
These barriers, plus other findings, highlighted how charities and other volunteer-involving organisations several measures they could take to make it easier to volunteer:
- Create more flexible opportunities for example adhoc roles, volunteering from or near home, supporting one-off events.
- Provide opportunities to visit the organisation for example holding volunteer taster sessions.
- Promote opportunities more widely including more targeted promotion and community outreach to specific groups, highlighting that volunteering can be: flexible, cater for a wide range of interests, enjoyable and sociable, and be done from – or close to – home.
- Manage expectations around onboarding of volunteers.
- Research by Laura Elson Consulting Ltd for Community Impact Bucks and Buckinghamshire Health and Social Care Academy, November 2022 to February 2023. This involved delivering surveys (169 participants) and focus groups (18 participants) with the three stakeholder groups.
- If you would like to discuss the research with Community Impact Bucks, contact Stephanie Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Run by Community Impact Bucks, Buckinghamshire Volunteer Matching Service is a free service that helps people in Buckinghamshire find volunteering opportunities that suit them. Since it was established in March 2020, it has placed over 1800 volunteers in volunteer roles throughout the county.
- If you are volunteer-involving organisation, you can find advice on all aspects of volunteer recruitment and management in our We Need Volunteer online resources.
- If you are not-for-profit organisation in Buckinghamshire and would like tailored advice and guidance on volunteer recruitment and management, book a free 121 Support Session.
- Visit our News page to read our press release ‘Volunteer Roles in Buckinghamshire becoming more flexible to fit with busy lifestyles’ (31 May 2023).