Key facts

Key facts and figures from the world of volunteering

What is volunteering?

Any activity which involves spending time, unpaid, doing something which aims to benefit someone (individuals or groups) other than or in addition to close relatives, or to benefit the environment. (The Compact Code on Volunteering)

  • Formal volunteering refers to people who volunteer with official groups, clubs or organisations
  • Informal volunteering refers to people who give unpaid help to other people, usually friends or neighbours

How many people volunteer?

  • 26 per cent of people in England participated in formal volunteering at least once a month
  • 35 per cent of people in England participated in informal volunteering at least once a month

Who volunteers?

  • Mostly women - 28% volunteer at least once a month compared to 23% of men
  • 24% of people, aged 16 to 25, participated at least once a month in formal volunteering, while 38% took part in informal volunteering at least once a month
  • People classified as being at risk of social exclusion (defined here as having a long-term limiting illness or disability, having no formal qualifications, or being from an ethnic minority group) were less likely to regularly participate in volunteering than people not classified as at risk (20% compared with 29% for formal volunteering)

How long do people spend volunteering?

  • People who regularly participated in formal volunteering spent an average of 12.6 hours volunteering in the four weeks before the interview
  • People who regularly took part in informal volunteering spent an average of 7.7 hours on these activities in the four weeks before the interview

What sort of volunteering do people do?

  • The most common activities undertaken by regular formal volunteers were ‘organising or helping to run an activity or event’ (59%) and ‘raising or handling money/taking part in sponsored events’ (52%)
  • The most common activity undertaken by regular informal volunteers was ‘giving advice’, undertaken by 45% of regular informal volunteers
  • Groups related to sports and exercise (52%) or hobbies and recreation (40%) were the most common types of organisations that regular formal volunteers were involved in

Why do people volunteer?

  • 62% of regular formal volunteers say they start volunteering because they 'want to improve things/help people’
  • 65% of regular formal volunteers say they get 'satisfaction from seeing the results’

What stops people from volunteering?

  • 58% say work commitments prevent them from volunteering

(Figures are taken from the National Citizenship Survey conducted by the Department for Communities and Local Government 2008-2009)

TimeBank also asked people why they volunteer. We surveyed 700 volunteers across the UK in October 2009

  • Over two thirds of volunteers aged between 16-24 see volunteering as a way of enhancing their career prospects
  • 75% wanted to see the difference it made to people's lives
  • 65% of young people wanted to develop their skills, 48% because it made them feel good, 41% because it is fun and 46% to make new friends.
  • Over half of all respondents over the age of 60 rated making new friends as the reason why they choose to volunteer
  • Half of those surveyed claim that their volunteering experience helped them secure a job
  • A quarter of people aged between 35 and 44 said they volunteer to improve their health

The Career Benefits of Volunteering

  • Half of those surveyed claim that their volunteering experience helped them secure a job. (link to reed.co.uk press release with quotes)

TimeBank commissioned reed.co.uk to carry out research amongst over 3,000 employers and employees across the UK in June 2009. Findings include:

  • 84% of those responsible for hiring agree that volunteering is a way to help people find work
  • Over 70% of employers believe that those who volunteer have a better chance of earning a higher salary and gaining promotion 
  • 20% of employees said volunteering helped their communications skills, 19% said their team working abilities were improved and 10% said their time management had improved 
  • When recruiting, 80% of employers value volunteering on a CV
  • 24% of employees said that volunteering helped them achieve a promotion and 14% said that volunteering had helped them achieve a higher salary 
  • 23% of employers said that they believed volunteering helped staff with team working skills, 15% said that it helped staff with organisational and time management skills, 21% said it helped with communication skills and 10% said it helped with leadership and management skills