Government’s own data shows no upward trend in volunteering since 2001

Government’s own data shows no upward trend in volunteering since 2001

1 Apr 2008
  • No evidence that targeting of young, old or other priority groups has been successful
  • “Disappointing, given significant public funding”; “better research needed into what does and doesn’t work”, vies Saxton

Levels of at-least-once-a-month volunteering – the frequency deemed most relevant by Government - were steady across 2001-2008, with no discernable trend up or down, according to the Government’s own latest figures (slide 4, attached). During this period, overall volunteering levels fluctuated within 47%-50% (27%-29%, “formal”; 34%-37%, “informal”).

This is the key finding of a new analysis from leading not for profit sector think tank and research consultancy nfpSynergy, following examination of the most recent figures from the Government’s ongoing Citizenship Survey, used to officially gauge the fluctuating levels of volunteering in England & Wales since 2001. This same data will soon be used by the Government to assess part of its National Indicator 6 (NI 6) – whereby volunteering is deemed important for “empowering individuals, contributing to strong communities and adding value in the delivery of public services”.

Other significant points arising from the analysis include:

  •  Overall trends in at-least-once-in-the-last-year volunteering (slide 5) have fluctuated within 72%-76% 2001-2008, most recently registering 73%.
  •  For many priority, ethnic and disadvantaged groups(slides 8-10) there was an increase between 2001 and 2003 but also a drop between 2005 and 2007 – with the net result that volunteering in these groups is now at the same level, or below, where it was in 2001.
  • All socially excluded groups (slides 8-10) show lower levels of volunteering and civic participation than the population as a whole; and these levels are relatively flat.
  • Those with no qualifications (slides 8-10), who might most potentially benefit from the skills learned through volunteering, remain the least likely socially excluded group to volunteer.
  • White (49%), black (48%) and mixed race (52%) ethnic groups show the highest levels of at-least-once-a-month volunteering (slides 12-15).
  • At-least-once-a-month volunteering levels (slides 12-15) are lowest among Asian groups (36%) - particularly amongst Bangladeshi people (32%).
  • Women (51%), in general, remain significantly more likely than men (44%) to volunteer at-least-once-a-month (slide 18).
  • Since 2005, some of the traditional age bulwarks of volunteering show either static or falling at-least-once-a-month levels (slides 22-23) – eg static vis-à-vis 65+ year olds, decline vis-à-vis 55-64 year olds.

nfpSynergy’s Driver of Ideas, Joe Saxton, said:

“Disappointingly, given the significant public funding, levels of volunteering have remained broadly static in England & Wales since 2001 – even according to the Government’s own figures. Notably, there is singularly no evidence that the targeting of young, old and other priority groups - such as ethnic minorities, or those out of work or with no qualifications - has been successful. The Government’s own latest data thus clearly demonstrates the urgent need for better research into, and evaluation of, precisely what does and doesn’t work when it comes to getting more people to volunteer.”
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MEDIA COMMENT: To interview nfpSynergy’s Joe Saxton about these findings, please contact him direct on 07976 329 212 or; or, alternatively, contact Adrian Gillan (0774 086 7215; E: for further assistance.

Note to editors:

nfpSynergy ( is the UK’s only research consultancy dedicated to the charity sector and not-for-profit issues. It provides ideas, insights and information to help voluntary and community organisations thrive in an ever-changing world. Regularly harvesting the social and charity-related views of public and parliament, media and business - not to mention not for profit organisations themselves - nfpSynergy has a vast and ever-growing knowledge pool from which to extract and deliver insights.