A general debate on the contribution of volunteers is scheduled for Thursday 2 May 2024 in Westminster Hall at 2pm.

Statistics on Volunteering

Statistics on volunteering and volunteers are available from the Community Life Survey and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).

Community Life Survey

The latest Community Life Survey (CLS) covers 2021/22 with a section on volunteering and charitable giving. The data applies to England only.

It should be noted that the fieldwork conducted for the survey in 2021/22 took place while Covid restrictions were in place particularly during the first quarter of the year. With this and associated media coverage it is not clear how these factors impacted on public behaviour and attitudes. It is therefore advised that these factors should be taken into consideration when interpreting the results.  

There are two types of volunteering measured which are formal volunteering and informal volunteering. Formal volunteering is defined as those who provide unpaid help to groups or clubs by offering administrative support, leading a group or mentoring/befriending people. Informal volunteering is defined as giving unpaid help to people who are not related to assist with babysitting, shopping and various other household chores.

The chart below shows participation rates for formal and informal volunteering jointly.

In 2021/22, 34% of respondents (around 16 million people) participated in either formal or informal volunteering at least once in the past month. This is a decrease of roughly seven percentage points from the previous year of 41% and was the lowest figure recorded by the CLS for this measure.

In 2021/22, the proportion volunteering at least once in the last year was 55% (roughly 25 million people). This again was roughly seven percentage points lower than the previous year and the lowest figure recorded by the CLS.

Among the reasons given for not taking part in formal volunteering or not volunteering more frequently, the most popular response concerned work commitments (49%) followed by 31% stating they had other things to do with their spare time.

 Formal volunteering statistics

  • In 2021/22, 16% of respondents (approximately 7 million people in England) took part in formal volunteering at least once a month in the past 12 months, in line with rates in 2020/21 (17%).
  • Participation rates in 2021/22 for the once a month measure are the lowest recorded since data collection started on the Community Life Survey.  In 2019/20, 23% of adults took part in formal volunteering at least once a month (approximately 11 million people in England).
  • In 2021/22, 27% of respondents reported taking part in formal volunteering at least once in the last year (approximately 12 million people in England).
  • The participation rate for volunteering at least once a year was the lowest recorded by the Community Life Survey. The 2021/22 figure of 27% is lower than 2020/21 (30%, approximately 14 million people) and lower than rates between 2013/14 and 2019/20 (between 36% to 45%). 

Formal volunteering demographics at least once in the past month in the last 12 months

  • In 2020/21 respondents in the age group 25-34 showed lower participation in volunteering at least once a month compared to respondents in every other age group for formal volunteering (10% vs 14% to 23%). 
  • No variability was seen between gender or disability.
  • Respondents identifying as being from an Asian ethnic group showed lower participation in formal volunteering at least once a month (10%) than respondents identifying as from a mixed or white ethnic group (19% and 17% respectively). 
  • Formal volunteering at least once a month was higher for those economically inactive (21%) compared to employed respondents (15%).
  • Rates of formal volunteering at least once a month were higher in the South West (19%) and ranged from14% to 18% across other regions.
  • Those from the least deprived areas showed higher participation than those from the most deprived areas (22% vs 10% at least once a month). At each quintile of deprivation, volunteering rates were consistent with those in 2020/21, but lower than in 2019/20.

 Informal volunteering

  • In 2021/22, 26% of respondents (approximately 12 million people in England) had taken part in informal volunteering at least once a month. This proportion is lower than in 2020/21, when rates were the highest recorded by the CLS (33%), but in line with levels seen in 2019/20 (28%).
  • In 2021/22, 46% of respondents (approximately 21 million people in England) had taken part at least once in the last year, lower than in 2020/21 (54%) and the lowest rate recorded on this measure by the CLS.


NCVO Time Well Spent Survey

The NCVO produces the Time Well Spent Survey  focusing predominantly on formal volunteering and surveys volunteers aged 18 and over in the UK.  The findings in the latest report published in 2023 was based on a nationally representative survey conducted between November and December 2022.

Among the key findings concerning volunteer participation were:

  • About 1 in 5 recent formal volunteers (21%) have volunteered for local community or neighbourhood groups, making it the most popular cause to volunteer for. Health/disability/social welfare and hobbies/recreations/arts/ social clubs follow, with 17% and 16% of recent volunteers giving their time to these organisations respectively.
  • About 6 in 10 recent formal volunteers have volunteered for a third sector/civil society organisation, while slightly less than a quarter (23%) have volunteered for a public sector organisation.
  • Remote volunteering has become more common in recent years, thanks to covid-19. About 1 in 3 (31%) recent formal volunteers have volunteered over the phone or online, making it the third most common place of volunteering. A smaller proportion (18%) volunteer exclusively remotely.

Concerning the findings on volunteer experience and impact:

  • 92% of formal volunteers surveyed stated that they were either very satisfied or fairly satisfied with their volunteering experience. This was lower than the 2019 figure of 96%.
  • Younger volunteers are less satisfied than their older counterparts. In 2023, 82% of 18 to 24 year olds are satisfied with their volunteer experience, compared to 96% of volunteers aged 55 years and over. 

Press and stakeholder material

Let’s champion the remarkable role of charities and volunteers, National Council for Voluntary Organisations website

Time Well Spent 2023: A national survey on the volunteer experience, National Council for Voluntary Organisations, June 2023

What are the benefits of volunteering?, Charities Aid Foundation website

London Marathon: Iceland boss thanks ‘lifesaving’ volunteers, BBC news [online], 24 April 2024

RNLI says volunteers saved 355 lives last year, with London stations the busiest, Guardian [online], 8 April 2024

Voluntary sector, Guardian website

Make new friends and become a role model: why you should consider volunteering if you’re in your 20s or 30s, The Conversation [online],17 October 2023

People in the UK are volunteering less – it’s not surprising and could get worse, The Conversation [online], 4 August 2023

Parliamentary material

Voluntary work: young people, UIN 20983, 17 April 2024

Dementia: Voluntary work, UIN 12962, 22 February 2024

Students: Voluntary work, UIN 3200, 27 November 2023

Business: Voluntary work, HL 10727, 26 October 2023

Charities: Voluntary work, HL 10525, 24 October 2023

Nature conservation: Voluntary work, UIN 187256, 9 June 2023

Voluntary work, UIN 186835, 5 June 2023

Public sector: Voluntary work, HL 6983, 12 April 2023

Loneliness and voluntary work: Finance, UIN 163797, 21 March 2023

Voluntary work: Age, UIN 135260, 7 February 2023

Voluntary work: Health, UIN 133757, 3 February 2023

Emergency services: Voluntary work, UIN 119189, 16 January 2023

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