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What can data tell us about volunteering?

Did you know: nearly two thirds of adults in England did some volunteering in 2016-17? Twenty-two per cent volunteered at least once a month.

It’s Volunteers’ Week this week, which aims to recognise the contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK, so we thought we’d look at the data we hold on volunteering.

The UK Data Service offers a range of datasets about volunteering including these national surveys:

Community Life Survey

The Community Life Survey (CLS) aims to help us understand society and community, and looks at subjects such as volunteering, charitable giving, and civic engagement.

In 2016-17, it showed that nearly two thirds (63%) of adults in England volunteered formally or informally at least once a year. 37% of adults volunteered formally (defined as providing unpaid help through groups, clubs or organisations) at least once during the previous year, and 22% at least once a month. 52% of adults volunteered informally at least once (unpaid help to people who are not a relative), and 27% at least once a month during the previous year.

Scottish Household Survey

The Scottish Household Survey provides information about the composition, characteristics and behaviours of Scottish households, and covers a range of topics including formal volunteering.

In 2016, it found that just over a quarter (27%) of adults in Scotland provided unpaid help to organisations or groups – and volunteers were more likely to be: women; from higher socio-economic and income groups; from rural areas; and from less deprived areas.

National Survey for Wales

The National Survey for Wales is a significant source of information on the views and circumstances of people in Wales.

In 2016-17, it showed that just over a quarter (28%) of adults in Wales volunteered, either formally or informally. People most commonly volunteered for charities (32%) and sports clubs (25%). Younger people and those with no qualifications were the least likely to volunteer.

Why volunteer?

People also answered questions about what motivated them to give their time for others. Almost half (49%) of all volunteers in England said they did it to improve things and help people. People also got involved because the cause was important to them (32%) and when they had spare time (28%).

The benefits

It’s not just about helping others. Voluntary work improves volunteers’ wellbeing, too. The NHS says the health benefits of volunteering include increasing happiness and life satisfaction, and improving your overall mental wellbeing.

Volunteering can also help people gain new skills. It can boost confidence and give volunteers a sense of achievement. It can also help people make new friends – and it can be fun!


So, if our data has inspired you, here’s where to look for volunteering opportunities: