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UK Volunteering Surges in Recession

2 February 2010 at 12:18 pm
Staff Reporter
UK sees large increase in volunteering during the recession but finds major stresses in overloaded volunteering systems

Staff Reporter | 2 February 2010 at 12:18 pm


UK Volunteering Surges in Recession
2 February 2010 at 12:18 pm

 There are widespread reports from volunteer-involving organisations in the UK of major increases in enquiries about volunteering and in the numbers of volunteers taken on but the increased demand for volunteer services is also taking its toll.

Volunteering England says the public awareness and the political profile for volunteering have been substantially raised.

And recent statistics reveal a surge in volunteering:

  • 30 percent (approx.) year-on-year increases in enquiries and placements reported by Volunteer Centres in 2008-09 (compared to 2007-08) in new Annual Return for Volunteer Centres(Institute for Volunteering Research/ Volunteering England); but only slight increase in incomes
  • between March 2009 and August 2009, nearly nine out of ten Volunteer Centres saw an increase in number of enquiries, and seven out of ten placed a larger number of volunteers; reports from some centres refer to increases of 50-100 percent in enquiries compared to a year ago
  • 11 percent of charities have increased their drive for more volunteers, up from 7 per cent in survey six months previously (Charities and the economic downturn Charity Commission, September 2009) -in the previous recession, 8 percent of charities observed decrease in volunteering and 21 percent an increase (Taylor-Gooby 1994)

Volunteering England says that the increased demand for services is producing major stresses in volunteering systems and, as funding has remained level or been reduced, a range of negative developments.

It says problems are reported in finding enough placements to cope with all the enquiries and even in finding time to answer enquiries.

It says reductions and strains in volunteer management resources endanger the quality of the volunteering experience. Fears have been expressed of alienating thousands of potential volunteers and leaving a long-term negative impact.

  • some organisations and Volunteer Centres report that they do not have the time and resources to offer appointments to the huge increases in enquiries or to manage training, vetting, supervising and placing volunteers
  • increased demand for volunteering placements are coming from corporate employers, but many charities have found difficulty in sourcing opportunities (Red Foundation,August 2009); difficulties in managing supply and demand for increased numbers of corporate volunteers were also identified by the Building Stronger Communities taskforce (2009)
  • problems in identifying appropriate opportunities for particular categories of unemployed people: long-term and intergenerational habits of unemployment in communities, related to lack of confidence and skills and to problems in accessing volunteering opportunities for professional staff demanding – less available – higher level work
  • unemployed people who volunteer may be highly motivated to return to work, and VIOs are reported to be wary of taking them on in case they get re-employed and stop volunteering; one local study proposes that a more flexible approach is needed – some VIOs reported to be more selective in taking on volunteers
  • Volunteer Centres’ work on core functions other than brokerage- local strategy, marketing, campaigning for volunteering – has slightly decreased in 2008-09 (compared to 2007-08), according to new Annual Return for Volunteer Centres;
  • cuts in local funding to Volunteer Centres and to councils for voluntary service are leading to cuts in staffing and projects, to closure of a small number of centres and to threats about their future for many centres; in some areas, CVSs continue to support their Volunteer Centres without adequate specific funding
  • cuts in income and increases in demand for services (Charity Commission survey, September 2009) are likely to undermine resources to support volunteers; also, reports received of redundancies of volunteer managers

See the full report at

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