Almost two thirds of small charities reporting volunteer recruitment challenges

Volunteering recruitment challenges are worsening for small charities, while there is improvement among their larger counterparts, a survey has found.

It found that just under two thirds (65%) of small charities are reporting difficulties recruiting volunteers over the last year.

This is an increase on the 58% of small charities reporting problems this time last year, according to the latest VCSE Sector Barometer involving the views of 500 charities collected earlier this month and published by Pro Bono Economics.

In contrast, four in ten large charities say they are experiencing volunteer recruitment challenges, compared to more than half when asked this time last year.

Work and care commitments are key barriers for people to give up their time for good causes. Meanwhile, time and resource pressures are preventing charities, particularly smaller organisations, from recruiting and retaining volunteers, said Pro Bono Economics.

“Internal barriers faced by small charities, such as short-term funding and a lack of internal capacity and resources, are likely adding to external pressures pulling away volunteers,” said the think tank.

“Although unpaid, volunteers are not cost-free, and using volunteers effectively takes resources to manage, oversee, and support those that are giving up their time.”

While four in ten large charities employ a dedicated volunteer manager, less than one in ten smaller charities have this role in their organisation.

“With volunteer coordinators devoted to recruiting and managing volunteers, including ensuring a fair and even rota, discussing roles and responsibilities, this might be important to ensuring volunteer wellbeing and avoiding burnout,” said Pro Bono Economics.

It is urging charities to offer flexible volunteering options, that ensure people can volunteer around their work and care commitments. However, just one in four small charities are offering flexible volunteering options, the think tank warns.

Another solution that is increasingly being used is to promote “bitesized volunteering” options, using social media to allow volunteers to respond to “last minute calls to action”.

One charity that is using this method told researchers that "people who have never considered volunteering before are attracted by these calls for community action”.

The think tank cites figures showing just 16% of people in England volunteered at least once a month in 2021/22, down from 27% in 2013/14, to highlight the extent of the decline in volunteering.

Across all charities four in ten say their number of volunteers “has been insufficient to meet their main objectives”.

A survey published in January to help promote next month’s annual Big Help Out volunteering push found that almost half of young people, aged between 18 and 24, are unable to find volunteering opportunities.

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