'Cost-of-volunteering crisis’ emerging among charities, survey finds

Charity support is being put at risk due to a declining interest in volunteering, a survey has revealed.

The survey of more than 1,100 charities found that two in five charities are “unable to meet their objectives over the last 12 months due to a lack of volunteers”.

Concern around volunteer recruitment is mounting, especially among small charities, the survey also found.

Almost three in five (56%) of charities say that volunteer recruitment over the last year “has been difficult”. Since November last year the proportion of small charities ranking the volunteering recruitment as their main concern has grown from more than two in five (45%) to more than three in five (63%).

Similar fears are mounting around volunteer retention, cited as a main concern among two in five (42%) small charities.

Fears over the wellbeing of volunteers amid the cost-of-living crisis are also increasing. One in six (17%) charities overall believe the wellbeing of their volunteers “has deteriorated” over the last year.

A third (34%) of charities say the rising cost of living crisis is an issue for volunteer retention and one in five (19%) say it has made volunteer recruitment more difficult.

More than a quarter (27%) of charities warn that they lack the organisational capacity to improve volunteer recruitment and one in six (17%) say they lack the resources to retain them.

The figures have been revealed in the latest quarterly VCSE Sector Barometer quarterly survey carried out among 1,157 charities in May by think tank Pro Bono Economics and Nottingham Trent University’s National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory.

Increasing optimism around energy costs

Despite concerns around declining volunteering numbers the survey also revealed increasing optimism around energy costs, staff recruitment and the prospects of improving income.

Among small charities just under a quarter (23%) now rank rising energy costs as a main organisational concern, compared to two-fifths (41%) in November.

Nearly half (48%) of large charities say they now expect to recruit more staff, compared to only around a third (36%) in November.

However, rising demand for support continues to be an issue. Almost half (47%) of large and medium sized charities do not think they will meet the level of need for their support, while among small charities the proportion is 31%.

“With the tougher winter months behind us and the first glimmers of hope emerging in the economy, our latest survey seems to suggest that the car has at least shifted out of reverse for the social sector,” said Pro Bono Economics chief executive Matt Whittaker.

“Nevertheless, there is a lot of ground to make up. Demand for charity support continues to rise and finances remain restrictively tight for very many organisations. Against this backdrop, it’s worrying to see concern about volunteer recruitment, retention and wellbeing growing across the sector.”

VCSE Data and Insights Observatory director Daniel King said: “There is an emerging picture of increasing challenges for our small groups and organisations, who are so dependent on the energy, commitment and skills of volunteers for their survival.”

He added that “worsening wellbeing among volunteers in smaller organisations is also an emerging concern”.

According to this year’s Charities Aid Foundation’s UK Giving Report the proportion of people volunteering has been in decline since the Covid pandemic. In 2022 only 7% of people said they had volunteered over the previous four weeks, compared to 9% in 2019.

The NCVO’s Time Well Spent report this year cites a lack of flexibility and suitability of roles and called on more charities to offer virtual volunteering opportunities, where people can carry out work at home via their phone or computer.

According to data revealed by sector body Charity Retail Association (CRA) this month, a third of those working in the sector are reporting volunteer shortages.

See Also: How to tackle the slump in volunteering in 2023

    Share Story:

Recent Stories

How is the food and agricultural crisis affecting charity investment portfolios?
Charity Times editor, Lauren Weymouth, is joined by Jeneiv Shah, portfolio manager at Sarasin & Partners to discuss how the current pressures placed on agriculture and the wider food system is affecting charity investment portfolios.