Tag Archive for: Time Well Spent

Volunteering – 6 points you need to think about


A lot has been written about Volunteering over the past few months as we have seen the results of the Community Life Survey published in February and now we have seen NCVO release their update to the Time Well Spent survey last carried out in 2019. Report here 

For those of us working in the voluntary sector, these reports do not make great reading, but at the same time, they are not really telling us much that we didn’t already know.

This local knowledge has been echoed at the national level and we have the Vision for Volunteering in England and Scotland has their Volunteering Action Plan both these are about how we can get more people to volunteer more time, and this has to be about the opportunities matching the volunteers as well as persuading more people to volunteer.

What others are saying

Lot’s have been written about some of the above that will give you more information and background on what is happening.

What are our key points

We have pulled out some of the key points and given them a local slant.

1. The pain you are feeling is real.

We have heard from many local groups that volunteer recruitment, and retention is an issue, and this is reflected in the findings we have from our research (full report to come soon). But a sneak peek shows that 73% of respondents have issues recruiting volunteers, slightly up from 2019. One comment included

“People who have returned to work post-pandemic are time-poor, reducing the amount of time they are able to spend volunteering or caring for their elderly relatives. This impacts the group who are fewer in number whilst being asked to help more frequently.”

The Community Life Survey results show that volunteering levels have decreased since records began.

The issues are not impacting all organisations the same way, but there is no doubt that who and how the pandemic has impacted people’s volunteer.

2. It really is about local.

The Time Well Spent results show that people want to volunteer locally. Again we are seeing this locally.

We have to ensure that funders and policymakers recognise the local focus at all levels and that big national schemes actually make things worse in many ways, so less involvement in expanding the volunteer schemes from RVS, and less Big Volunteering things and more local support and support for local campaigns.

3. We have to be aware of the reasons that people don’t volunteer

A lot of the Time Well Spent survey looks at why volunteers might not continue or why non-volunteers don’t volunteer. We ignore these findings at our peril!

4. What do you mean you don’t pay expenses?

So only 55% of volunteers say that they will have expenses reimbursed. This has to change, and more importantly, all volunteers should be ‘made’ to claim even if they don’t need or want to so that it does not seem as a stigma to claim expenses. If paid people don’t want them, they can donate them back to the organisation (and add gift aid if they are eligible). Organisations should also ensure that the definition of what expenses they offer is as wide as possible so that as many people can volunteer as possible.

Money is a barrier to volunteering, and organisations must do all they can to remove it and ensure that claiming expenses is visibly seen as the norm.

5. Volunteering is a whole organisation issue.

Senior leaders in larger organisations and trustees need to engage with this.

I am sure that none of the findings in these surveys will be news to those who work closely to recruit and retain volunteers. I am also sure that many of those in these roles recognise that we as a sector need to offer something different to attract new volunteers. But too often, we hear that those in charge do not see this as a priority or that they are not able to see how new ways of working work.

If the decision-makers in organisations don’t change their views and ensure that volunteering becomes fit for purpose, they will see their volunteers leaving and new ones failing to sign on. Given how vital volunteers are to many charities, we have to see fundamental changes in the near future.

The Time Well Spent report was clear about the importance of flexibility in how volunteers are used.

6. Volunteering is unequal

This has many facets, and we need to start to unpack and address them and to cover all the issues we will write a separate blog. But for now, we know that local people volunteer less in Fenland as fewer organisations offer opportunities. We have to find ways to ensure that the opportunity to volunteer is there for everyone interested and that there are various opportunities to let people pursue their passion.

We also see from the Time Well Spent Survey that ‘Satisfaction continues to be lower among volunteers who are…’

  • Younger vs older
  • Public sector vs civil society organisations
  • Disabled vs non-disabled
  • Volunteers from ethnic minority communities vs white

And that 67% of recent volunteers agree those volunteering alongside them come from various backgrounds. – This figure has fallen from 73% in 2019.

NCVO plan to release a more detailed report looking at who volunteers but we need to find ways to attract people regardless of their age, race, where they live, or background. Not addressing these issues means that a wealth of possible talent is being lost to the sector.

We can help

The Support Cambridgeshire partners can help you to look at your organisation’s volunteering and help you connect with others who may be able to help or share good practices.

  1. We are developing a website allowing volunteers and organisations to register and find one another across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
  2. We can offer training and support on aspects of managing volunteers, check out the website to find out what is coming up from CCVS or from Hunts Forum
  3. Join our Volunteer Managers Network and meet others who manage volunteers. This group meets quarterly to discuss different issues and to share their experience. More info from the Support Cambridgeshire website


We have to be happy that volunteers are giving some positive responses – 92% very or fairly satisfied with their volunteering. This is true for traditional in person volunteering and for those doing remote volunteering. But this has dropped from 96% in 2019.

We can’t simply hope things will improve again when the crisis ends. We have to find ways to get more people to volunteer, look at how we embed volunteering as the ‘normal’ thing to do, and wake up to the fact that more than half the problem is us in the voluntary sector.


Time Well Spent report is released

If you attended the Connecting Communities conference, you would have heard several speakers referencing two reports that have come out recently looking at volunteering trends. The first is the Community Life Survey which was made public earlier this year. The other was the NCVO Time Well Spent report, which was released on the 27th of June.

NCVO released some snippets of the report earlier in the year; however, the full report was launched along with some interesting findings. Below are just a few which sprung out to us.

Read the full report HERE.

  • Volunteers did not increase in COVID, but it declined further, and we have not yet seen a bounce back.
  • Groups are asking for too much from volunteers and risk losing them. Many volunteers feel pressured into giving more time than they would like.
  • Motivations for volunteering have declined; however, wanting to help people is still one of the top reasons people get involved.
  • Two main reasons people don’t want to give time to volunteering are; a lack of interest in ongoing commitment and wanting to do ‘other things with their spare time.’
  • People need expenses paid, and while they may not ask, it needs to be offered regularly as it is a barrier in a ‘cost of living crisis
  • More young people want to get involved, but with a cause which means something to them, and on a short-term basis.

The Support Cambridgeshire team will take these findings along with those of the Community Life Survey and look at training and support for groups in the coming year. If you need any support or advice around volunteer recruitment or retention, please feel free to get in contact at info@supportcambridgeshire.org.uk . If you would like to see training in a particular topic area, get involved, and we are always interested to hear from groups.

How charities have adapted to face the challenges of covid-19

NCVO (National Council for Voluntary Organisations) have just completed a nine-month study on how charities have adapted to face the challenges of covid-19.  The Time Well Spent report reveals how the volunteer experience has fundamentally changed and what this means for the future of volunteering.

The Time Well Spent is an NCVO research programme focusing on the volunteer experience. It aims to provide rich, practical insight that will inform debate within the sector and strengthen the impact of volunteering.

It is the fourth in a series of Time Well Spent thematic reports focusing on the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the volunteering experience.

What did they learn?

  • As volunteering opportunities became scarcer, the overall number of people volunteering fell.
  • The number of people volunteering has fallen, and organisations are still struggling to recruit the volunteers they need.
  • I.T. has become integral to keeping people connected but has created a digital divide.
  • Empathy, a sense of duty and guilt became some of the most significant motivating factors.
  • Burnout, health concerns, and changing priorities have caused many volunteers to step back.

For details on the full report, click here