"Time Well Spent"


At the end of January NCVO launched their Time Well Spent report, the result of a year’s work asking the public (10,000+ respondents) about their volunteering experiences. This included questions that asked about what motivates people to volunteer, the quality of a volunteer’s journey and thoughts on how organisations can better engage with volunteers.

Below are some key findings from the report. If you’ d like to read a more detailed account of the findings you can download NCVO’s full report or (more digestible) summary.

So… the good news!

Volunteering is a positive experience, for almost all volunteers… (phew!)

Medium satisfied with volunteering experience

Enjoyment was ranked highest out of the range of benefits volunteers feel they get out of volunteering. Dr Eddie Hogg from University of Kent comments… “This really should not surprise us. Volunteering is something we do in our free time, of our free will and for free…”.

It is thought that volunteering is sometimes viewed as just a form of unpaid work or service, however the research shows that many volunteers reported a wide range of personal benefits including enjoyment and improved well-being – perhaps this is to be expected but highlights that organisations should be promoting volunteering as enjoyable leisure activity! Furthermore, it was found that those who are more satisfied with their volunteering experience are more likely to volunteer for longer.

Eeek… the bad news

On the flip side it was found that the more frequent people volunteer the more pressured they feel, the more they feel like it’s work and the more likely it is that they’ll stop volunteering.

This is perhaps exacerbated by the difficulty organisations have in balancing different volunteer’s expectations of the flexibility and structure of their volunteering.

Medium organised bureaucracy

Another important finding is that diversity continues to be an issue.

The research confirms that recent volunteers (those volunteering in the last 12 months), who participate in formal volunteering at least once a month are more likely to be older, well-educated and from higher socio-economic groups. This highlights the inequalities that exist acting as barrier for many people taking up the option of volunteering.

Hmm … thoughts for the future

  • Employers could do more to actively encourage volunteering to allow for their employees to have the time to support their community and gain personal benefits.
  • Many respondents said their volunteering has helped them feel less isolated, especially younger volunteers. Could volunteering be the solution for social isolation?
  • Don’t underestimate the power of ‘thanks’ – appreciation toward volunteers was strongly associated with satisfied volunteers and ensuring volunteers feel part of something – an organisation, a common endeavour is key to the volunteer experience.
  • Raise awareness to break barriers “As one of the main barriers for those who have never volunteered is that they have never thought about it, raising awareness of volunteering may encourage them to start volunteering for the first time. But providing opportunities that resonate with people’s own lives and aspirations, and ensuring they can shape the way they get involved are as important as raising awareness.”