The rate of volunteering at clubs and organisations has not recovered to the levels last seen in 2013/14, and the percentage of people giving to charity has also fallen over the same period.

A steward at Brighton Pride festival
A steward at Brighton Pride festival

The proportion of the population who volunteer at clubs and organisations across the UK is still lower than five years ago, according to Government research.

The findings come from the latest Community Life Survey, which the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) runs every year to track trends relating to social cohesion and community engagement.

It found that the percentage of people who volunteered formally with a club or organisation at least once a month in 2017/18 was 22%, compared to 27% in 2013/14. This rate is unchanged since the previous year.

The proportion who had formally volunteered at least once in the past year was 38%, again lower than the rate in 2013/14 (45%).

The age group most likely to formally volunteer is people between 65 and 74 years old, 29% of whom had done so in 2017/18. Those least likely to do so are aged 25 to 34, with only 15% saying they had volunteered once a month or more.

Significantly more people volunteer informally – defined as giving unpaid help as an individual to people who are not a relative. More than half (53%) said they had done so at least once a month in 2017/18.

Motivations and barriers

Among those who had volunteered formally, the most common reason given for doing so was “I wanted to improve things/help people”, with almost half (46%) saying this had been a motivation.

The next most popular reasons cited were “The cause was really important to me” (31%), “I wanted to meet people/ make friends” (25%) and “I had spare time to do it” (25%).

DCMS asked people who said they had not volunteered formally at least once a month about barriers to volunteering.

Work commitments emerged as the most significant barrier, with 51% saying this had been a reason not to volunteer. 37% said that having other things to do with their spare time was a barrier, and 26% cited having to look after their children or home.

Charitable giving

The proportion of people who said they had given money to charitable causes in the past four weeks was also lower than five years ago. Three-quarters of survey respondents (75%) said that they had done so in 2017/18, down from 82% in 2013/14.

Women were more likely than men to give to charity (79% compared to 70%) and older people were more likely than younger people to do so. 83% of over 75s had given to a charitable cause in the past four weeks, compared to 57% of 16-24 year olds.

The Community Life Survey involved 10,217 respondents between August 2017 and March 2018.