The number of charity volunteers increased by 9 per cent in 2010/11, according to a new annual benchmarking study.
Volunteers Count 2012, a report published by Agenda Consulting and the Association of Volunteer Managers, is based on data supplied by 50 self-selecting large and medium-sized organisations over a 12-month period.
The organisations, which had between 32 and 160,000 volunteers, provided information on various aspects of volunteering, including recruitment, retention and return on investment.
It is hoped the exercise will be repeated annually so that charities can compare their performances with each other.
Alan Murray, head of volunteering at the RSPB and a director at the AVM, said the 9 per cent increase in volunteers matched his own charity’s figure.
Murray said the RSPB had benefited from providing "more flexible volunteering opportunities" that suited people’s needs.
"We have also been offering more roles for a shorter time period," he said. "And I think other big national charities are also being creative in terms of the volunteering opportunities they provide."
Historically, he said, there was often more volunteering in times of economic hardship and that, although many people were short of money, they weren’t necessarily short of time.
"Some people have been volunteering with us to keep their skills up and keep active," he said.
The study also found that 67 per cent of volunteers were female and the average age was 50.
It found that the average volunteer gave 10 hours a month and the most popular areas of involvement were direct service provision, followed by communication and marketing, then fundraising. Organisations recruited an average of 35 per cent of their volunteers in the past year.
The study found that organisations spent an average of £255 for every 1,000 volunteers recruited. But there was a lot of variety, with a quarter of organisations spending nothing and another quarter spending more than £2,300. The top source for recruitment was word of mouth.
The average volunteer turnover rate in the year was 23 per cent, and the main reason that volunteers left was that they did not have enough time because of a change in home or work circumstances.