Only one in 50 adults inspired to volunteer by the Olympic Games, says research

An nfpSynergy poll says the proportion of people volunteering has remained flat, but the Cabinet Office says the results conflict with its Community Life Survey

London Games Makers
London Games Makers

Only 2 per cent of adults have been motivated by the Olympic Games to start volunteering, according to research published today by the consultancy nfpSynergy.

The researchers also found that the proportion of people volunteering since last year’s games has remained flat.

In its Charity Awareness Monitor – Volunteering survey, carried out in March, nfpSynergy asked more than 2,000 nationally representative adults whether last year’s London Olympic and Paralympic Games had inspired them to volunteer with charities or community groups.

From a choice of four statements, only 2 per cent chose "yes, I started volunteering for the first time soon after the games". Seventy per cent said they did not want to start or do any more volunteering; 17 per cent said they had not done any yet but would like to find out more; and 10 per cent said they were already volunteering and now gave more time.

In a separate nfpSynergy survey of 496 nationally representative 11 to 16-year-olds, 6 per cent said they had started volunteering for the first time soon after the games, 36 per cent said they did not want to start or do any more volunteering and 44 per cent said they had not done any yet, but would like to find out more.

From three other nfpSynergy surveys of 1,000 nationally representative adults carried out since the Olympics, researchers found that the proportion of people volunteering had remained static. When asked in May 2012, 22 per cent of respondents said they had volunteered in the past three months; the proportion was the same in September 2012. In January this year, it was 21 per cent.  

There was, however, a slight increase in the frequency of volunteering between September and January. In September 2012, 23 per cent said they volunteered once every three months and 43 per cent said they volunteered once or twice a week. In January, 17 per cent said they volunteered once every three months and 51 per cent said they did so once or twice a week.

Joe Saxton, co-founder of nfpSynergy, told Third Sector it was good to see that some enthusiasm for volunteering had been generated among young people, but he was not surprised to see that volunteering levels were flat overall. To get more people volunteering after the games, he said, the government and the Olympic legacy organisations should have presented more opportunities and done so much sooner.

"We needed stuff to be happening much earlier," Saxton said. "Plans should have been made to get more people volunteering years before the Olympics even took place."

A Cabinet Office spokesman said the nfpSynergy research conflicted with the national Community Life Survey, which showed a spike in volunteering after six years of decline. "We are committed to making sure the games has a lasting legacy in this country, with our support for initiatives such as Join In, which encourages people to get involved with their local sports clubs," he said.

"Our volunteering support goes far beyond London 2012, which is why we are committing £36m to volunteering projects through the Centre for Social Action and inspiring a generation of young volunteers through our National Citizen Service programme."

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