Four in 10 charities reported fall in volunteer time last year, research shows

Four in 10 charities reported a fall in the amount of time they received from volunteers last year as the coronavirus pandemic hit, new figures show.

Latest data from the Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer, which is produced by Nottingham Trent University, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Sheffield Hallam University, found that of the 710 organisations polled in January, 40 per cent said they had experienced a decrease in the amount of time contributed by volunteers since March.

It found that 27 per cent of organisations reported an increase in volunteer time contributed over the same period, with the remainder saying it was unchanged.

Slightly more than one-third of organisations said they had experienced a fall in the number of people volunteering over the same period, with 20 per cent saying they had seen an increase and the remainder saying the numbers were unchanged.

But researchers warned that the figures only covered formal volunteering for charities and would therefore not catch people who had put themselves forward to support programmes in the public sector, such as the Covid-19 vaccination programme, or other forms of informal volunteering, which they said had increased during the pandemic.

The research also found that 40 per cent of respondents said they had experienced a deteriorating financial position over the previous month.

It found that 37 per cent of organisations were expecting their financial position to become worse over the next four weeks.

This is alongside almost half of organisations saying they expected demand for their services to grow over the coming month.

Sarah Vibert, interim chief executive of the NCVO, said the research showed a mixed picture on volunteer involvement.

“This decline in formal volunteer involvement is a result of current environmental factors rather than a decline in interest,” she said.

“Throughout this pandemic we have seen a shift from formal to more informal volunteering roles for a variety of reasons, including caring responsibilities, shielding requirements, and people looking to help where there is seen to be immediate need.

“However, this shift in volunteering could impact smaller, local charities who are reliant on volunteer support, particularly at a time of increasing demand for services and decreasing incomes.”

She said organisations needed to examine both volunteer recruitment and the retention of existing volunteers.

“We need to look at how we can engage more effectively with potential and existing volunteers and consider new and innovative ways in which they can contribute to the vital work of charities across the country,” said Vibert.

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