Government urged to appoint 100 'volunteering champions' to encourage uptake

A volunteer at the London 2012 Paralympic Games (Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

The government should recruit 100 champions to make the case for volunteering in their communities, according to a new report. 

The legacy funder the Spirit of 2012 is calling for the ethos of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be recaptured before the tenth anniversaries of the events next year. 

The 70,000 “Games Maker” volunteers were seen as the lifeblood of the games when they were held in the capital nine years ago. 

The Spirit of 2012 is supporting a year-long inquiry, chaired by the philanthropist and former Marie Curie chief executive Tom Hughes-Hallett, to look at how events could have positive impacts on people’s social, emotional and physical wellbeing, local economies, and social cohesion.

It will also explore how they can encourage more people to volunteer, or volunteer on a regular basis.

Given the right conditions, occasional volunteering at events can be a route to regular volunteering, the report says. 

But it also argues that without a coordinated effort, the events of 2022 might not leave a volunteering legacy.

It draws on an ICM poll which shows that 40 per cent of UK adults had volunteered before or since the start of the pandemic, but just 9 per cent of adults were regular volunteers.

Some 86 per cent of volunteers said they were motivated by improving their local community and 85 per cent think it improved their mental health and wellbeing. 

Four-fifths of volunteers agreed that it helped improve people’s skills and job prospects.

The report concluded that volunteering brings many benefits to the individuals who give their time and to the organisations that receive help. 

But these benefits will not be realised without action to address barriers to volunteering, it warns.. 

More than half of respondents said they would be more likely to volunteer if they knew there were things they could do that would interest them, including 44 per cent of those who have not volunteered. 

While just over half said that more flexible volunteering opportunities would be key for them, such as tasks they could do in their own time, or from home or online.

The poll showed that 86 per cent of volunteers have helped out at sporting, cultural or community events.

With next year’s Commonwealth Games set to involve 25,000 volunteers, the report sets out some initial findings to those involved in planning national, large-scale and community events to improve volunteering options. 

This includes communicating the benefits of volunteering more clearly, more funding for local volunteering infrastructure and harnessing major events to champion and boost volunteering. 

Hughes-Hallett said: “Volunteering brings many benefits, to the individuals who give their time and to the organisations that receive help.

“It also strengthens social connections and give people a stronger stake in society.

“But these benefits will not be realised without action to recognise the importance of volunteering, which is why the Spirit of 2012 inquiry has already produced practical ideas for action to help achieve these aims.”

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