The proportion of adults in England taking part in formal volunteering over the past year has remained broadly the same, according to the Cabinet Office’s annual Community Life survey.
The survey, which is based on responses from more than 2,000 adults in England between July 2014 and April 2015, found that 27 per cent of adults took part in formal volunteering activities at least once a month in 2014/15 – the same proportion as in 2013/14. The survey found that 42 per cent of respondents took part in formal volunteering once a year in 2014/15– a slight increase of one percentage point on 2013/14.
The proportion of people engaging in informal volunteering – defined as giving unpaid help as an individual to people who are not relatives – at least once a month dropped to 34 per cent from 35 per cent last year. Fifty-nine per cent of this group volunteered at least once a year in 2014/15, compared with 64 per cent in 2013/14.
The survey also found the proportion of people participating in volunteering supported by their employer at least once a month was unchanged from last year and the year before at 3 per cent. Eight per cent of this group volunteered at least once a year in 2014/15, the same proportion as the year before.
The proportion of people in England volunteering either formally or informally at least once a year increased from 65 per cent in 2010/11 to 74 per cent in 2013/14, but is now down to 69 per cent.
Another section of the survey looks at how much people said they had given to charity in the four weeks before the interview. It found that they had given on average £22, up from £21 last year. Going as far back as 2005, the inflation-adjusted figure has never been higher than £21.
Nick Ockenden, head of research at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the figures demonstrated that the volunteering participation rate was "stable" and "pretty high in this country".
Asked whether the NCVO was planning anything to push the rate up, he said: "It’s not all about quantity; it’s about quality as well and fits into the work the NCVO is doing to ensure there is good volunteer management and a good quality of engagement from organisations. Word of mouth is a very important factor in a person deciding to become a volunteer; if someone has a bad experience, it can have quite a negative impact on what they will tell other people afterwards."