The use of technology has failed to increase diversity among volunteers even though it has made more informal opportunities available, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations has said.
In a report called Getting Involved, published today, the NCVO says volunteering rates have remained relatively stable since 2001, with more than one in four people formally volunteering once a month, while a fifth are involved in community social action.
The report says that little has changed in the past decade in terms of who gets involved, with people from lower socio-economic or less-educated backgrounds still less likely to volunteer than those with more resources.
The study, which drew on trends and statistics from a range of sources, says that 36 per cent of people educated to degree level or higher take part in formal volunteering at least once a month, compared with 22 per cent of those with GSCE grades A to C and 13 per cent of those with no formal qualifications.
The report says that a "civic core" of 36 per cent of the population is responsible for 87 per cent of all volunteering hours contributed, 82 per cent of all charitable giving and 77 per cent of all participation in different civic associations.
Of this group, 53 per cent are women, 34 per cent have at least a degree, 51 per cent earn higher salaries than those outside this group and 42 per cent actively practise a religion.
"Even though overall numbers of people involved are significant, the levels and types of involvement vary a lot according to demographics," the report says.
"The largest differences concern socio-economic status and education, with people in higher social grades and [with] a higher level of education being more likely to get involved."
It says formal activities such as volunteering through a group or organisation, trusteeship, voting or campaigning are more exclusive and predominantly attract people from more well-resourced and highly educated backgrounds.
"Over the last decade there has been minimal change in the demographics of who gets involved, despite technology removing some of the barriers to getting involved and offering opportunities that are less formal," it says.
There has been "significant growth" in the ways people could get involved online, the report says: "Online participation may have made it easier to access opportunities; however, it does not, as yet, seem to have led to greater diversity and equality overall."
Young people are the most likely to participate in volunteering, with 32 per cent of 16 to 25-year-olds volunteering at least once a month, compared with 27 per cent of the overall population.
Men and women are equally likely to volunteer in a formal way, with 42 per cent of women and 41 per cent of men having volunteered in the past year. Thirty-eight per cent of women had informally volunteered, compared with 30 per cent of men.
One in five black or minority ethnic people had formally volunteered at least once in the last month, compared with just over one in four white people, according to the report.