Volunteer centres are facing "crisis points" as demand for volunteering placements increases and funding is cut or remains at the same level, according to a report from Volunteering England.
The report, Volunteering in the Recession, found nearly 90 per cent of volunteer centres experienced an increase in the number of enquiries about placements between March and August last year. It says some centres reported twice as many enquiries as they had done during the same period in 2008.
"We face crisis points in volunteering at the time when its value has become most apparent in assisting the national economy and contributing to social policy goals," the report says.
"Problems are reported in finding enough placements to cope with all the enquiries and even in finding time to answer enquiries."
Volunteer management resources are being reduced, which threatens to adversely affect the quality of volunteering experiences, it says.
It also warns that volunteer centres have expressed fears that thousands of potential volunteers will be alienated, resulting in a long-term negative impact.
Cuts in local funding for some volunteer centres are leading to cuts in staffing and forcing some centres to close, it says.
It adds that some volunteer-involving organisations are wary of taking on unemployed people who are keen to return to work because they are likely to stop volunteering when they find jobs.
The report calls for "sustainable funding" from local authorities and central Government, saying volunteering could help the Government to achieve its social policy goals.