Volunteering levels reach new high but proportion of givers down, major government survey shows

The annual Community Life Survey shows a rise in 'informal volunteering' during the coronavirus pandemic

A volunteer helps provide an emergency food parcel in Cardiff (Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
A volunteer helps provide an emergency food parcel in Cardiff (Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

Volunteering levels hit a recent high during the Covid-19 pandemic but the proportion of people who gave to charity fell to a new low, a major government study shows.

The latest Community Life Survey, an annual exercise that polls more than 10,000 people in England about a range of subjects relating to community activity, shows that 33 per cent of respondents said they had been involved in informal volunteering at least once a month in 2020/21.

The figure is the highest rate since the survey began in 2013/14 and up five percentage points on last year.

Informal volunteering is defined as “giving unpaid help to individuals who are not a relative".

The proportion of people who said they had been involved at least once a month in formal volunteering – giving unpaid help through clubs or organisations – fell six percentage points year on year to a record low of 17 per cent as the national lockdowns prevented many community activities from taking place.

But overall, the proportion of people who said they had been involved in formal or informal volunteering at least once a month in 2020/21 rose two percentage points year on year to 41 per cent, the highest level since 2014/15.

The data also shows that the proportion of people who said they had made a charitable donation in the four weeks before they were polled had fallen considerably since last year to a record low of 63 per cent.

The figure had held steady at 75 per cent in each of the four previous years, down from a high of 82 per cent in 2013/14.

But the average donation level recorded by those who had given reached a new high of £27. The previous high was £24, recorded in 2019/20.

The survey also showed the proportion of people who agreed that people in their neighbourhood pulled together to help the community was up six percentage points year on year to 65 per cent.

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