The UK relies on volunteering like never before
Landmark research assessing the previously unstudied socio-economic value of volunteering and donating has found it is worth a staggering £18.7 billion to the UK economy.
Its key finding was that in 2022 the combined value of volunteering and donations came to £23 billion (bn), representing 0.8% of total UK GDP – larger than the sports and gambling sector valued at £18.4 bn combined.
The research, commissioned by Benefact Group and conducted by the Centre of Economics and Business Research (Cebr), found the estimated annual value of voluntary work to the economy was £18.7bn, with charitable donations contributing an additional £4.3bn.
The pre-pandemic decade saw a steady increase in the value of volunteering, rising by £7.5bn from £11.2bn to £18.7bn between 2010/11 to 2018/19.
The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions were key factors in the annual value of volunteering falling to £11bn in 2020.
Volunteering levels have since recovered, with the estimated annual value of voluntary work in 2022 rising to £18.7bn – a return to pre- Covid-19 levels. This has been driven by a post-pandemic surge in volunteering, with the proportion of adults giving up their free time to help good causes rising from 17.9% in 2018/19 to 29.7% in 2022.
However, this has been offset by a fall in the average hours spent volunteering. Benefact Group’s report found average volunteering hours have halved since 2020, from 12 hours over a four-week period to six hours in 2022.
Mark Hews, group chief executive of Benefact Group, said: “The charity sector is a cornerstone of British society and this report quantifies the combined value of the charitable donations and volunteering to the economy, for the first time.
“As the third largest corporate donor in the UK, charitable giving is at the heart of what we do and we donate all our available profits to good causes. We encourage businesses – who can also play a pivotal role in supporting the sector – to continue to donate and empower their employees to continue volunteering.
“The combined effort of corporates collectively donating a proportion of their profits and the public kindly giving up time to volunteer can drive a crucial movement for good within society.”
The report also found that charitable donations rose steadily from £5.9bn in 2010/11 to £9.8bn in 2020 but have since fallen to £4.3bn in 2022, following the pandemic – significantly down on the £9.3bn donated in 2021.
The steep drop is likely to be due to increased living costs for UK households and soaring bills over the past year. The fall in donations also comes as inflation remains at historically elevated levels.
The report also found that while the average cash value of donations and amount of time spent volunteering have decreased during the cost-of-living crisis, the number of people giving and volunteering is significantly higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The research found that over three quarters (76%) of UK adults donated to charity in 2022, up from 64% in 2018/19. Despite increasing charitable donations, challenging financial circumstances following the pandemic and rising living costs have impacted the amount people have been able to give. The average amount given by those donating over a year has more than halved since the beginning of the pandemic, falling from £261 in 2018/19 to £101 in 2022.
Kay Neufeld, head of forecasting and thought leadership at Cebr, said: “Our report with Benefact Group gives a comprehensive overview of the economic value of charitable giving and volunteering in the UK at a time when the country emerged from pandemic restrictions.
“It is encouraging to see that the share of people giving to charity or volunteering in their free time has not only fully recovered but even exceeded pre-pandemic levels.
“By quantifying this combined value of giving, we’re pleased to be able to demonstrate the crucial importance of this sector to the UK economy.”
Owned by a registered charity, Benefact Trust, Benefact Group is the third-largest corporate donor to charity in the UKand gives all its available profits to good causes.