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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Research shows decline in volunteer recruitment as charities fail to invest


Organisations have failed to resource hiring volunteers

Two decades of decline have resulted in more than half of UK charities unable to recruit sufficient numbers of volunteers.

Part of the problem is laid at the door of organisations themselves with many choosing not to spend scant resources on volunteering and promotion.

The research, which coincides with this year’s Volunteers Week (3-9 June), was undertaken by Pro Bono Economics and Nottingham Trent University’s National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory which sampled more than 560 organisations.

Worryingly it states that four in 10 organisations do not have enough volunteers to meet their objectives and 82% of these organisations find recruitment difficult.

Eschewing more professional methods such as recruitment days and social media, some 84% of voluntary organisations are mainly using word of mouth to recruit volunteers.

Organisations continue to experience challenges in volunteer retention, with little shift in the picture since 2023 and one in three reporting difficulties. Almost 70% said volunteer family and caring responsibilities were a significant barrier to retention, with work responsibilities and a decline in flexible working also having an impact.

Almost double - 42%, compared to 23% - said that the commitment is too big for their volunteers and 42% noted the time contributed by their volunteers has increased over the last year, a slight increase on last Spring (35%).

Some of the charities who responded to the survey reported that they are changing the way they do things to try and improve volunteer recruitment.

One said: “We have a part time volunteer co-ordinator which has made recruiting and retaining volunteers and filling rotas more straightforward. She has introduced rewards and social activities to maintain morale.

"She has also worked with the local college to recruit young people on Duke of Edinburgh and this has slightly changed the age profile. Some of these young people have stayed with us at the end of their placements.”

“Our pool of older, more experienced volunteers has declined since COVID-19 meaning we are now in a position where we don't have the capacity to train newcomers.

"We have trialled some training and workshop days in an attempt to fast-track newcomers so they can come in and use our facilities to practise/undertake some training solo.

"We have also created a training pack for new volunteers, which contains practical training activities they can undertake at home whilst they are waiting for a more experienced volunteer to become available to shadow.”

Professor Daniel King, director of the National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory at Nottingham Business School, part of NTU, said: “The results of this wave are very similar to last spring, which shows that there are some perennial challenges facing voluntary organisations.

“It’s hard out there, and while some organisations are adapting and having some success, others are experiencing tensions with balancing the needs of the organisation with the needs of volunteers.

“Volunteers’ Week shines a spotlight on the fantastic impact volunteering has for people and for organisations, but longstanding challenges highlighted in our report are requiring the sector to think differently about volunteer participation.”



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David Williams
about 1 month ago

Volunteering in the roles that need filled aren't interesting enough for many or require too much training for the charity to cope with - and people just randomly vanish after a few weeks, retention is awful. Coupled to cost of living, child care and overtime strains on lives. Perfect storm. The crackpot idea only the young should volunteer is backwards let’s keep older people engaged too, very ageist that idea from Tories. Are old people on the scrap heap? :( A minister for volunteering would help a great deal. It’s very rewarding no matter the role. When I tell people I volunteer people say I could never do that - yes you can!