Without volunteers, the last few years would have been a lot more challenging for the voluntary sector and for the wider community. However, the challenges remain for the voluntary sector and following The Big Help Out earlier this week and the release of NCVO’s summary from their Time Well Spent report for 2023, there are new challenges for the voluntary sector to tackle. In this week’s blog, we will highlight some of those challenges and in next week’s blog, we will look at ways in which organisations can adapt to tackle those challenges.

  • The number of volunteers is falling

Not unsurprisingly, the number of people volunteering are reducing.  A research report from the Charity Aid Foundation found that there was a 4% reduction in the number of people volunteering in 2022 compared to pre pandemic levels of 88%. Additionally, the report states that since 2018, there have been 1.6 million few people volunteering.

None of this is surprising and these reports corroborate what we are hearing from local voluntary organisations. We know that with the cost of living crisis, people are having to return to work or take on additional caring responsibilities. Additionally, we know that there have been people who no longer are able to volunteer as a result of other impacts from the cost of living crisis such as worsening mental health conditions. Therefore, these figures should surprise no-one.

  • Volunteering is now less satisfying

Of those people who did volunteer, satisfaction remained high with 92% of people stating that their volunteering is very or fairly satisfying. However, this figure is down from 96% in 2018 and there are a number of reasons for this:

- 26% of volunteers said that ‘their volunteering is becoming too much like paid work’.

- 24% of volunteers felt that their organisations had unrealistic expectations of how much they did.

  • Volunteering is becoming less diverse

We know that organisations are constantly working to improve diversity issues however, the NCVO reports highlights that diversity remains an issue for voluntary organisations. For example:

- The number of volunteers from different backgrounds and cultures has reduced from 73% in 2018 to 66% in 2023.

- The number of young volunteers that are satisfied with their volunteering roles is lower than those over the age of 55 with 82% of 18–24-year-olds said they’re satisfied compared with 96% of those aged 55+.

As a result, work needs to be done to ensure that organisations have a diverse range of volunteers and that their volunteers are satisfied with their opportunities.

Whilst we have highlighted some of the challenges for voluntary organisations, the overall picture is positive with the vast majority of volunteers being satisfied with their volunteering roles and opportunities. This blog seeks to highlight that it is important to address where there are issues to ensure that this figure does not continue to drop.

In next week’s blog, we will look at options for organisations on how they can tackle some of the challenges that this report showed. Keep an eye on our social media channels and if you want to be the first to read our thoughts, send us a direct message on one of our social media channels with your email address and we will send you the next edition ahead of time.

Alex Murray


Lead for W3RT CVS, work for Watford and Three Rivers Trust. Helping to strengthen and support the local voluntary sector in #Watford.