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11 Volunteering

Main Findings

Levels of volunteering have remained relatively stable over the last 5 years, with around three in ten adults providing unpaid help to organisations or groups. In 2016, 27 per cent of adults provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months.

The profile of volunteers has also remained relatively stable over time. Volunteers are more likely to be:

  • women
  • from higher socio-economic and income groups
  • from rural areas
  • from less deprived areas.

Overall, the volunteering results from 2016 by economic situation, household income and area deprivation continue to support existing evidence about the under-representation of disadvantaged groups in volunteering.

The type of organisations most commonly volunteered for were ‘health, disability and social welfare’ organisations and ‘youth or children’ organisations (19 per cent).

Younger adults were more likely to work with children and young people and help with sporting activities, whilst older adults were more likely to volunteer for religious organisations, community groups, and groups working with the elderly.

Eighteen per cent of adults that provided unpaid help do so ‘several times a week’ and a quarter (25 per cent) of volunteers provided unpaid help ‘about once a week’. Three in four (75 per cent) of adults that volunteered did so for up to 10 hours a month.

Most people stopped volunteering due to changes in their circumstances such as no longer having time (34 per cent), they have moved house (13 per cent) or due to illness (10 per cent).

11.1 Introduction and Context

The Scottish Government recognises that volunteers of all ages form a valuable national resource, vital to the success of Scotland and that volunteering is a key component of strong communities. Volunteering is all about new experiences, feeling good and making a difference and it is important to recognise the benefits of volunteering, in terms of skills development, community empowerment and strengthening public services.

The definition of volunteering currently used by the Scottish Government is: ‘the giving of time and energy through a third party, which can bring measurable benefits to the volunteer, individual beneficiaries, groups and organisations, communities, environment and society at large. It is a choice undertaken of one's own free will, and is not motivated primarily for financial gain or for a wage or salary" [77] . This definition broadly encompasses ‘formal volunteering’ – where unpaid work is undertaken through an organisation, group or club to help other people or to help a cause (such as improving the environment). In contrast, ‘informal volunteering’ refers to unpaid help given as an individual directly to people who are not relatives.

The volunteering questions in the Scottish Household Survey ( SHS) ask about providing unpaid help to organisations or groups, therefore the focus of this chapter is on formal volunteering. This chapter presents findings from the 2016 data about the prevalence and frequency of volunteering, the type of organisations for which individuals gave up their time, the activities which individuals undertook, hours they volunteered in the past month, and reasons why people who volunteered in the past had given up [78] . A number of terms are used interchangeably to refer to volunteering throughout the chapter (e.g. unpaid help, unpaid work, unpaid activity and voluntary work).

11.2 Providing Unpaid Help to Organisations or Groups

11.2.1 Prevalence of Providing Unpaid Help

  • Just over a quarter of adults provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months.
  • The overall rate of volunteering has remained relatively stable between 2009 and 2016 with the proportion of females being consistently higher than males.

Table 11.1 shows that 27 per cent of adults provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months.

Profile of volunteers

  • There is an under-representation of disadvantaged groups who have volunteered.
  • Volunteering information has been collected since 1999. Overall, in 2016 as in every other year, more women (29 per cent) than men (26 per cent) volunteered in the last 12 months.
  • Levels of volunteering have varied according to economic status - fewer people from lower socio-economic groups have provided unpaid help compared with higher income groups.
  • In general the percentage of adults volunteering has increased with income.
  • Volunteering has been consistently lower for those in the 20 per cent most deprived areas (18 per cent) than in the rest of Scotland (30 per cent).
  • The rate of volunteering has been consistently higher in rural areas than in urban areas, where 41 per cent of adults in remote rural areas and 31 per cent of adults in accessible rural areas provided unpaid help to groups or organisations compared to around a quarter of adults in large and other urban areas (26 per cent and 24 per cent respectively).
  • Those in ‘education (including HE/FE)’ (39 per cent), followed by those who are ‘self-employed’ (36 per cent) and those in ‘part-time employment’ (31 per cent) were most likely to have provided unpaid help. Adults who are ‘permanently sick or have short term ill health issues or are disabled’ (11 per cent) were least likely to have volunteered.

There is a difference along gender lines with a higher percentage of women (29 per cent) saying that they have provided unpaid help compared with men (26 per cent). Figure 11.1 shows the trend in volunteering over the past eight years. It can be seen that the overall rate of volunteering has remained relatively stable over the time period with the proportion of females being consistently higher than males.

Table 11.1: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by gender
Column percentages, 2016 data

Adults Male Female All
Yes 26 29 27
No 74 71 73
Total 100 100 100
Base 4,400 5,240 9,640

Figure 11.1: Percentage providing unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by gender
2009-2016 data, Adults (minimum base: 2,450)

Figure 11.1: Percentage providing unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by gender

Figure 11.2 shows the gender difference in volunteering by age. In 2016, there was a difference between males and females within the 25 to 34 age group, where a higher proportion of females (30 per cent) volunteered than males (23 per cent) and within the 60 to 74 age group, where 31 per cent of females and 25 per cent of males volunteered.

Volunteering was lowest among men aged 25 to 34 compared to all of the other age groups under the age of 75 (23 per cent of men in this age group provided unpaid help). After the age of 75, providing unpaid help declined: 19 per cent of men and 17 per cent of women aged 75 and over provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months.

Figure 11.2: Percentage providing unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by age within gender
2016 data, Adults (minimum base: 730)

Figure 11.2: Percentage providing unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by age within gender

Variations in volunteering: economic situation

  • Those in education, self-employed or working part-time were most likely to have volunteered.

There is also variation in volunteering according to individuals’ current economic situation ( Table 11.2). Those in ‘education (including HE/FE)’ (39 per cent), followed by those who are ‘self-employed’ (36 per cent) and those in ‘part-time employment’ (31 per cent) were most likely to have provided unpaid help. Adults who are ‘permanently sick or have short term ill health issues or are disabled’ (11 per cent) were least likely to have volunteered. Just over one-fifth (21 per cent) of those ‘unemployed and seeking work’ had volunteered in the previous 12 months.

Table 11.2: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by current economic situation
Column percentages, 2016 data

Adults Self -employed Full-time employ-ment Part-time employ-ment Looking after home / family Perma-nently retired from work Unem-ployed and seeking work In Education (including HE/FE) Perma-nently sick or short term ill health or disabled All
Yes 36 27 31 24 25 21 39 11 27
No 64 73 69 76 75 79 61 89 73
All 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Base 630 3,130 960 460 3,180 320 410 530 9,640
  • The percentage of adults who volunteered increased with income.

Table 11.3 shows the differences in volunteering by household income band. It can be seen that in general the percentage of adults who volunteered increased with income. Around one-fifth of adults in households in the lowest net income bands, £0-£20,000, volunteered in the last 12 months, compared to almost two-fifths (39 per cent) of those with a net household income of more than £40,000.

Table 11.3: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by net annual household income
Column percentages, 2016 data

Adults £0 - £6,000 £6,001 - £10,000 £10,001 - £15,000 £15,001 - £20,000 £20,001 - £25,000 £25,001 - £30,000 £30,001 - £40,000 £40,001+ All
Yes 21 21 20 20 26 26 29 39 28
No 79 79 80 80 74 74 71 61 72
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Base 250 900 1,620 1,420 1,170 900 1,280 1,760 9,300

Household income in the SHS is that of the highest income householder and their partner only. Includes all adults for whom household income is known or has been imputed. Excludes refusals/don't know responses.

Variations in volunteering: deprivation

  • Volunteering was lower for those in the 20 per cent most deprived areas.

Table 11.4 shows the prevalence of volunteering by level of deprivation, as defined using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD). It can be seen that volunteering was lower for those in the 20 per cent most deprived areas (18 per cent) than in the rest of Scotland (30 per cent).

Table 11.4: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation
Column percentages, 2016 data

Adults 20% most deprived Rest of Scotland Scotland
Yes 18 30 27
No 82 70 73
Total 100 100 100
Base 1,880 7,760 9,640

Variations in volunteering: urban/rural areas

  • Volunteering in rural areas was higher than in urban areas.

Table 11.5 shows differences in volunteering by Urban Rural classification. It can be seen that the rate of volunteering in rural areas was higher than in urban areas, with 41 per cent of adults in remote rural and 31 per cent of adults in accessible rural areas saying they provided unpaid help to groups or organisations compared to around a quarter of adults in large and other urban areas (26 per cent and 24 per cent respectively).

Table 11.5: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by Urban Rural Classification
Column percentages, 2016 data

Adults Large urban areas Other urban areas Accessible small towns Remote small towns Accessible rural Remote rural Scotland
Yes 26 24 27 34 31 41 27
No 74 76 73 66 69 59 73
All 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Base 2,880 3,280 930 550 1,050 960 9,640

11.2.2 Types of organisations Unpaid Help Provided to

  • The most common types of organisations which volunteers helped with were those working with ‘health, disability and social welfare’ and ‘youth / children’.
  • There was variations in the types of unpaid activity adults had undertaken in the last 12 months by gender.

Table 11.6 lists the types of organisations that adults who did voluntary work in the last 12 months provided unpaid help to. The most common types of organisations which volunteers helped with were `health, disability and social welfare' and ‘youth / children’ (both 19 per cent). This was followed by people who worked with ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ and ‘children’s activities associated with schools’ (both 18 per cent). The next most common types of volunteering were, ‘sport / exercise (coaching or organised)’ (17 per cent), ‘religious groups’ and ‘hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs’ (both 16 per cent).

Variations in the types of organisations unpaid help provided to: Urban Rural Classification

Table 11.6 also shows the variation in the types of organisations that adults volunteered with by Urban Rural Classification. It can be seen that similar percentages of adults in large and other urban areas and remote and accessible rural areas (around one-fifth) provided unpaid help to ‘youth / children’ organisations. A higher percentage of adults in large and other urban areas (17 per cent and 22 per cent respectively) provided unpaid help to ‘health, disability and social welfare’ organisations compared to remote rural and accessible rural areas (15 per cent and 18 per cent respectively).

A higher percentage of adults in remote small towns provided unpaid help to ‘sport / exercise (coaching or organising)’ groups (34 per cent) than all other areas (between 15 and 18 per cent) and to ‘the elderly’ (26 per cent) compared to nine per cent in large urban areas and 11 per cent in accessible rural areas. A higher percentage of adults in remote small towns (one quarter) and remote and accessible rural areas (around one-fifth) provided unpaid help to ‘hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs’ compared to large and other urban areas (15 and 14 per cent respectively). Conversely, one-third (33 per cent) of volunteers in remote rural areas and just over one-quarter in accessible rural areas provided unpaid help to ‘local community or neighbourhood’ organisations compared to large urban areas (14 per cent) and other urban areas (15 per cent).

Table 11.6: Types of organisations or groups for which adults provided help for in the last 12 months by Urban Rural Classification
Percentages, 2016 data

Adults who did voluntary work in the last 12 months Large urban areas Other urban areas Accessible small towns Remote small towns Accessible rural Remote rural All
Health, disability and social welfare 17 22 22 16 18 15 19
Youth / children 20 17 24 17 20 20 19
Local community or neighbourhood groups 14 15 16 20 26 33 18
Children's activities associated with schools 19 15 15 16 23 19 18
Sport / exercise (coaching or organising) 15 18 15 34 17 17 17
Religious groups 14 18 15 20 15 13 16
Hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs 15 14 16 25 19 21 16
The elderly 9 12 14 26 11 17 12
Environmental protection 5 3 4 2 9 9 5
Citizens groups 2 4 6 7 4 9 4
Education for adults 6 3 3 2 5 6 4
Safety, first aid 3 3 3 3 4 8 4
Justice and human rights 6 4 4 1 3 2 4
Wildlife protection 3 2 3 2 5 4 3
Domestic animal welfare 3 3 3 4 5 2 3
Political groups 3 3 4 0 2 4 3
Trade union activities 1 1 - - 1 0 1
None 5 4 4 4 3 3 4
Don't Know 1 0 0 - 0 0 0
BaseMin 710 750 240 180 320 420 2,620

Columns may add to more than 100 per cent since multiple responses were allowed

Variations in the types of organisations unpaid help provided to: gender and age

Table 11.7 shows the types of organisations that adults volunteered with in the last 12 months by gender and age. Women were more likely to volunteer with ‘children’s activities associated with schools’ (23 per cent), ‘health, disability and social welfare’ organisations (22 per cent), ‘youth / children’ (20 per cent) and ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ and ‘religious groups’ (both 17 per cent). Men were most likely to have volunteered with ‘sport / exercise (coaching or organising)’ (25 per cent), ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ and ‘hobbies / recreation / arts / social club’ (both 20 per cent) and ‘youth / children’ organisations (18 per cent).

Providing help with ‘children’s activities associated with schools’ (32 per cent) and ‘youth / children’ (27 per cent) was most common among adults aged 35 to 44. Adults aged 16 to 24 were most likely to have volunteered with organisations working with ‘sport / exercise (coaching or organising)’ (31 per cent) followed by ‘youth / children’ (23 per cent) and ‘hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs’ (19 per cent). In contrast, volunteering for ‘religious groups’ and organisations working with ‘the elderly’ tended to increase with age, as did volunteering with ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ (to age 60-74 on the latter). Of those adults aged 75 and over who had volunteered, 39 per cent did so with ‘religious groups’, and 23 per cent with organisations working with ‘the elderly’.

Table 11.7: Types of organisations or groups for which adults provided help for in the last 12 months by gender and age
Percentages, 2016 data

Adults who did voluntary work in the last 12 months Male Female 16 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 44 45 to 59 60 to 74 75 plus All
Health, disability and social welfare 15 22 16 22 14 20 21 18 19
Youth / children 18 20 23 21 27 22 10 6 19
Local community or neighbourhood groups 20 17 10 12 15 23 24 20 18
Children's activities associated with schools 12 23 18 22 32 18 7 2 18
Sport / exercise (coaching or organising) 25 10 31 17 18 17 11 3 17
Religious groups 14 17 9 8 8 13 29 39 16
Hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs 20 13 19 15 17 15 16 13 16
The elderly 9 14 7 7 11 13 17 23 12
Environmental protection 6 5 3 4 6 8 6 3 5
Citizens groups 5 4 3 3 3 3 7 7 4
Education for adults 4 4 4 7 4 4 4 2 4
Safety, first aid 3 4 4 6 3 4 2 1 4
Justice and human rights 3 5 6 6 3 4 3 4 4
Wildlife protection 2 4 3 4 3 4 2 3 3
Domestic animal welfare 2 5 1 7 4 4 2 2 3
Political groups 5 1 2 2 3 3 3 5 3
Trade union activities 1 1 . 1 1 2 1 0 1
None 4 4 1 5 4 4 4 7 4
Dont Know 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0
BaseMin 1,090 1,520 220 340 450 660 700 240 2,620

Columns may add to more than 100 per cent since multiple responses were allowed.

Type of unpaid work or activities

  • The most common types of unpaid work or activities undertaken were:
  • generally helping out
  • raising money
  • whatever is required.

Table 11.8 shows the type of unpaid work or activities that adults undertook on behalf of the group or organisation they gave most help to in the last 12 months. The most common unpaid activity undertaken was 'generally helping out', with 43 per cent of adults who volunteered doing this type of activity. In terms of more specific roles, 30 per cent of adults helped by 'raising money', whilst 29 per cent said they did ‘whatever is required'. Twenty-eight per cent helped to 'organise or run events or activities'.

The proportion of females 'raising money' was 35 per cent compared to 23 per cent of males. Conversely, a higher proportion of males were involved in 'education or training or coaching' (21 per cent) compared to females (15 per cent).

Table 11.8: Types of unpaid activity adults have undertaken in the last 12 months by gender
Percentages, 2016 data

Male Female All
Generally helping out 41 45 43
Raising money 23 35 30
Doing whatever is required 28 30 29
Helping to organise or run events or activities 26 30 28
Committee work 20 17 18
Education or training or coaching 21 15 18
Providing advice or assistance to others 14 13 14
Office work or administration 10 11 11
Managing, organising or co-ordinating other unpaid helpers 7 9 8
Visiting, buddying or befriending people 5 9 7
Providing transport or driving 8 4 6
Providing direct services (e.g. meals on wheels, doing odd jobs) 5 6 6
Campaigning 5 6 6
Counselling 4 4 4
Representing others 4 4 4
IT Support 4 3 3
Advocacy 3 3 3
No answer 3 1 2
Base 1,080 1,510 2,590

11.2.3 Time Spent Volunteering

  • Nearly one in five adults that provided unpaid help did so fairly frequently.

Table 11.9 shows that 18 per cent of adults provided unpaid help ‘several times a week’ and a quarter (25 per cent) of volunteers provided unpaid help ‘about once a week’.

Variation in the time spent volunteering: gender

  • More men than women provided unpaid help ‘several times a week’.

There are gender differences with more men (21 per cent) than women (15 per cent) who provided unpaid help ‘several times a week’.

Table 11.9: Frequency of unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by gender
Percentages, 2016 data

Adults who did voluntary work in the last 12 months Male Female All
Several times a week 21 15 18
About once a week 24 27 25
Less than once a week but at least once a month 17 22 20
Less than once a month but at least five or six times a year 10 13 12
A few times a year 18 15 16
Less often 7 6 7
No answer 3 2 3
All 100 100 100
Base 1,090 1,520 2,620

Variation in the time spent volunteering: area deprivation

  • There is little variation in time spent volunteering by area deprivation.

Figure 11.3 shows that the frequency of volunteering does not vary by area deprivation.

Figure 11.3: Frequency of unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation
2016 data, Adults (minimum base: 320)

Figure 11.3: Frequency of unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation

Number of unpaid help hours provided

  • Three quarters of volunteers in Scotland provided unpaid help for 10 hours or less in the last four weeks.

Adults who had undertaken voluntary work in the last 12 months were asked the specific number of hours that they provided unpaid help in the last four weeks. Table 11.10 shows that three quarters (75 per cent) of volunteers in Scotland provided unpaid help for 10 hours or less, and that around half (51 per cent) provided help for between one and 5 hours. There was no variation between the 20 per cent most deprived areas and the rest of Scotland in the number of unpaid help hours provided.

Table 11.10: Total number of hours of unpaid work provided in the last four weeks by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation
Column percentages, 2016 data

Adults who did voluntary work in the last 12 months 20% most deprived Rest of Scotland Scotland
Less than an hour 8 5 6
Between 1 and 5 hours 50 52 51
6 to 10 hours 19 18 18
11 to 15 hours 7 7 7
16 to 20 hours 6 6 6
21 to 35 hours 5 6 6
36 hours or more 7 5 5
All 100 100 100
Base 310 2,270 2,580

11.2.4 Reasons for Stopping Volunteering

  • Around a quarter of non-volunteers said they had previously given unpaid help.
  • The majority of respondents stopped being involved in voluntary work or activities because of changes to their life circumstances.
  • People are most likely to opt in or out of volunteering according to how much time they have to give to it.

Table 11.11 shows that of those adults who said they had not given unpaid help to clubs or organisations in the last 12 months, 24 per cent said they had nonetheless given unpaid help to an organisation or group previously. This figure has remained fairly constant in recent years, ranging between 23 per cent and 25 per cent of respondents since 2009.

Table 11.11: Giving unpaid help previously
Column percentages, 2009 - 2016 data

2009 2010 2011 2012 2014 2016
Yes 23 25 24 23 24 24
No 75 74 75 76 75 75
Don't know 1 1 1 1 1 1
All 100 100 100 100 100 100
Base 3,430 2,650 3,390 6,960 7,130 7,020

Table 11.12 shows that the majority of respondents stopped being involved in voluntary work or activities because of changes to their life circumstances, for example because they no longer had the time (34 per cent), they moved house (13 per cent), through illness (10 per cent), or had started paid employment (8 per cent). There was little indication that people stopped volunteering due to anything the organisation they had volunteered for had done, or had failed to do: for example, only one per cent said they had felt unappreciated and only one per cent felt things could have been better organised.

Table 11.12: Reasons why adults stopped providing unpaid help
Column percentages, 2016 data

Reasons for stopping unpaid help Male Female All
I didn't have the time any longer 33 34 34
I moved house 14 12 13
Through illness 9 11 10
I started paid employment 9 8 8
My circumstances changed 7 8 8
I had children 5 9 7
I had achieved what I wanted to achieve 8 5 6
I had new caring responsibilities 2 5 4
I got bored or lost interest 3 2 3
I wanted a change 3 2 3
Things could have been better organised 1 2 1
I didn't feel appreciated 1 1 1
It was costing me money 1 0 1
Other reasons 5 3 4
Base 730 930 1,660

Correspondingly, when asked what might encourage them to undertake work or activities on a voluntary basis again in the future, the most common response ( Table 11.13) was 'if it fitted in with my other commitments' (14 per cent). This suggests that people are most likely to opt in or out of volunteering according to how much time they have to give to it, and the fit with other commitments in their life at the time. However, six per cent of respondents said they might be encouraged to undertake unpaid work or activities again in the future 'if it fitted in with my interests and skills' or 'if someone asked me to do something' (four per cent), suggesting there may be potential to tailor more volunteering opportunities to the interests and skills individuals feel they have to offer or improve communication about the opportunities on offer.

Table 11.13: Reasons why adults may undertake unpaid help in the future
Column percentages, 2016 data

Reasons for undertaking unpaid work in future Male Female All
If it fitted in with my other commitments 14 14 14
If it fitted in with my interests and skills 7 6 6
If someone asked me to do something 5 4 4
If I thought I could help others 3 3 3
If I could volunteer when I felt like it 2 2 2
If I knew more about the opportunities available 2 2 2
If it was good fun 3 1 2
If it would improve my career/job prospects 1 1 1
If it helped me gain qualifications 1 1 1
If it would improve my skills 1 1 1
If someone I knew volunteered with me 1 1 1
If I had more confidence 0 1 1
If I was sure I wouldn't be out of pocket 1 0 0
If I was certain that it wouldn't effect my benefits 1 0 0
If there were more people like me volunteering 0 1 0
No answer 56 56 56
Other 1 1 1
Don't know 10 11 10
Base 3,310 3,720 7,020

Conclusion

This chapter has summarised Scottish Household Survey findings on volunteering. Both the levels of volunteering and the profile of volunteers have remained relatively stable over the last 5 years. Overall, the volunteering results from 2016 by economic situation, household income and area deprivation continue to support existing evidence about the under-representation of disadvantaged groups in volunteering. People are most likely to opt in or out of volunteering according to how much time they have to give to it. One suggestion is that the potential to increase volunteering is to make opportunities flexible and to fit skills.


Contact

Email: Emma McCallum, emma.mccallum@gov.scot

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG