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Volunteer centres see substantial drops in income

Many of England’s volunteer centres faced a substantial hit to their income in the last financial year, new data from NCVO shows.

The results of the 2011/12 Annual Return for Volunteer Centres, a survey of volunteer centres’ income and activities, show that 40% of volunteer centres for whom there is data for both years lost over a quarter of their income compared to the previous year. 1 in 5 (21%) had cuts of 50% or more of their income.

A smaller number of volunteer centres saw an increase in their income – 26% of respondents who replied to the survey in both years said their organisation’s income had increased compared to 2010/11.

Among the survey’s other findings:
- Local government remained the most common source of funding, with 83% of volunteer centres receiving local government money
- There was a sharp fall in central government funding – only 7% of volunteer centres received any central government funding this year compared to 24% the previous year, reflecting the end of various national programmes supporting infrastructure organisations
- A third (33%) of enquiries about volunteering opportunities were from people who were unemployed and seeking work.

Commenting, Justin Davis Smith, NCVO’s executive director for volunteering and development, said:

‘Volunteer centres perform a pivotal role in supporting volunteering locally – both in helping find the right roles for people who are keen to volunteer, and in supporting organisations who need advice on volunteering issues.

‘We know too that volunteer centres can be the start of a journey back into employment for many people who need to find ways to gain skills, something which is particularly important as the economy remains challenging. It is also crucial we have a strong local support network in place in order to sustain new interest in volunteering following the Olympic and Paralympic games.

‘The pressure many volunteer centres are under at the moment is daunting, with many carrying on through enormous dedication and innovation from staff and volunteers.

‘The picture is not universally bleak – some volunteer centres had success in developing new work and sources of income in this year. However it is crucial that all volunteer centres have the chance to develop new ways of working and income sources, and sudden and sharp funding cuts make this harder to achieve.’

NCVO is currently working with Nesta on a programme to support the piloting of innovative ideas in volunteer centres. Eight volunteer centres have been awarded funding of up to £50,000 for projects aiming to help tackle challenges facing their communities (1).


The Annual Return for Volunteer Centres 2011/12 was an online survey sent to 261 volunteer centres in late 2012. It was completed by 160 centres, a response rate of 61%.

1) New support for volunteer centres using innovative ways to match volunteers with opportunities

NCVO champions and strengthens the voluntary sector, with over 10,000 members, from the largest charities to the smallest community organisations

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