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New research supports organisations to improve volunteer experience for minority groups

A new report from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), published today, explores what organisations are doing to improve the diversity of their volunteers.

A new report from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), published today, explores what organisations are doing to improve the diversity of their volunteers.

Time Well Spent: Diversity and Volunteering builds on the largest study of volunteers for over a decade, published by NCVO in 2019, which found that while volunteering is generally a positive experience for many, younger, disabled and BAME volunteers are less likely to have a positive experience than others. 

Overall, satisfaction among BAME volunteers was lower (91%) than among white volunteers (96%). 1 in 7 (16%) disabled volunteers said that volunteering negatively impacted on their health and wellbeing, compared with less than 1 in 10 (9%) non-disabled volunteers. 

The new report also highlights how events of 2020 mean voluntary organisations are much more alive to issues of structural racism and have increased their appetite to proactively address diversity issues in volunteering.

However, with increased financial pressures and operational challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, some organisations are now finding it difficult to achieve diversity and inclusion in volunteering. 

Organisations identified several barriers to creating a more diverse volunteering base, including:

  • physical and cultural barriers for potential volunteers, whether daunting application forms or inaccessible buildings
  • lack of interest or action on diversity and inclusion at senior leadership levels
  • organisational branding or marketing materials that may leave some volunteers feeling excluded
  • inflexible roles that don’t take into account the diversity of volunteers’ lives, including different working patterns or caring responsibilities
  • negative attitudes of staff or other volunteers that create a closed or exclusive culture.

Sarah Vibert, Director of Membership and Engagement, said:

"Our research shows that while organisational approaches to diversity are shifting across the voluntary sector, there are still significant barriers to diversity and inclusion in volunteering. It’s really concerning that volunteers from minority groups report a worse experience. 
The covid-19 pandemic has prompted organisations across the country to offer more flexible, digital volunteering options, which may have helped attract a more diverse range of volunteers. There is further work to do to understand the long-term impact of this.
The recommendations in our report, such as providing better support and a welcoming environment for volunteers, will improve the volunteer experience for many, and help organisations attract and retain a broader range of volunteers in the months and years to come. "

The report is the third in a series of focused reports building on the results of NCVO’s major survey on the volunteer experience, carried out through YouGov’s panel of more than 10,000 respondents in January 2019. 

Through further data analysis, workshops and interviews throughout 2020, the research aimed to understand what diversity means to voluntary organisations and explore the challenges and opportunities for greater volunteer diversity in practice. 

The report also identifies lessons and reflections for organisations looking to improve in this area, including:

  • simplifying volunteer recruitment and support processes
  • improving messaging and imagery
  • creating clear processes to challenge discriminatory behaviours
  • embedding diversity across the organisation – including the trustee board, leadership team and staff.

For further information please contact Muireann Montague on 020 7520 2469 or email


  1. Methodology: The research built on Time Well Spent, a survey of over 10,000 volunteers in January 2019. Over the last year, researchers carried out further analysis of this data and reviewed existing evidence on diversity and volunteering. They also hosted three workshops, asked volunteers questions via digital forms and email, and carried out phone interviews with key stakeholders.
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