Barriers and enablers to volunteering

In this report, we use the term ‘global majority’ to refer to all ethnic groups except white British and other white groups, including white minorities.

Learn more in the language and definitions section.

Barriers to volunteering

Non-volunteers are defined as people who have not volunteered in the last 12 months. See the language and definitions section for more detail.

Time and other commitments are the biggest barriers for global majority non-volunteers.

Global majority non-volunteers are most likely to cite time and commitment-related factors as key barriers to volunteering (see chart 17 above). This is similar to non-volunteers overall.

Jump Project’s review of motivations and barriers to volunteering among the global majority (pdf, 376KB)[1] highlights language as a particular barrier for first-generation global majority people. They found speaking English as a first language is statistically positively correlated with volunteering.

Global majority non-volunteers rank worries about fitting in as a higher barrier to volunteering.

While a similar proportion of non-volunteers cite worries about not fitting in as a barrier (15% global majority non-volunteers vs 13% non-volunteers overall), this barrier was ranked fifth highest by global majority non-volunteers, compared to eighth highest by non-volunteers overall (see chart 17 above).

This means that, relative to other barriers, worries about not fitting in are more important to global majority non-volunteers.

Similarly, not feeling like they have the right skills and not being aware of opportunities are also ranked higher as barriers among global majority non-volunteers (15% vs 13% non-volunteers overall). These barriers are ranked fifth highest for global majority non-volunteers compared to eighth highest by non-volunteers overall.

As highlighted by Southby et al., discussions about barriers to volunteering also need to be set within the wider context of structural inequalities.

Demographic differences

Among global majority non-volunteers:

  • female non-volunteers are more worried that they would not fit in compared to male non-volunteers (18% vs 11%). This is also true of disabled non-volunteers compared with non-disabled (21% vs 14%)
  • female non-volunteers are also more likely to say concerns about ending up out of pocket are a barrier, compared with male non-volunteers (16% vs 10%)
  • a higher proportion of Asian respondents say they have been put off by a negative experience of volunteering in the past compared with black respondents (7% vs 3%). This mirrors our volunteer experience findings, which highlighted that Asian respondents were less likely to say they are very satisfied.

Organisational barriers

In addition to our survey of volunteers and non-volunteers, we gathered feedback from a range of volunteer-involving organisations (see our approach). They told us about the challenges they face in engaging volunteers from global majority groups.

This feedback highlights barriers within organisations which may help contextualise some of our findings.

For example, organisations reflected that a lack of diversity among existing volunteers may be a barrier to welcoming global majority volunteers. One organisation reflected they were perceived to be ‘of white people, for white people.’

Some organisations also felt that they lacked the knowledge and resources to take a more tailored approach to volunteer management and recruitment, for example through community links. They felt this made it harder to attract global majority volunteers and provide a quality volunteer experience.

Factors that would encourage new volunteers

Flexibility is the key enabler for non-volunteers.

Mirroring the top barriers to volunteering, the factors that would encourage global majority non-volunteers to volunteer all relate to flexibility. This is similar to non-volunteers overall.

A quick and easy entry process is also important.

A quick and easy entry process was both ranked higher (third for global majority non-volunteers vs. sixth for non-volunteers overall) and reported by a significantly larger proportion of global majority volunteers (16% vs. 10%).

This confirms how important the initial stage of the volunteer process is for engaging volunteers. As we saw in the volunteer experience section, 42% of those who had volunteered expected the entry process to be quicker.

Again, this was higher for global majority volunteers compared with volunteers overall. We also found that global majority volunteers were less positive about the entry process.

Other factors more prominent among global majority volunteers include knowing it would benefit their careers or job prospects (12% vs 7%). This reflects a greater focus on career as a motivation, as seen in the motivations and values section.

Getting expenses paid is also more likely to encourage global majority non-volunteers to start volunteering (15% vs 11% of non-volunteers overall).

Recent research by Human Appeal (pdf, 900KB) highlights that 38% of global majority volunteers (referred to as ‘BAME volunteers’ in the report) give less time now because of the cost of living crisis. This is higher than non-global majority volunteers (30%).

Global majority non-volunteers are more likely to be encouraged to volunteer.

Global majority non-volunteers are less likely to say nothing would encourage them to get involved compared with non-volunteers overall (14% vs 21%).

Demographic differences

Among global majority respondents:

  • those who have never volunteered are more likely to say that nothing in particular would encourage them to get involved (21% vs 14% global majority non-volunteers overall). This reflects earlier findings that suggest non-volunteers who have never been involved may be the hardest to engage
  • almost a quarter (23%) of 18‒24-year-olds say that nothing would encourage them to get involved. This is much higher than those aged 55 and over (10%)
  • those from a lower socioeconomic group[2] are more likely to say nothing would encourage them compared with those from a higher socioeconomic group (21% vs 11%)
  • female non-volunteers are more likely than male non-volunteers to be encouraged by flexibility. This was especially true for flexibility with time committed (40% vs 27%) and being provided with transportation (13% vs 8%)
  • black non-volunteers are more likely to value flexibility with the time committed compared with Asian non-volunteers (40% vs 31%).

Family and friend involvement is an important enabler for Pakistani non-volunteers.

Being involved in volunteering with friends and family is more likely to encourage Asian and mixed non-volunteers to start volunteering compared to black non-volunteers (12% Asian, 14% mixed vs 6% black).

This is particularly true for Pakistani non-volunteers, with almost one in five (19%) saying they would be encouraged by family and friend involvement. The same proportion (19%) of Pakistani non-volunteers also say they would be encouraged if someone asked them to get involved[3].

Interest in volunteering opportunities

Global majority non-volunteers are more likely to have considered volunteering opportunities in the last 12 months.

One in five (20%) global majority non-volunteers say they have looked into volunteering in the last 12 months. This is higher than non-volunteers overall (12%).

This indicates that despite lower volunteer satisfaction levels overall, at the point of interest in volunteering, there is a greater willingness among the global majority to get involved.

Those who had volunteered at some point in the past are almost twice as likely to have considered volunteering recently compared with those who had never volunteered (25% vs 13%).

Female non-volunteers are also much more likely than male non-volunteers to have looked into volunteering opportunities (25% vs 15%).

The key reasons for not going on to volunteer are:

  • it involved more time than they could commit (22%)
  • not flexible enough (21%)
  • no opportunities matching skills experiences or interest (11%)
  • too much paperwork or admin (10%).

Reasons for not going on to volunteer are similar between global majority non-volunteers and non-volunteers overall.

15% say they are still in the process or still deciding to volunteer.

The most appealing volunteering opportunities are those which are flexible or one-off.

The following opportunities appealed to global majority volunteers and non-volunteers the most.

  • Being able to dip in and out of volunteering activities (35%).
  • One-off opportunities (34%).
  • Doing it at a time or place of their choosing (31%).

There is less interest in regular volunteering (16%) or seasonal opportunities (20%), although seasonal opportunities were more appealing to 18‒34 year olds.

17% are not interested in any opportunities. This was higher among those who have never previously volunteered (31%).


  1. Note: Respondents are referred to as black, Asian and ethnic minorities in the Jump report.

  2. For details of social groups classification, see the appendix.

  3. Differences relating to Indian and Pakistani volunteers have been highlighted as we have a sufficient sample size for both of these groups. We do not have sufficient data to draw out insights for other nationalities who identify as Asian. See the appendix for a breakdown of the data in each of these groups.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 28 November 2023