Implications for volunteering practice and policy

From our research findings, we have identified a number of implications for volunteering practice.

Volunteer-involving organisations might consider these at different stages of the volunteer journey – from recruitment and entry, through to volunteers moving on from their roles.

Additionally, we've shared some considerations for policymakers.

Recruitment and entry into volunteering

Engage enthusiastic non-volunteers

Our findings show there is potential to harness the enthusiasm of global majority volunteers, but barriers need to be addressed.

We recommend the following.

  • Focus on what motivates global majority volunteers. Consider how these motivations relate to other factors such as religion, cultural background or career aspirations. A person-centred approach that values what volunteers bring to the table is key to inclusive volunteering. Read these volunteering stories for inspiration.
  • Promote diversity within your organisation. Consider how you can meaningfully showcase engagement of diverse volunteers in recruitment materials. Think beyond imagery. For example, you could use case studies and feedback from existing volunteers.
  • Review your volunteering strategy. Make sure that equity, diversity and inclusion best practice is an active and embedded part of it. This should include increasing accessibility and addressing barriers.
  • Think about how you might adapt and vary your approaches to reach particular groups. For example, you may need to try something different to recruit younger volunteers. Our recruiting volunteers training covers this in more detail.
  • Get involved in The Big Help Out campaign, which aims to help encourage those who are not already volunteering.

Offer equitable and engaging volunteering opportunities

Organisations should consider how to make volunteering opportunities attractive, relevant and equitable for global majority volunteers.

We recommend the following.

Start the journey ‘right’

Our findings suggest that effective entry processes are key to attracting and retaining a diverse range of volunteers.

We recommend the following.

  • Review the entry processes in your organisation. Think about the different stages and aspects of volunteer recruitment and invest the necessary resources. This will help attract new volunteers and start positive volunteer experiences for those who join.
  • Make sure adverts for volunteer roles are inclusive. They should use clear, concise accessible language, with words and images that reflect diversity.
  • Consider where to advertise your roles including in a range of places and spaces. This may change depending on the role. For example, if you’re looking for trustees you may want to try a trustee-specific recruitment site like Trustees Unlimited or Action for Trustee Racial Diversity.
  • Ensure volunteer recruitment processes are fair and equitable. You can do this by:
    • using simple and accessible application processes
    • offering support to potential volunteers and continued communication to keep them engaged throughout the process
    • removing unnecessary steps and requests for information. If you need applicants to provide specific information for a role, explain why.
  • Inform staff of considerations if engaging volunteers from overseas.
  • Give volunteers a warm welcome to the organisation. Make sure you offer a positive and informative volunteer induction. This should include chances for volunteers to ask questions and provide ways for existing volunteers to welcome new ones. For example, you could plan opportunities to introduce volunteers to one another.

During volunteering

Listen to your volunteers

Our findings suggest that satisfaction among global majority volunteers could be improved.

We recommend the following.

  • Review the ways you support and manage your volunteers.
  • Have regular check-ins with existing volunteers to improve understanding of a range of experiences and identify any issues. Use our quality volunteer experience wheel as a framework to review which dimensions need improving.
  • Create opportunities for volunteer feedback and involvement in your programme. This could include opportunities for involvement in decision-making, project groups or working groups. Opportunities should be based on wider experiences as volunteers, not just issues relating to global majority experiences.

Build a culture of respect, trust and inclusion

The research highlights respect, trust and inclusion as key factors in global majority volunteers’ experiences. We need to address less positive perceptions in these areas.

We recommend the following.

  • Ensure all volunteers and those working with volunteers understand equity, diversity and inclusion. This includes how the Equality Act relates to their role. You could help build this understanding through volunteer training.
  • Consider the impact of intersectionality. Think about how you can support specific demographics within the global majority. For example, we found disabled and younger volunteers from the global majority face additional barriers.
  • Look at ways to create a safe, supportive and friendly environment. Volunteers should be comfortable bringing up issues and feel confident they will be listened to. Including opportunities for anonymous feedback can help with this.
  • Engage or partner with other organisations with relevant expertise, knowledge or lived experience. This can help build cultural knowledge and awareness within your own organisation.

Make inclusion a priority

Feedback from organisations highlights that limited resources can be a barrier to promoting diversity and improving experiences for global majority volunteers.

We recommend the following.

Value and develop your volunteers

We found recognition is an important factor that could help improve volunteering experiences among the global majority.

We recommend the following.

Retaining volunteers and ending the journey well

Improve volunteer experiences

A focus on volunteering experiences may help address lower retention rates among global majority volunteers.

We recommend the following.

Think about the long-term volunteer journey

Although volunteers may leave their roles, our findings indicate maintaining a positive experience until the end will make it easier for them to return to volunteering in the future.

We recommend the following.

  • Offer volunteers opportunities to move between roles.
  • Give them the option to reduce their commitments or step back from volunteering if needed.
  • If volunteers leave, take steps to end the volunteering experience positively. This will help encourage them back to the organisation in the future.
  • If your project or organisation is closing, use resources from Stewarding Loss to end well. Take the time to reflect, learn, and celebrate what everyone has been part of.
  • Ask for feedback when volunteers leave a role. Identify learning, ideally through a final discussion or exit interview. You can use our ending volunteering checklist to help with this.
  • Use these learnings to promote change and improve volunteer experiences. Use the information to make the case for investment if needed.
  • Keep in touch with volunteers, but in a respectful and light-touch way.

Considerations for policymakers

We urge policymakers to reflect on this research and consider the following implications.

Champion volunteering

Volunteering is a fundamental part of our society. The government plays a key role in creating a supportive environment in which it can flourish.

Government should champion volunteering. They should draw on learning from a range of initiatives including the Know Your Neighbourhood Fund, the Vision for Volunteering, and the Voluntary and Community Sector Emergencies Partnership.

They should continue to promote and recognise the achievements of volunteers. This can be done through initiatives including the Kings Award for Voluntary Service and the Points of Light Award.

Build understanding of intersectionality

Policymakers at a national and local level should use this research to build their understanding of global majority volunteers’ experiences.

The research shows how experiences vary depending on a range of demographic factors. This highlights how the global majority cannot be treated as a single homogenous group.

When targeting resources or taking actions to improve the volunteer experience, consideration must be given to people’s intersecting identities and backgrounds. In particular, how these identities impact their ability, interest and motivation to volunteer, as well as the quality of their experiences.

Engage global majority non-volunteers

Global majority non-volunteers are more likely to be encouraged to volunteer compared to non-volunteers overall (see the barriers and enablers section).

Policymakers should consider how to draw on this untapped potential and engage prospective volunteers from the global majority.

Remove barriers to volunteering

Government should work with the sector to better understand the barriers to volunteering faced by the global majority. Policy solutions should be co-created with people from these communities.

In particular, policymakers should work with volunteering organisations and global majority communities to develop solutions across the following areas.

  • Fund organisations properly to ensure they can pay expenses. We know charities are struggling with the rising cost of delivery and falling income. This includes funding for Approved Mileage Allowance Payments for volunteers who drive.
  • Take steps to reduce poverty and improve living standards, pay, and working conditions to ensure that paid work is not a barrier to volunteering. This is particularly important as people grapple with having to take on more work to cope with the rising cost of living.
  • Ensure families have access to childcare and social care so that family members can continue to volunteer.
  • Reduce the need for people to move out of their preferred neighbourhood or community due to unaffordable, insecure housing or lack of work.
  • Encourage employers and career advisors to recognise the value of volunteering.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 28 November 2023