About the Time Well Spent research programme

Time Well Spent is NCVO’s major volunteering research programme. The research is based on survey data of adults in Great Britain. It:

  • looks at people’s experiences of volunteering and barriers to volunteering
  • aims to provide rich and practical insights that will inform practice and policy, address knowledge gaps, and generate new evidence.

The government’s Community Life Survey provides official statistics on volunteering. These help us understand what volunteering looks like at a national level. Our Time Well Spent research is designed to be complementary to this. It provides an in-depth exploration of the experience of volunteers.

The original Time Well Spent report was published in 2019. The report was based on a national survey of over 10,000 adults in Great Britain, conducted through YouGov.

We published a further four Time Well Spent reports between 2019 and 2022. These focused on key areas of interest which came out of the first report.

In 2022, we started working on a new series of Time Well Spent. The main Time Well Spent 2023 report was published in June 2023. This was based on another survey of over 7,000 adults in Great Britain.

This new research focuses on volunteering among the global majority. By ‘global majority’ we refer to all ethnic groups except white British and white minorities. Specifically, people from black, Asian, mixed and other (including Chinese, Arab, other Asian, and indigenous peoples) who have been previously racialised as ‘ethnic minorities’.

You can find more about our use of the term in the language and definitions section.

Context for this research

Our original Time Well Spent research indicated that global majority volunteers have a less positive experience. However, a low sample size limited our findings.

Our diversity and volunteering follow up report in 2020 allowed us to understand some of these issues from the perspective of organisations. The report showed organisations want to be more inclusive but lack confidence on how to take action.

We carried out a series of internal and external consultations to inform this new research series. Understanding global majority volunteers and their experience was highlighted as a priority.

This report aims to address an evidence gap in understanding the experiences of those from the global majority. We included a boost sample of 1,000 people from the global majority, alongside the nationally representative sample of 7,006 survey respondents.

Find out more about our methodology in the our approach section below.

Aims of this research

  • Understand volunteering and the volunteer experience among the global majority in more depth.
  • Compare the volunteer experience of those from the global majority with volunteers overall, to understand similarities and differences.
  • Explore barriers among non-volunteers from the global majority, and how these compare with non-volunteers overall.

We decided to compare the global majority population with the overall population, instead of the white population only. By taking this approach, the research is able to look at the overall picture and also identify where and how different considerations might need to be made specifically for the global majority.

You can find out more in the our approach section below.

Scope of this report

We recognise there is much more to say about this topic than can be covered in this report. Our aim is to start to address the evidence gap and provide much needed data to prompt discussion and debate.

As with our previous reports, this report focuses mainly on formal volunteering. This means volunteering through groups, clubs and organisations. We acknowledge the important role of informal volunteering, for example helping neighbours. We also recognise how these different types of volunteering can be hard to define.

You can learn more about definitions of volunteering in the language and definitions section.

Global majority data

We recognise that the global majority is not one homogenous group. For this reason, we have tried to highlight differences between specific ethnic groups where possible, particularly where differences are notable and interesting.

We have only reported where we have enough data to carry out analysis. At times this means we cannot take an in depth look at the experiences of each individual ethnic group. Further research, particularly qualitative, is needed for this. We welcome support and funding for further research and analysis to help build on the findings in this report.

What this report can do is to provide a comparison of broadly categorised groups such as black, Asian, and mixed ethnic groups[1]. The report offers a unique look at both volunteer experiences and barriers to volunteering among the global majority from a national perspective.

We hope the report will generate interest in this topic and start discussion around much needed future research in this area.

Our approach

Our research methodology is comprised of:

  • a national survey of adults in Great Britain
  • additional data captured through a number of research methods.

National survey through YouGov’s panel

The findings in this report are primarily based on a survey of adults aged 18 and over in Great Britain. The survey ran from 23 November to 6 December 2022 and was conducted through YouGov’s online panel.

The survey was carried out with two groups of survey respondents.

How we used the two datasets

Findings were drawn for the report in the following way.

See the appendix for more details.

This report uses the overall population as a benchmark, rather than comparing the global majority sample with white respondents only. We make comparisons between the overall population and the global majority as a way of understanding how the experiences of the global majority may differ from the overall ‘average’ experience, and why.

This overall population sample includes some of the global majority survey respondents, as it is a nationally representative sample. This sample was used as the basis for the main Time Well Spent 2023 report.

We decided to use the same overall population dataset for comparison with the global majority findings, so that readers of both reports would see a consistency in the numbers and percentages reported.

This approach enables us to draw insights through two ‘lenses’. First, the global majority in and of itself. Second, a comparison between the global majority population and the overall population.

Those who work with volunteers can consider how to adapt their overall approach, while also addressing the specific needs of global majority volunteers.

In making the comparison we acknowledge there are additional factors that affect volunteer participation and experience. For example, social deprivation levels, economic inequality, and unequal access to volunteering opportunities. Wider evidence has demonstrated that these factors are likely to have had a detrimental effect on the way the global majority population participate in and experience volunteering.

There are some instances in this report where we draw on other research to make comparisons with white respondents.

Comparing global majority data with the overall population

We report on differences that are statistically significant between the overall population and the global majority data.

While some of the global majority respondents are included within the main sample, we used separate sample significance tests to check differences between the global majority sample and the overall population sample, with no adjustment made for the overlap. This was to avoid overstating the degree of difference between the two. See the appendix for more on this.

We recognise the global majority population contains many diverse communities. We do not claim in this report that their experiences are uniform. Although the online survey achieved a large and representative sample, we also acknowledge its limitations including reaching those who do not speak English or have access to the Internet[2].

For more information on our use of the term ‘global majority’, see language and definitions.

Additional data to bring in different perspectives

In addition to the survey data, we collected other data to ensure we captured multiple perspectives on the themes covered.

The wider context

The following wider factors and circumstances can help us better understand the findings in this report.

Population changes

The population of England and Wales is shifting. There is a growing proportion who identify their ethnic group as Asian (9.3%), black (4.0%), mixed ethnicity (2.9%) or other ethnic group (2.1%) (ONS 2021).

Many urban centres around the country have particularly large populations of people who are in the global majority. Several large cities are now greater than 50% global majority, including Leicester, Luton and Birmingham.

The age profile of this global majority subgroup is also much younger than the population as a whole.


While a majority of all groups within the UK say they have a religious affiliation, over a third of the UK population identifies as having no religion.

Religious affiliation is changing. People identifying as Christian fell to an all-time low of 46.2% in the most recent UK census (2021). There have been small increases in the number of people who are Hindu (1.5% to 1.7%) and Muslim (4.9% to 6.5%). Islam is now the second largest religion in the UK.

Anti-racism movements

Global anti-racism movements have gained increased mainstream traction in recent times, notably since the murder of George Floyd in the USA in 2020.

These movements have resulted in increased mass awareness and scrutiny of the societal injustices experienced by many groups within the global majority. This in turn has spurred action across government, public services, business, and civil society.

Within the UK voluntary sector, this trend has resulted in many organisations acknowledging institutional racism and historical injustice. There have been efforts to decolonise discourse and a renewed priority on inclusion.

Activist organisations such as Charity So White focused on shifting power structures within the sector. Some funders such as Lankelly Chase are redistributing their assets to avoid being ‘entangled with colonial capitalism’.

NCVO has been on its own journey to improve equity, diversity and inclusion in our organisation. This includes changes to our organisational culture.

While these changes are ongoing, we were proud to be awarded Race Equality Matters’ Bronze Trailblazer status in recognition of our work towards becoming a more diverse, inclusive, and equal organisation.

Covid-19 pandemic

Research shows that the covid-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted global majority groups (defined as ‘ethnic minorities’ by the ONS). This includes higher mortality rates (ONS, 2020), decreased household income, and mental health impacts (ONS, 2021).

There has been an overall increase in health inequalities as a result of covid-19, according to The Kings Fund, 2023. The report highlights how ‘structural racism can reinforce inequalities, for example in housing, employment and the criminal justice system, which in turn can have a negative impact on health.’

Cost of living crisis

Evidence from the New Economics Foundation (NEF), cited by Runnymede Trust, highlights that the cost of living crisis is also having a disproportionate impact on global majority groups (referred to as ‘ethnic minority groups’ by the NEF and Runnymede Trust). These groups had a higher average increase in cost of living compared to white households.

According to research by Runnymede Trust, people from the global majority (referred to as ‘black and minority ethnic people’) are 2.2 times more likely to be in deep poverty than white people. Bangladeshi people are more than three times more likely.


  1. See the appendix for a breakdown of the data in each of these groups.

  2. See more on YouGov’s panel and further information on our approach in the appendix

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 28 November 2023