Volunteer motivation and values

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.

Motivations to start volunteering

Global majority volunteers are mostly motivated by a cause that is important to them.

There are some gender differences.

  • Men are more likely than women to volunteer because they have previously been helped by the group (18% vs. 9%).
  • Women are more likely than men to think volunteering would give them a new skill (15% vs. 6%).

Global majority volunteers are much more likely to be motivated by religion.

21% of global majority volunteers said ‘it’s part of my religious belief/philosophy of life to help people’ compared with 12% of volunteers overall.

Over half (56%) of those who stated this as a motivation said they volunteer specifically for a religious organisation. Other common causes for those with this motivation include:

  • mutual aid groups (32%)
  • health, disability and social welfare (22%)
  • local community or neighbourhood groups (20%).

Black volunteers are more likely than Asian volunteers to start volunteering because it was part of their religious belief or philosophy of life to help people (30% vs. 18%).

Looking at specific religions, 25% of those who identify as Muslim selected this answer as the reason they started volunteering.

A case study of volunteering in South Asian communities indicates that volunteering is seen as part of the requirements of fulfilling religious obligations in some religions.

Recent research by Human Appeal also highlights faith as a motivation for global majority volunteers. 29% of global majority volunteers (referred to as ‘BAME volunteers’ in the report) said they were motivated by this factor.

Career-related motivations are more common among global majority volunteers, especially younger ones.

14% of global majority volunteers cited improving their career or gaining qualifications as a motivation compared to 9% of volunteers overall.

This may be linked to the younger age profile of global majority volunteers. Global majority volunteers aged 18‒24 are particularly motivated by career and qualifications. 1 in 5 (21%) volunteers in this age group cite career related motivations as a reason for volunteering.

Volunteers aged 55 and over are more likely than volunteers aged 18‒34 to think they could use their existing skills for volunteering (37 % vs 10%).

Factors valued most by global majority volunteers and non-volunteers

To better understand what the global majority value most if or when volunteering, we developed 10 statements that address different aspects of volunteering. The survey asked respondents to rate each one on a scale of 1 to 6.

To include those who have never volunteered before, the questions asked about their general attitudes to and perception of volunteering, not about their own volunteer experience.

A culture of respect and trust is the most important factor for global majority volunteers and non-volunteers.

For global majority respondents (including volunteers and non-volunteers), a culture of respect and trust ranks highest in importance (4.59).

When split into volunteers and non-volunteers, values are similar, with the top five factors the same for both groups (in a slightly different order).

Across different ethnic groups, black respondents value a culture of respect and trust particularly strongly (4.76). They also value other factors relating to culture such as the volunteering organisation having people from a wide range of backgrounds (4.67).

There are variations by age. Young people aged 18‒24 are less likely to value the sense of belonging (4.25) than the rest of global majority respondents.

Feeling that they are not pressured to give time is more important for those aged over 55 compared with younger age groups.

Global majority respondents from higher socio-economic groups[1] (ABC1) value the following factors more than global majority respondents from lower socio-economic groups (C2DE):

  • a sense of belonging (4.31 vs. 4.10)
  • making a difference (4.65 vs. 4.33)
  • culture of respect and trust (4.65 vs. 4.45)
  • meeting people (4.09 vs. 3.89)
  • enjoyment through volunteering (4.55 vs. 4.37).

The most important aspect of volunteering for people from lower socioeconomic groups is a culture of respect and trust, followed by diversity.

Global majority respondents have different priorities and values compared to respondents overall.

Notable differences between global majority respondents and those from the overall population include the following.

  • While a culture of respect and trust is important for the overall population (4.51, ranked second), it is even more important for global majority respondents (4.59, ranked first).
  • Global majority respondents value cultural factors more. For example, volunteering alongside people from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures (4.46 vs 4.18).
  • Not being pressured to give more time is the second most important aspect of volunteering for the overall population (4.55). This is rated lower by global majority respondents (4.43).


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

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 28 November 2023