4. What are the main motivations for getting involved in ESV?

This section looks at motivations for volunteers, volunteer-involving organisations and employers participating in ESV. It also explores the impact of differing motivations across these groups.

4.1 Why do volunteers, volunteer-involving organisations and employers get involved in ESV?

All share a common aim – to make a difference

In our Time Well Spent survey, ESV volunteers were asked for the most important reasons why they had first started volunteering. The most common motivation overall was wanting to improve things or help people (36%). This was also the most common motivation for non-ESV volunteers, and reflects wider evidence on why people participate in volunteering generally. Wanting to give time to an organisation or cause of personal importance was also common for ESV volunteers (26% and 25% respectively).

Employers and volunteer-involving organisations participating in ESV were also motivated by making a difference. A desire to make a positive impact on local communities was commonly mentioned by employers who took part in our qualitative research. Volunteer-involving organisations also participated in ESV to support their causes, drawing on the help of much-needed ESV volunteers.

Volunteer-involving organisations, employers and volunteers are also driven by a range of other motivations

While all groups share a common aim in wanting to improve things and help people, they also each have a variety of other motivations for getting involved. This is summarised at the end of this section in diagram 1, with more detail below on each group.

  • Volunteers: As seen in chart 3, while helping others is the most common motivation, there are a range of other reasons ESV volunteers participate. Around one in five volunteers (22%) were motivated by learning new skills, which was higher compared with non-ESV volunteers. This is likely to reflect the younger age profile of ESV volunteers. It is interesting to note, however, that they are just as motivated to use their existing skills as gain new ones (24% vs 22%).
  • Volunteer-involving organisations: As shown in the top five motivations drawn from recent research[1] findings (see box below), a primary reason for getting involved in ESV is as a route to financial contributions from the employers involved, whether through direct access to funding or to strengthen relationships with the employer.
  • Employers: beyond the impact they want to make on their communities, employers also reported participating in ESV to benefit their employees (eg supporting their development, feeling better about their work place) as well as benefiting their business (eg increased employee productivity, enhanced image and reputation of the business, supporting their organisational strategies, and breaking siloes across teams). Many agreed that it was important for employers to demonstrate a good ethos and values as an organisation, and an increasing expectation among those they engaged with, whether clients or employees.

Happy and engaged employees work harder, and by supporting volunteering, the business is more profitable… that’s in conjunction with other things. It’s also just the right thing to do. We have a rare privilege of having 80,000 employees with skills who can give back to the local community.


4.2 What are the impacts of these differing motivations?

Different motivations inevitably shape participation – but can also lead to different priorities

These different motivations outlined in section 4.1 inevitably shape the ways each of these groups participate in ESV. For example, in our qualitative research, we heard examples of volunteer-involving organisations seeking partnerships only with employers who could make financial commitments and employers focusing primarily on programmes that fit with their organisational priority areas. Volunteers too may, for instance, not be interested in skills-based opportunities if they want to volunteer by doing something different from their everyday activities at work.

The range of motivations driving each group involved in ESV means they may not prioritise the same things. In some cases, this drove negative perceptions of others’ motives for involvement. For example, some volunteer-involving organisations and brokers believed that employers were more motivated by wanting to fulfil their own CSR strategies than a genuine desire to help[2].

At the same time, there was also a recognition that volunteer-involving organisations themselves at times provided volunteering opportunities which were not necessarily needed in the hope of obtaining long-term financial contributions. Employers also perceived that some employees saw volunteering as just ‘a day off’.

[Requests for large group ESV activities comes from] employers having to tick their CSR boxes and their team building boxes. They don’t want to pay the money for a team building day out, and they see the charitable sector as a cheap, easy way that they can tick boxes.


As well as perceptions, differing motivations also at times caused tensions in the relationships between volunteer-involving organisations and employers and the engagement with volunteers. This is explored further in Section 6.4.

A focus on the shared value of making a difference is ESV at its best

Where ESV was seen to work well, however, was where volunteer-involving organisations and employers were able to balance their own different priorities, find common ground with partners, and deliver opportunities that resonated with the motivations of volunteers. These most often centred around the shared aim of making a difference, as highlighted in earlier this section. In some cases, this was supported by brokers.

This suggests that understanding the motivations of the volunteers and organisations involved (both volunteer-involving organisations and employers) is an important starting point. This theme is explored in more detail in section 8.

Diagram showing the different motivations for getting involved in ESV
Diagram 1: Different motivations for getting involved in ESV


  1. CVN, 2018

  2. CVN, 2018; Three Hands, 2018

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 03 June 2019