We asked one of our volunteers, Natasha Bowles, to do some research for us about volunteering and to put together a summary about the nature of volunteering, who volunteers, how they volunteer and how they feel about it. Natasha has also looked at the future of volunteering and volunteering in the Durham community and she explains how you might get involved. We hope you will find this excellent piece of work as informative as we did!

Volunteering Demystified 

The Nature of Nationwide Volunteering 

In January 2019, the NCVO published a summary report entitled ‘Time Well Spent’. This report cast light upon several aspects of the current volunteering situation in the UK.


Who Volunteers?  

  • 7 in 10 of the people surveyed by the NCVO had engaged in some form of volunteering during their lifetime.
  • Yet only 7% stated that they had been consistently and heavily involved in volunteering over the course of their lives.
  • The age group most likely to have volunteered recently is that of 65 years +, while the age group least likely to have volunteered recently is 25 – 34-year-olds.
  • 44% of those belonging to higher socio-economic groups (ABC1) had recently volunteered, in comparison with 30% of those from lower socio-economic groups (C2DE).
  • People from more disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds who do engage in volunteering are less likely to hold certain leadership or representative roles, such as that of a trustee.
  • It is important to note that some groups that appear under-represented in statistics on formal volunteering engage in volunteering on a more informal basis, e.g. by performing neighbourly acts.


How Do They Volunteer?  

  • 8 in 10 volunteers carry out their volunteering locally, within their own neighbourhoods.
  • 23% of volunteers offer help as a one-off activity, or by dipping in and out of volunteer work.
  • 67% of volunteers are involved with civil society organisations, while 17% volunteer for public sector organisations.
  • 10% of volunteers offer their time through employer-supported volunteering.
  • Only 6% of volunteers conduct their volunteering work on an exclusively online basis, while 35% carry out volunteering work that never involves online activities.
  • The majority of volunteers (57%) work on both an online and offline basis.


How Do They Feel About Volunteering?  

  • 96% of volunteers state that they are very or fairly satisfied with their volunteer work.
  • Almost 7 in 10 volunteers surveyed had either already recommended volunteering to a friend or family member or said that they would do so.
  • 83% of volunteers reported that they were well supported in the organisation with which they volunteer.
  • 52% of those who say that they will continue to volunteer in the next year are motivated to continue because of the organisation itself, while 50% report that they are inspired by the cause that their organisation supports.
  • 90% of volunteers believe that their volunteering makes a difference.
  • 93% of recent volunteers state that they enjoy their volunteer work.
  • However, more than 1 in 3 volunteers think that volunteering could be much better organised.
  • Around 1 in 4 volunteers believe that there is too much bureaucracy inherent in the volunteering process.
  • 11% of disabled volunteers disagree that there is a volunteer culture of respect and trust.
  • 20% of those volunteering in the public sector agree that their volunteering was ‘too structured or formalised’, in comparison with only 10% of civil society volunteers.
  • The most common form of negative experience reported by volunteers is that of too much time being occupied by their volunteer work.
  • 19% of volunteers state that their volunteering is becoming too similar to paid work and this statistic increases to 24% among those who volunteer on a weekly basis.

Do They Connect with Others through Volunteering?  

  • 2/3 of those who have volunteered recently state that they are always or often in the company of others when they volunteer.
  • 85% of recent volunteers report a sense of belonging to the organisation for which they volunteer.
  • 68% of recent volunteers say that their volunteering makes them feel less isolated.
  • 89% of recent volunteers meet new people through their volunteer work.


What is the Future of Volunteering? 

  • 80% of recent volunteers report that they are likely to continue volunteer work with their main organisation within the next year.
  • 1 in 3 of the volunteers who state that they are unlikely to continue attribute their decision to changing circumstances.
  • Among individuals who have never engaged in volunteer work, one of the most commonly cited reasons for not volunteering is never having thought of doing so.
  • Around 20% of “lapsed volunteers” (i.e. those who carried out volunteer work between 1 and 3 years ago), have investigated volunteering prospects within the last 12
  • 48% of those who have never volunteered state that ‘nothing in particular would encourage me to get involved’.
  • Among individuals who expressed an interest in volunteering over the next 12 months, a higher proportion of respondents were willing to dip in and out of activities (53%), or to participate in one-off events (49%), as opposed to offering time on a consistent basis (30%).
  • 85% of recent volunteers agree that the organisation for which they volunteer has a flexible approach to the time commitment of volunteers.
  • It is evident that one of the most significant challenges to the future of UK volunteering is the recruitment of volunteers who are willing to offer time on a regular basis.
  • As per the NCVO’s findings, the aspects of the volunteering experience that are most important to volunteers are:


  • Inclusivity
  • Freedom of choice
  • Social connection
  • Flexibility
  • Balance
  • Meaning
  • Impact
  • Enjoyment


  • The NCVO advises that organisations consider their approach to the above factors, as part of the endeavour to attract and retain committed volunteers.


Volunteering within the Local Community  

Are There Volunteering Opportunities In Durham?  

DASH (Durham Action on Single Housing) is an independent charity that works to combat homelessness within County Durham, supporting those who are without a home, or who are at risk of losing their home. 

The organisation offers accommodation across a range of local properties. DASH provides a supportive and stable environment, combined with the requisite specialised services, to allow people to rebuild their lives and move forward into a state of independence. 

DASH also runs a Vulnerable Women’s Project dedicated to supporting women with multiple, complex needs and entrenched lifestyles, which prevent them from accessing other support services. The charity assists women who may have issues in the following areas: physical and mental health, child welfare, relationships, offending behaviour, historic abuse, bereavement, substance misuse, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, childhood trauma and/or self-harm. 

The organisation receives a grant from Durham County Council to run their services and also generates income through fundraising, rents and charges from their properties. DASH is a registered charity with 18 members of staff and 8 trustees and a range of volunteers, several of whom are from Durham University.


How Can You Get Involved?  

If you would be interested in helping to make a significant, positive difference within the local community, why not consider volunteering with DASH? 

The programme run by DASH offers volunteers the opportunity to contribute to the vital work carried out by the organisation, in a manner tailored to an individual’s time availability, interests and skill set. Volunteers undertake tasks in a friendly and welcoming environment in which they may work alongside fellow volunteers and develop new abilities that broaden their horizons. 

There are a variety of tasks and roles undertaken by volunteers, which include: 

  • Upcycling furniture for use in DASH accommodation
  • Organising fundraising events (e.g. the Auction of Promises that will be held at Durham Rowing Club on 19 October 2020).
  • Setting up welcome packs for tenants.

Volunteers are recruited through Freshers Week at Durham University, via the DASH website and social media pages, and CSR schemes. 

DASH have recently worked with Durham Community Action to receive the County Durham Kite Mark. The Kite Mark is a certificate awarded to organisations that are able to demonstrate how their volunteering programmes endeavour to overcome barriers to volunteering. During this process, Durham Community Action supported DASH in reviewing their processes, implementing volunteer time record sheets and an exit feedback process, creating role descriptions and an induction process. 

For further details about how you can support DASH’s mission, please see: