Last week I attended the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) Forum in London, the event that saw the launch of their Time Well Spent survey into volunteering, the first of its kind in over a decade.

Really punchy statistics were at the forefront of the results:

Of those who have volunteered in the last 12 months:

  • 68% feel less isolated – mostly in 18-24 and 25-34 age groups
  • 77% agreed that volunteering had improved their mental health and wellbeing
  • 74% agreed that volunteering had given them more confidence, with the figure rising to 84% among 18-24 year olds
  • 96% were satisfied with their experience and seven in ten (69%) would recommend it to others.

NCVO, Time Well Spent survey


  • 1 in 5 say it is becoming ‘too much like paid work’
  • Even with the high % satisfaction, over a third think it should be better organised and 25% think too much bureaucracy
  • Far more working class young people said they had never volunteered at all (36% of C2DE 18-24 year olds v 25% of ABC1 18-24 year olds: i.e. ABC1 young people were 45% more likely to have volunteered at some point than C2DE young people).
  • People from middle class backgrounds are nearly 50% more likely to have volunteered in the last twelve months than those from working class backgrounds

NCVO, Time Well Spent survey

I am personally invested in volunteering as a way to increase happy feelings. Last year I interviewed some fellow Parkrun volunteers, about impact it has had on their lives, and why they are motivated to give up their spare time to help others become passionate about their cause (in this case, getting involved in the local community, being active and feeling good.)

So, from the NCVO forum, two main takeaways for me:

  1. Start young. To engage volunteers of the future, tackle the diversity issue and reach that under 25 demographic – charities and the voluntary sector need to define a model to enable them to easily engage with primary schools.
  2. Bring back the fun. Volunteers must enjoy the time that they give to a cause they more than likely have personal investment in – how can they be rewarded, feel valued and encouraged to have their say?

In the future, as we move into a world where the human transaction will be more important than ever, it is imperative that society continues to engage those who are willing to stand up and make a difference. The findings from this report show that the impact of volunteering on those statistically more at risk to loneliness and isolation is huge in terms of confidence and a sense of purpose. We must act now.

I am currently talking to charities about a forum to arm them with the tools to survive the 4th industrial revolution, if you are interested in taking part please, find out more and register here.

Further reading: