11 Volunteering

Main Findings

Levels of volunteering have remained relatively stable over the last nine years, with around three in ten adults providing unpaid help to organisations or groups. In 2017, 28 per cent of adults provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months.

The profile of volunteers has also remained relatively stable over time. Volunteers are more likely to be:

  • women
  • from higher socio-economic and income groups
  • from rural areas
  • from less deprived areas.

Overall, the volunteering results from 2017 by economic situation, household income and area deprivation continue to support existing evidence about the under-representation of disadvantaged groups in volunteering.

The type of organisations most commonly volunteered for were ‘children’s activities associated with schools’ (21 per cent), ‘youth or children’ organisations (20 per cent), and ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ (19 per cent).

Women were more likely to volunteer with children and young people, with ‘health, disability and social welfare’ organisations and ‘religious groups’, whilst men were more likely to volunteer with ‘sport / exercise’ organisations, with ‘hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs’ and with their local community.

Younger adults were more likely to volunteer with children and young people and help with sporting activities, whilst older adults were more likely to volunteer for religious organisations, community groups, and groups working with the elderly.

11.1 Introduction and Context

The Scottish Government recognises that volunteers of all ages form a valuable national resource, vital to the success of Scotland and that volunteering is a key component of strong communities. Volunteering is all about new experiences, feeling good and making a difference and it is important to recognise the benefits of volunteering, in terms of skills development, community empowerment and strengthening public services.

The definition of volunteering currently used by the Scottish Government is: “the giving of time and energy through a third party, which can bring measurable benefits to the volunteer, individual beneficiaries, groups and organisations, communities, environment and society at large. It is a choice undertaken of one's own free will, and is not motivated primarily for financial gain or for a wage or salary”[73]. This definition broadly encompasses ‘formal volunteering’ – where unpaid work is undertaken through an organisation, group or club to help other people or to help a cause (such as improving the environment). In contrast, ‘informal volunteering’[74] refers to unpaid help given as an individual directly to people who are not relatives.

The volunteering questions in the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) ask about providing unpaid help to organisations or groups, therefore the focus of this chapter is on formal volunteering. This chapter presents findings from the 2017 data about the prevalence and frequency of volunteering, and the type of organisations for which individuals give up their time. Biennially, questions are asked about the activities which individuals undertake, hours spent volunteering in the past month, and reasons why people who volunteered in the past have now given up. These questions were last asked in the 2016 survey. A number of terms are used interchangeably to refer to volunteering throughout the chapter (e.g. unpaid help, unpaid work, unpaid activity and voluntary work).

11.2 Providing Unpaid Help to Organisations or Groups

11.2.1 Prevalence of Providing Unpaid Help

The overall rate of volunteering has remained relatively stable between 2009 and 2017 with the proportion of females volunteering being consistently higher than males.

Table 11.1 shows that 28 per cent of adults provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months.

Profile of volunteers

  • There is an under-representation of disadvantaged groups who have volunteered.
  • In 2017 as in every other year, more women (30 per cent) than men (26 per cent) volunteered in the last 12 months.
  • Fewer people from lower socio-economic groups have provided unpaid help compared with higher income groups.
  • The percentage of adults volunteering increased with income.
  • Volunteering has been consistently lower for those in the 20 per cent most deprived areas (19 per cent), compared to 37 per cent in the 20 per cent least deprived areas.
  • The rate of volunteering has been consistently higher in rural areas than in urban areas
  • Those in ‘education (including HE/FE)’, those who are ‘self-employed’ and those in ‘part-time employment’ (all 32 per cent) were most likely to have provided unpaid help.
  • Adults who are ‘permanently sick or have short-term ill-health issues or are disabled’ (13 per cent) were least likely to have volunteered.

There is a difference along gender lines with a higher percentage of women (30 per cent) saying that they provided unpaid help compared with men (26 per cent) (Table 11.1).

Table 11.1: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by gender
Column percentages, 2017 data

Adults Male Female All
Yes 26 30 28
No 74 70 72
Total 100 100 100
Base 4,540 5,270 9,810

Figure 11.1 shows the trend in volunteering over the past nine years. It can be seen that the overall rate of volunteering has remained relatively stable over the time period with the proportion of females being consistently higher than males.

Figure 11.1: Percentage providing unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by gender
2009-2017 data, Adults (minimum base: 2,450)

Figure 11.1: Percentage providing unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by gender

Figure 11.2 shows the gender difference in volunteering by age. In 2017, there was a difference between females and males within the 35 to 44 age group, where 38 per cent of females and 28 per cent of males volunteered. Also in the 16 to 24 age group 33 per cent of females volunteered compared to 24 per cent of males, and in the 25 to 34 age group, 24 per cent of females volunteered compared to 21 per cent of males.

Volunteering was lowest among men aged 25 to 34 compared to all of the other age groups under 75. After the age of 75, providing unpaid help declined particularly for women (18 per cent), and more men in this age group (22 per cent) provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months.

Figure 11.2: Percentage providing unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by age within gender
2017 data, Adults (minimum base: 650)

Figure 11.2: Percentage providing unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by age within gender

There is also variation in volunteering according to individuals’ current economic situation (Table 11.2). Those in ‘education (including HE/FE)’, those who are ‘self-employed’, and those in ‘part-time employment’ were most likely to have provided unpaid help (all 32 per cent). Adults who are ‘permanently sick or have short-term ill-health issues or are disabled’ (13 per cent) were least likely to have volunteered. Nearly one-quarter (24 per cent) of those ‘unemployed and seeking work’ had volunteered in the previous 12 months.

Table 11.2: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by current economic situation
Column percentages, 2017 data

Adults Self -employed Full-time employ-ment Part-time employ-ment Looking after home / family Perma-nently retired from work Unem-ployed and seeking work In Education (including HE/FE) Perma-nently sick or short term ill health or disabled All
Yes 32 28 32 27 27 24 32 13 28
No 68 72 68 73 73 76 68 87 72
All 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Base 620 3,220 980 420 3,380 290 370 520 9,810

Table 11.3 shows the differences in volunteering by household income. It can be seen that in general the percentage of adults who volunteered increased with income. Just over a fifth of adults in households in the lowest net income bands, £0-£20,000, volunteered in the last 12 months, compared to almost two-fifths (39 per cent) of those with a net household income of more than £40,000.

Table 11.3: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by net annual household income
Column percentages, 2017 data

Adults £0 - £6,000 £6,001 - £10,000 £10,001 - £15,000 £15,001 - £20,000 £20,001 - £25,000 £25,001 - £30,000 £30,001 - £40,000 £40,001+ All
Yes 23 20 22 24 25 26 28 39 28
No 77 80 78 76 75 74 72 61 72
Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Base 260 820 1,550 1,500 1,140 900 1,380 1,900 9,450

Household income in the SHS is that of the highest income householder and their partner only. Includes all adults for whom household income is known or has been imputed. Excludes refusals/don't know responses.

Figure 11.3 shows the prevalence of volunteering by level of deprivation, as defined using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). It can be seen that the levels of volunteering increase as area deprivation decreases, 19 per cent of adults in the 20 per cent most deprived areas volunteered in 2017 compared to 37 per cent in the 20 per cent least deprived areas

Figure 11.3: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation
Column percentages, 2017 data

Figure 11.3: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation

Table 11.4 shows differences in volunteering by Urban Rural classification. It can be seen that the rate of volunteering in rural areas was higher than in urban areas, with 31 per cent of adults in both remote rural areas and in accessible rural areas saying they provided unpaid help to groups or organisations compared to around a quarter of adults in large and other urban areas (26 per cent and 27 per cent respectively).

Table 11.4: Whether provided unpaid help to organisations or groups in the last 12 months by Urban/Rural Classification
Column percentages, 2017 data

Adults Large urban areas Other urban areas Accessible small towns Remote small towns Accessible rural Remote rural Scotland
Yes 26 27 30 28 31 31 28
No 74 73 70 72 69 69 72
All 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Base 2,810 3,530 880 570 1,000 1,030 9,810

11.2.2 Types of organisations Unpaid Help Provided to

Table 11.5 shows the most common types of organisations which volunteers helped with were those who worked with ‘children’s activities associated with schools’ (21 per cent), followed by people who worked with ‘youth / children’ (20 per cent) and people who worked with ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ (19 per cent). The next most common types of volunteering were, ‘sport / exercise (coaching or organised)’ and ‘hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs’ (both 17 per cent), and then ‘health, disability and social welfare’ organisations (16 per cent) and ‘religious groups’ (15 per cent).

Table 11.5: Types of organisations or groups for which adults provided help for in the last 12 months by Urban/Rural Classification
Percentages, 2017 data

Adults who did voluntary work in the last 12 months Large urban areas Other urban areas Accessible small towns Remote small towns Accessible rural Remote rural All
Children's activities associated with schools 19 21 22 27 23 20 21
Youth / children 19 19 27 23 23 19 20
Local community or neighbourhood groups 18 14 21 23 23 38 19
Sport / exercise (coaching or organising) 12 18 16 33 18 20 17
Hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs 16 15 21 19 18 17 17
Health, disability and social welfare 15 17 16 11 19 12 16
Religious groups 13 17 14 6 17 17 15
The elderly 8 11 12 6 14 17 11
Environmental protection 8 5 8 5 8 16 7
Education for adults 6 6 5 2 6 3 6
Citizens groups 2 3 3 5 5 10 4
Safety, first aid 2 3 5 5 5 6 4
Wildlife protection 3 3 8 3 6 10 4
Political groups 4 5 3 3 3 3 4
Justice and human rights 4 2 3 1 3 2 3
Domestic animal welfare 4 3 2 2 3 3 3
Trade union activities 1 1 0 1 1 2 1
None 5 3 1 9 2 4 4
Don't Know 0 0 1 0 1 0 0
BaseMin 720 980 250 180 320 350 2,790

Columns may add to more than 100 per cent since multiple responses were allowed.

Table 11.5 also shows the variation in the types of organisations that adults volunteered with by Urban Rural Classification. It can be seen that similar percentages of adults in large and other urban areas and remote and accessible rural areas (around one-fifth) provided unpaid help to ‘children’s activities associated with schools’ and ‘youth / children’ organisations.

A higher percentage of adults in accessible small towns, remote small towns and accessible rural areas (around one-fifth) provided unpaid help to ‘hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs’ compared to large and other urban areas (16 and 15 per cent respectively).

A higher percentage of adults in accessible rural areas and other urban areas (19 per cent and 17 per cent respectively) provided unpaid help to ‘health, disability and social welfare’ organisations compared to remote small towns and remote rural areas (11 per cent and 12 per cent respectively).

A higher percentage of adults in other urban areas, accessible rural and remote rural areas provided unpaid help to ‘religious groups’ (all 17 per cent) compared to large urban areas and accessible small towns (13 and 14 per cent respectively) and remote small towns (6 per cent). Providing unpaid help to ‘the elderly’ was also highest in remote and accessible rural areas (17 and 14 per cent respectively) compared to all other areas.

Thirty-eight per cent of volunteers in remote rural areas and around one-quarter in accessible small towns, remote small towns and accessible rural areas provided unpaid help to ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ compared to large urban areas (18 per cent) and other urban areas (14 per cent).

Conversely, a higher percentage of adults in remote small towns provided unpaid help to ‘sport / exercise (coaching or organising)’ groups (33 per cent) than all other areas, and a higher percentage or adults (16 per cent) in remote rural areas provided unpaid help to ‘environmental protection’ compared to all other areas (between 5 and 8 per cent).

Table 11.6 shows the types of organisations that adults volunteered with in the last 12 months by gender and age. Women were more likely to volunteer with ‘children’s activities associated with schools’ (26 per cent), ‘youth / children’ (22 per cent), ‘health, disability and social welfare’ organisations (18 per cent), and ‘religious groups’ (17 per cent). Men were most likely to have volunteered with ‘sport / exercise (coaching or organising)’ (23 per cent), ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ and ‘hobbies / recreation / arts / social club’ (both 20 per cent).

Providing help with ‘children’s activities associated with schools’ (34 per cent) was most common among adults aged 35 to 44 and providing help to ‘youth / children’ was most common among adults aged 16 to 24 (34 per cent). Adults aged 16 to 24 were also most likely to have volunteered with ‘hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs’ (27 per cent) followed by ‘sport / exercise (coaching or organising)’ (23 per cent). In contrast, volunteering for ‘religious groups’ and organisations working with ‘the elderly’ tended to increase with age, as did volunteering with ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ (to age 60-74 on the latter). Of those adults aged 75 and over who had volunteered, 38 per cent did so with ‘religious groups’, 20 per cent did so with ‘local community or neighbourhood groups’ and 19 per cent with organisations working with ‘the elderly’.

Table 11.6: Types of organisations or groups for which adults provided help for in the last 12 months by gender and age
Percentages, 2017 data

Adults who did voluntary work in the last 12 months Male Female 16 to 24 25 to 34 35 to 44 45 to 59 60 to 74 75 plus All
Children's activities associated with schools 14 26 30 25 34 19 10 3 21
Youth / children 18 22 34 20 26 20 12 5 20
Local community or neighbourhood groups 20 18 15 18 15 20 24 20 19
Sport / exercise (coaching or organising) 23 11 23 19 16 19 11 7 17
Hobbies / recreation / arts / social clubs 20 14 27 13 12 15 19 12 17
Health, disability and social welfare 14 18 11 19 14 18 18 13 16
Religious groups 13 17 8 6 12 12 25 38 15
The elderly 9 12 5 5 8 12 16 19 11
Environmental protection 9 6 4 7 6 9 9 4 7
Education for adults 7 5 4 9 5 5 8 4 6
Citizens groups 4 4 0 3 4 3 5 8 4
Safety, first aid 4 3 6 3 5 4 2 0 4
Wildlife protection 5 4 3 6 5 5 4 1 4
Political groups 6 2 2 3 5 4 5 2 4
Justice and human rights 3 3 3 2 2 3 3 3 3
Domestic animal welfare 2 4 5 5 2 3 3 1 3
Trade union activities 2 0 0 1 2 2 0 1 1
None 3 4 4 2 3 4 3 7 4
Don't Know 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
BaseMin 1,210 1,580 180 330 510 720 780 280 2,790

Columns may add to more than 100 per cent since multiple responses were allowed.


Contact

Emma McCallum