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NCVO finds room for improvement in public sector volunteering programmes

Melanie May | 13 January 2020 | News

Public sector volunteers report strong levels of satisfaction in their roles but on the whole are less satisfied than those in the charity sector, with their experience too much like paid work for one in four, and many feeling there is too much bureaucracy involved, NCVO has found. 
New research released today by NCVO reveals that public sector volunteers are also less likely to feel a sense of belonging to the organisation they’re volunteering with, and more likely than charity volunteers to plan to quit.
The report, Time Well Spent: Volunteering in the Public Sector, finds that 94% of those volunteering in the public sector say they were satisfied with their experience. However, only 47% said they were ‘very satisfied’, compared to 58% among charities and community group volunteers, while only 76% said they would continue volunteering in the future compared to 83% of charity volunteers.
Public sector volunteers were almost twice as likely as charity volunteers to say they expected the process of getting involved to be quicker (20% vs. 11%), and were around 50% more likely than charity volunteers to report that there is ‘too much bureaucracy’ (32% vs 21% of volunteers).
The research also included focus groups, and among these participants, NCVO found that volunteers at larger organisations in particular expressed the frustrations of bureaucracy and hierarchy and said they sometimes felt ‘at the bottom of the pile’.
Over one in five, 22%, felt the organisation had unreasonable expectations of their time, compared to 14% of charity volunteers. In focus groups, public sector volunteers reported feeling growing pressure and a sense of expectation to give more time as the services they volunteered for came under financial pressure, and that this diminished their enjoyment of their roles. A sense of volunteering becoming ‘too much like paid work’ was driven by a combination of a sense of obligation and a feeling of lack of appreciation or being valued.
Focus group participants also revealed that those giving their time at organisations where staff and volunteers had positive and supportive relationships were more satisfied, but with volunteers also conscious that morale levels among staff impacted how their volunteering experience felt.
Karl Wilding, NCVO Chief Executive commented:

“Getting public sector volunteering right holds the potential to make a really positive difference to services by harnessing people’s desire to help out in their communities.
“The differences we found in the survey are not always dramatic but along with what we heard in focus groups they do hint at areas for improvement in public sector volunteering programmes, particularly in terms of making roles flexible and minimising bureaucracy. I firmly believe that public services are able to do this, even in the context of financial pressure, and I sense a great willingness to do so from the public sector leaders I speak to.”

This latest report is based on a survey of 10,000 adults in the UK, conducted with YouGov, which explored who volunteers, where, why, and how they feel about their volunteering. The first results were published last year. For this report, NCVO undertook detailed further analysis of survey respondents volunteering in the public sector, alongside a range of focus groups with volunteers in public services in areas across England.


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