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Volunteering intentions from young adults could see extra 2.5mn give their time this year

Melanie May | 4 January 2023 | News

4 young people huddle over a table, launching. By Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Charities could see up to 2.5 million new volunteers aged 18-34 across the UK this year, according to research by Pro Bono Economics.

Polling for Pro Bono Economics, carried out by Opinium, found that one in six from this age group plan to start volunteering in 2023.

One in five charities also expect their volunteer numbers to rise over the coming months, according to a separate PBE study carried out with Nottingham Trent University (NTU).


Recruiting and managing millennials, a course by Bruce Tait.

PBE’s new research shows particular enthusiasm from the younger generation, with one in six (17%) 18-34-year-olds saying they do not currently volunteer, but plan to in 2023, compared to 6% of over-55s.

Overall, 11% of people said they plan to begin giving unpaid help to a group, club or organisation in 2023. If this intention translates to actual volunteering, PBE says it would mean an additional 7mn volunteers next year that are not currently volunteering.

This follows a decline in formal volunteering in recent years exacerbated by the pandemic. Since 2013/14, the proportion of people regularly formally volunteering in England dropped from more than one in four (27%) to 17% in 2020/21.

More volunteering stats

A separate study by PBE and NTU’s National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory, the VCSE Sector Barometer, shows that the level of formal volunteering is a leading concern for small and community-based social sector organisations (with income of less than £10,000 per year), only behind concern about income. Among its key findings, the survey found that:

The new survey by PBE and NTU’s National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory also found that more than three-quarters (77%) of charities had experienced increased demand in the previous three months. This has been coupled with falling donations in 2022 as a result of the cost of living crisis, as well as a reduction in the value of donations due to inflation. A recent analysis by PBE and Charities Aid Foundation estimates that the £5.7 billion of total donations made to charities in the first six months of 2022 will be worth £500mn less by the end of the year, a reduction of 8.5%.

Nicole Sykes, Policy and Communications Director at Pro Bono Economics, said:

“Charities in the UK have experienced an incredibly challenging year in 2022. The cost of living crisis has driven millions of families to seek support from social sector organisations in their communities, leading to soaring demand on charity resources.


“But while need has continued to rise, falling donations and the scourge of inflation have stripped back the funding these organisations need to do their work.


“Encouragingly, a new generation of young volunteers appear to have been galvanised and are keen to donate some of their time in 2023. This is hugely positive in the wake of falling volunteer numbers in recent years.”

She added:

“While it should be noted that volunteers are not a cost-free resource for charities – requiring training and management among other things – if organisations are able to take on this new support, 2023 could be the year of the volunteer. That would be good for charities and society alike.”