At Volunteering Matters we are always collecting feedback, formally and informally, from our volunteers. Our volunteers matter (no pun intended!) dearly to us, and we need to understand their experience on the front line in order to improve our projects and deliver the best possible outcomes for our beneficiaries, our volunteers and our communities.

This summer, we took the opportunity to carry out a large-scale survey. We asked our volunteers, through 600 questionnaires and 20 case study interviews, why they volunteer, what they think about the training and support we offer, and what benefits they have gained from the experience.

Interestingly, the motivations for volunteering varied significantly across the age range. 95% of young people (13-24) said it was important for them to develop new skills through volunteering, compared to just 32% of volunteers aged 55+. Similarly, 72% of young people were keen to gain qualifications through volunteering, whilst 40% of those aged 25-54, and just 13% of those aged 55+, felt the same. However, 94% of volunteers aged 65+ said volunteering helped them to have a sense of purpose during their retirement years.

We also noted some differences in motivation between our disabled and non-disabled volunteers. More than three-quarters of disabled volunteers were keen to develop new skills, and 63% hoped to improve their health and wellbeing through volunteering (in comparison to 48% and 62% respectively for their non-disabled counterparts).

We were very pleased to learn that 92% of our volunteers felt they were well or very well prepared for their volunteer placement by our training. We have spent years developing and refining our volunteer training, so it’s fantastic to hear that it’s been a success. 91% said they were aware of what is expected from them most of the time, and only 3% disagreed with this statement.

Almost two thirds of volunteers told us that their volunteer experience increased their access to networks and friendships, and 61% of under-24s said that volunteering increased their sense of trust in others. 59% of all volunteers told us that volunteering made them feel like part of a community, and 56% reported an increase in appreciation of other people’s cultures (this figure rose to 77% for young people).

I’d like to thank the volunteers who took the time to be a part of this survey. With your input, we can continue to improve our projects and make a tangible difference to the lives of disadvantaged people in communities across the UK.


Oonagh Aitken is Chief Executive of Volunteering Matters