About Volunteering

The Institute for Volunteering Research, Spirit of 2012, and the What Works Centre for Wellbeing today publish new research revealing how volunteering can increase wellbeing, and how charities can avoid volunteer burnout as they plan their response to the knock-on effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Most people in Great Britain – around seven in ten – formally volunteer through a group, club or organisation at some point in their lives. They offer invaluable support to improve the lives of other people.

The main findings of the comprehensive review that looked at over 17,000 published reports, and included evidence from 158 studies from the UK and internationally, are:

  • Volunteering is associated with enhanced wellbeing, including improved life satisfaction, increased happiness and decreases in symptoms of depression. Volunteering fits into the wellbeing cycle of communities. Either because volunteering leads to improved wellbeing for volunteers, or because when people feel well they are more likely to get involved. 
  • Older people, the unemployed and those who already have chronic ill health and low wellbeing gain more from volunteering than others. Volunteering also has a buffering role for those going through life transitions, such as retirement or bereavement.
  • Groups with the most to gain from volunteering face barriers to getting involved because of lack of opportunity. Ill-health and disability are particular barriers for low income groups.
  • The intensity and demands of some volunteer roles may have a negative effect. The way volunteers are involved and engaged can enhance or hinder the positive wellbeing effects of volunteering. 

The report highlights four key areas – and gives guidance – on how organisations improve the wellbeing of their volunteers.

  1. Being more inclusive.
  2. Increasing connectedness.
  3. Creating a more balanced volunteering experience. 
  4. Making volunteering meaningful.

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External resource

  • Building Connections Fund
  • Barriers to belonging: an exploration of loneliness among BAME backgrounds
  • Campaign to End Loneliness
  • Loneliness Action Group
  • A connected society: a strategy for tackling loneliness