This contrasts sharply with the wider picture:
What is driving Reach's growth?
Pre-pandemic incremental growth is due to improvements to our service (including new partners). We assume that annual January peaks are caused by New Year, New You thinking and the pandemic surge is a mix of a desire to help and furlough. But growth since autumn?
It’s nothing specific that we’ve done. Rise is consistent across all sources. We attract most volunteers through third party sites like LinkedIn that serve up roles to match peoples’ skills. Few are looking to volunteer, but for a percentage, this prompt is enough.
So our best guess is that this surge is driven by concern about the impact of the cost of living crisis on others. This correlates with research which shows that most people hold ‘intrinsic' values like care for others, and the planet, as most important (but that we routinely underestimate how much our fellow citizens care).
Barriers affecting volunteering
So why then is volunteering falling across the sector? Some barriers are:
- Expenses (being reimbursed afterwards / only partially / not at all).
- Rising transport costs.
- Burnout from ‘core’ volunteers.
- More older people with long-term ill health.
More insights on this are very welcome!
Most Reach roles are remote / hybrid; and by reaching new audiences we mitigate burnout. Reach volunteers are also younger than the average volunteer (please note the data in this spreadsheet only includes age, ethnicity and gender. We added disability and sexuality but too recently for this data).
Of course, many of the barriers are intractable (e.g. some volunteering has to be in person). Organisations like the Scouts are experimenting with different ways to resolve barriers like burnout (by, for example, making individual roles into team roles to spread responsibility). None of this is easy, and much local volunteering infrastructure has been decimated, so maybe fewer people are finding opportunities too?
But still, there are grounds for hope...
There is a big appetite to volunteer, if:
- People are presented with relevant opportunities to do so
- Barriers like cost are removed
- We reach new audiences.
Given how crucial volunteering is, especially for small organisations, let’s build on these strengths.