Increase in volunteer numbers and contribution in benchmarking study

Volunteers Count 2015, the sector’s leading volunteer management benchmarking study, has been published in a series of five reports by research consultancy, Agenda Consulting. 41 organisations took part in this year’s study which enables them to compare their approach to volunteer management with their peers.

Undertaken every two years, Volunteers Count looks at key metrics about volunteer management including how volunteers are recruited and retained, the learning and development, support and supervision they receive, the contribution they make to charities, and their return on investment.

Key trends emerging from the study include that a quarter of organisations have increased their volunteer numbers by 16% or more in the past two years and that volunteer hours make up 26% of the total staff/volunteer hours. 68% of volunteers are women, while only 5% of volunteers are from ethnic backgrounds, suggesting there is scope to increase volunteers from ethnic minorities.

The top recruitment methods for volunteers are word of mouth (95%) and using the organisation’s web site (85%); the use of social media is rising, with 26% of organisations using it to recruit volunteers.

The study also found that organisations are increasing their investment in learning and development for volunteers. Over half of organisations (54%) have a separate budget for this, compared with 26% in 2013. This year, the median spend on learning and development per volunteer is £14, up from £9 in 2013 and £7 in 2011.

In 40% of organisations, the most senior volunteer manager sits on the board and 59% of organisations have one or more strategic KPI that relates to volunteering – highlighting the value organisations place on their volunteers.

The study revealed that the median ratio of volunteers to employees is 5:1, so for every employee in the organisation there are five volunteers. This figure has increased since 2013, when the median ratio was 4:1.

Organisations are also getting a good return on investment from volunteers. Based on the national minimum wage, the median ratio of volunteer contribution is 1:2.7, so for every £1 spent on volunteer costs, organisations get £2.70 of volunteer contribution.

However, economies of scale are evident, with the largest organisations getting a greater return on investment of £4.80, compared with the smaller organisations of just 70 pence based on the minimum wage; and £9.60 and £1.40, respectively based on the national median wage.

The study found that on average the total cost of 1,000 volunteer hours is £2,204 – and this figure includes volunteer expenses at £229, the cost of line manager staff at £880, as well as the Strategic Volunteer Developer at £550. Other costs include learning and development, administration, support, and recruitment.

Roger Parry, Director of Agenda Consulting comments: “Volunteers Count shines a light on how organisations are managing their volunteers. Our insight shows there is an increased reliance on volunteers, no doubt linked to the funding challenges facing the sector.

“Volunteers are making a healthy contribution to organisations and delivering a good return on investment. It seems their value is being recognised more, with organisations increasing their budgets for learning and development and introducing strategic KPIs linked to volunteering.”

Nikki Squelch, head of volunteering development, Alzheimer’s Society, who supports the study said: “With static civic participation in challenging political and economic times, we hear more about volunteers being a solution to public service delivery. Organisations that involve volunteers need to ensure they are attracting, and effectively involving and managing volunteers to ensure they have a great experience and are full supporters of the volunteer-involving organisation. Many are maturing their approach in engaging volunteers, becoming more strategic by using and sharing data for the benefit of their organisation and society as a whole.”

The findings of Volunteers Count 2015 have been published in five reports by Agenda Consulting:

  • 2.1 Profile of Volunteers
  • 2.2 Recruitment, Selection and Retention
  • 2.3 Learning and Development; Support and Supervision
  • 2.4 Communication and Recognition; Expenses
  • 2.5 The Strategic Volunteering Development Function; Return on Investment

For more information about the Volunteers Count 2015 reports go to: www.agendaconsulting.co.uk/publications

Agenda Consulting is a research consultancy, helping not-for-profit organisations achieve their mission through better understanding of their people.

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