Volunteering in Northern Ireland: What do we know in 2012?

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1 Volunteering in Northern Ireland: What do we know in 2012? The last Northern Ireland wide survey on the extent and scale of volunteering was conducted in 2007 and resulted in a report titled It s All About Time. In absence of a more up to date Northern Ireland wide survey key statistics from a number of additional research reports have been compiled which provide the most up to date information for specific groups or specific areas of volunteering i.e. older people, young people, sports. For some aspects of volunteering, the 2007 report remains the main reference, where this is the case, this will be referred to i.e. full population based profiling. For each key piece of research a brief overview of the studies focus and methodology will be provided along with a summary of the key findings. Reference to full copies of relevant research reports are provided for those who wish to read them. Key Research reports summarised below cover: 1. The Volunteering Landscape in NI 2. Organisational Perspective of volunteering 3. Older People and Volunteering 4. Young People and Volunteering 5. Sports and Volunteering 1. The Volunteering Landscape in NI Summary of It s All About Time 2007 Research It s All About Time 2007 remains the most up to date large scale population based survey that is available in Northern Ireland. It describes the extent and scale of volunteering in Northern Ireland as well as outlining who volunteers, the experiences of volunteers, the impact of volunteerism on organisations and why some individuals choose not to volunteer. Methodology The survey was based on the results from 1,020 face to face interviews with individuals aged 16 years and over across Northern Ireland. 1

2 Key Findings Overall, across NI, it was estimated that 21% (n=282,067) of the population had been involved in formal volunteering 1 in the previous 12 months and 35% (n=470, 117) involved in informal 2 volunteering. A comparison of rates across 3 reporting periods (1995, 2001 and 2007) showed that volunteering rates had remained static. Informal volunteers accounted for 35% of the individuals surveyed of which almost a third were also formal volunteers (31%). This equates to an estimated 470,111 individuals who over the previous twelve months had been engaged as informal volunteers. An estimated 145,734 individuals were both formal and informal volunteers. In 2007 the overall economic value of formal volunteers, based on the Northern Ireland average hourly wage, was 504 million per year. This equates to an average of 13.4 hours given by formal volunteers each month. In 2007 the number of hours informal volunteers gave has increased from eight hours to nine hours per month when compared to Almost three quarters of all formal volunteers have stated that their circle of friends/networks had increased as a consequence of formal volunteering. 56% of formal volunteers had attributed an increased contact with other communities/religions to their engagement in volunteering. 15% of formal volunteers had attended a public consultation event/meeting/forum whereas only 2% of non-volunteers stated they had done the same. Just under one third of all formal volunteers were engaged with a voluntary or community organisation which equated to an estimated 87,723 individuals. The next most common type of organisation volunteers were engaged with was the church or religious bodies (70,799). Who volunteers? Females were more likely than males to be formal volunteers. As a proportion of all formal volunteers six out of every ten were female (61%). 1 Formal Volunteering- volunteering with or under the auspices of an organisation / group. 2 Informal Volunteering- outside of an organisation, often at neighbourhood level, but outside or in addition to ones immediate family. 2

3 Individuals aged between 35 and 49 years old and those aged between 16 and 24 years old were the most likely to volunteer. The most common types of formal voluntary activities undertaken by respondents was raising or handling money (32%) and helping to organise or run an activity or event (26%) year olds were more likely to volunteer for organisations that were involved in sports or exercise based activities, whereas year olds were more likely to be formal volunteers when it relates to organisations that are involved in children s education (schools). Almost three quarters of all formal volunteers (74%) gave time to organisations at least once a month (in 2001 this figure was 62% and in 1995 it was 61%). Personal contact through word of mouth, through someone already volunteering in a group, through the church or religious organisation or through friends or family were the main ways through which individuals found out about volunteering opportunities. Those informal volunteers in the younger age brackets were more likely to be involved in baby sitting or caring for children than those who were older. However, those individuals who were aged over 65 years old and those aged between 50 and 64 years old were more likely to keep in touch with someone who had trouble getting out and about. The survey found that 70% of informal volunteers who sit with or provide personal care (e.g. washing, dressing) for someone who is sick or frail do so on a weekly basis. The overwhelming reason why informal volunteers helped out was that they wanted to get involved. Experiences of being a volunteer Two thirds of formal volunteers (66%) felt that their efforts were appreciated by the organisation they volunteered with. Almost three quarters (74%) of formal volunteers get the greatest level of satisfaction from seeing the results of their contribution. Enjoyment also rates very highly on the scale of what is important to individuals who volunteer for an organisation. Almost half of all formal volunteers (48%) reported a family member who had been involved in some type of voluntary activity over the last five years. Almost a quarter of all informal volunteers (24%) reported a similar situation with only 6% of non-volunteers stating that a member of their family had volunteered over the past five years. 3

4 58% of formal volunteers aged between 25 and 34 years old voted in the last General Election whereas 48% of non-volunteers in the same age bracket voted. Recruiting and retaining volunteers Approximately one quarter of all volunteers (26% of formal volunteers and 28% of informal volunteers) would like to spend more time volunteering. The pressure of work commitments was the single most common reason why individuals do not become more involved in voluntary activities. Approximately a third of all formal and informal volunteers (33% and 32% respectively) felt the fact they are doing enough already precludes them from becoming more involved. Overall respondents felt that articles/advertisements in local newspapers were the most useful ways to promote volunteering opportunities. This was followed by word of mouth (friends/family) as being perceived as an effective way of promoting volunteering opportunities. Supporting volunteers Three out of every ten formal volunteers had to go through an interview or a chat prior to becoming a volunteer. Those individuals who volunteer with a public sector organisation are more likely to have had to complete a police records check (68%), complete an application form (55%) and attend an interview (55%). Overall this survey found that 19% of all formal volunteers were engaged with organisations that covered volunteer expenses. 60% of formal volunteers didn t claim out of pocket expenses even though they could and the most common reasons given was that they hadn t got around to it (23%) and that they viewed it as a form of donation (18%). A third of all formal volunteers (34%) stated that they had received training from the organisations they volunteered with. Attitudes towards volunteering Just under half of all formal volunteers (49%) strongly agreed that many organisations could not survive without unpaid workers. 4

5 Source: 39% of formal volunteers consider being involved in unpaid work can contribute to an improvement in cross -community relations. In 1995, 15% of volunteers agreed that organisations that involved volunteers were amateurish. In 2007 this has fallen to just 10% of all respondents. Volunteer Development Agency (2007) Its All About Time, Volunteer Development Agency. This report is available from the publications section of the Volunteer Now website- Category Search- Research and Type Search- Volunteering Patterns. Click here to access 2. Organisational Perspective of Volunteering Our understanding of the organisational perspective of volunteering comes through two main pieces of research. The It s All About Time research conducted in 2007 and the Mapping of Volunteer Involving Organisations in Northern Ireland conducted in Summary of Mapping of Volunteer Involving Organisations in Northern Ireland The main aim of this research was to follow-up on key themes emerging from It s All About Time 2007 i.e. the profile of organisations (sub-sector, income levels, number of volunteers involved) and the prevalence of key volunteer management practices. Methodology There were two phases to this research; the first phase was carried out in Volunteer involving organisations were asked to complete a survey either online or by post. This initial survey was re-issued in 2011 in order to boost representation of specific types of organisations i.e. sports, church / faith based, art groups and credit unions. Contact databases held by both Volunteer Now and NICVA were used to create the sample for phase 1, to boost the response for phase 2, other networks were used to extend the reach of the survey. Key Findings Overall, 3,494 organisations responded to the phase 1 & 2 of the research. The total number of volunteers reported across the organisations surveyed in phase 1 & 2 was 189,363. The most common types of roles being offered to volunteers included Governance, Fundraising, Administration / Office work and Working with Children / Young People. 5

6 A comparison of the mapping research 2010 and older 2007 research indicated that the overall prevalence of volunteer management practices had increased. Within the Voluntary and Community Sector evidence of best practice 3 is strongest in a number of sub sectors e.g. children and young people, volunteer development and advice and information but weaker in arts / culture/ heritage / older people and sport. The research identified the greater capacity of some larger organisations to involve volunteers. Organisations with an income of 1 million or more, represented 9% of the organisations in the survey, however, they involved 37% of the volunteers. Groups with an income of 10,000, represent 34% of the sample, yet account for just 8% of total number of volunteers. This research highlights the challenges faced by smaller income groups to attract greater numbers of volunteers. The findings suggest that further work is required in addressing barriers to developing good practice in organisations with particular emphasis on low income organisations and with regard to particular Sectors and Sub Sectors. For example, the research found that offering a role description was less common in lower income groups. The phase 1 mapping report provides a breakdown of number of volunteers, income level of volunteer involving organisations and sub sector by council. Summary of It s All About Time Research The It s All About Time Research examined the attitudes of individuals and organisations towards volunteering. Methodology The survey was based on the responses from 745 (24.4% response rate) organisations that involve volunteers. This sample was drawn from a list of voluntary and community organisations held on the NICVA and the Volunteer Development Agency databases (2,553 organisations). A postal survey was used to administer the questionnaire. Key Findings Overall, attitudes towards the value, impact and contribution individuals make is extremely positive. This is an incredibly important finding when set against the wider 3 Best practice in volunteer management includes induction, having a named person to go to for support, training to carry out role, written role description and a copy of information on health and safety / equal opportunities. 6

7 environment where the overall number of volunteers is essentially static and those who do volunteer are being more selective in terms of how often and how much time they commit to voluntary activities. 38% of organisations stated that in the last five years the number of volunteers involved in their organisation has increased. 42% of organisations have reported a decrease in the level of volunteers in the last five years. The most common type of volunteering is organising or helping to run an activity with 79% of organisations stating that this is one of the main roles undertaken by volunteers. The second most common volunteering activity is leading a group or being a member of a committee or trust. 84% of all organisations stated that volunteers are very committed/flexible and enthusiastic and 82% of all organisations stated that volunteers bring new/additional skills to the organisation. 77% of organisations stated they could not operate without the support of volunteers. The top three methods used by organisations to recruit volunteers was through personal contact, word of mouth and local newspapers. Organisations stated that they felt the most common reason why individuals do not volunteer is that they have insufficient time. In relation to how the recruitment of volunteers could be made easier, 38.3% of organisations believe that local volunteering campaigns would be beneficial. In addition 37.2% of organisations stated that if more resources became available to cover the activities of volunteers this could make it easier to recruit volunteers. 31.1% of organisations that involve volunteers have a budget which covers volunteer activities and expenditure. Over 60% of organisations stated that having a dedicated volunteer manager has had a positive impact on the recruitment and retention of volunteers. All reports produced from the mapping research are available from the publications section of the Volunteer Now website- Category Search- Research and Type Search- Volunteering Patterns. Click here to access now. 7

8 3. Older People and Volunteering Summary of Research The Unlocking Potential Project supported through funding from The Atlantic Philanthropies has produced a number of research reports focused on understanding older people s lifestyle choices, attitudes and experiences of volunteering. Two reports produced in 2009 and 2011, named Making the Connection 1 and Making the Connection 2 offer an insight into the attitudes, lifestyle and volunteering activity rates of the 50+ age group in Northern Ireland. Methodology The 2009 report was based on 350 telephone interviews with people aged 50 or over in Northern Ireland and 6 focus groups. The 2011 report was based on 350 telephone interviews with people aged 50 or over. The geographical spread was assured by randomly selecting by area telephone codes from across NI. Representativeness was quota controlled for sex, age and socio-economic grouping. Key Findings -Making Connection 1 & 2 The surveys found that older people are involved in a substantial amount of volunteering, whether that be at a neighbourhood level (informal volunteering) or through an organisation (formal volunteering). Patterns of volunteering tended to change with age; as people s age increased they were more likely to be involved in informal volunteering. This tells us that it is important to use both traditional and more technology based mediums to communicate with the 50+ age group. The research also suggests that having health problems can be a reason stopping some people from volunteering; however, it is clear that there are other barriers apart from health which are preventing non volunteering groups from doing so. Key Findings- Making the Connection Survey Three quarters of volunteers were involved in three main voluntary activities i.e. raising and handling money, helping in a church or religious organisation, leading a group or being a member of a committee. Volunteering within a religious organisation was more common for the older old age group. The most common motivation to volunteer was the desire to improve things or to help others (4 out of 10 respondents agreed). Having spare time was not the most powerful motivation by the older respondents in this study. 8

9 The most common personal benefit of volunteering was the satisfaction from seeing the results (72%). The amount of commitment and flexibility were the two most important considerations when thinking about volunteering. Approximately 4 out of 5 respondents said that they had some free time which was not committed to other activities. A comparison of the feedback across different age groups suggest that the further people move beyond 65, the more likely they are to settle into a routine of day to day life and become less likely to choose to introduce new activities. Newspapers were, by far, the most common sources used for finding out information on local activities / events. This was followed by word of mouth (24%) and internet (24%). With respect to non-volunteers, lack of understanding, unchallenged preconceptions and fears were major barriers to recognising volunteering as a consideration or choice. The non-volunteer groups found it most difficult to think of the skills they could offer through a volunteering role. There were demographic differences (gender and socio-economic) in the type of skills / volunteering roles that respondents thought they could offer. Key Findings Making the Connection Survey Overall, 66% of respondents volunteered in some capacity; 59% volunteered informally and 36% volunteered formally. 34% did not currently volunteer; of which, 25% would not consider it and 9% would consider it. The majority of respondents stated that getting involved in volunteering had increased their social interaction with people from different age groups (69%). Patterns of volunteering tended to change with age; as people s age increased they were more likely to be involved in informal volunteering than formal volunteering. Over a quarter of respondents suggested that their health would to some extent prevent them from considering volunteering (28%). However, 88% of those who do not volunteer but would consider it stated that their health was not a reason. 9

10 Just over half of respondents claimed to use the internet (55%). There was a sharp decline in internet usage with age, 68% of people in their 50 s said that they used the internet compared to 28% of those in their 70 s. Respondents didn t feel that elected representatives understood older people s issues (58%); this supports other research in this area. This research did explore the types of volunteer management practices that would encourage or discourage people from volunteering. Giving people the chance to try out volunteering (58%), having a chat with an existing volunteer or someone from the organisation were seen as encouragements. Respondents didn t like the idea of having to register online (47%), complete an application form (38%) or attend an interview (31%). This latter point could indicate a dislike of the formal language used to describe the process rather than the process itself. Softer language such as registration form rather than application form and informal chat rather than interview may be the better description. Sources: Volunteer Now (2009) Making the Connection 1: Volunteering by the Over 50 s in Northern Ireland, Belfast, Volunteer Now. Volunteer Now (2011) Making the Connection 2: A Further Exploration of the Attitudes, Lifestyle and Volunteering Activity of the 50+ Age Group in Northern Ireland, Belfast, Volunteer Now Both reports are available from the publication section of the Volunteer Now website- Category Search- Research and Type Search- Older People. Click here to access now. 4. Young People and Volunteering A number of research reports have helped to inform us of the prevalence, benefits, motivations and barriers to volunteering for young people. The two main sources are It s All About Time (2007) and Youth Volunteering: Making a Difference to Community Relations (2010). Summary of relevant sections of Its All About Time The prevalence of volunteering within this age group compared to other age groups is the main focus in this section. The overall summary of findings from Its All About Time (2007) is available from section 1 of this report. 10

11 Methodology Its All About Time (2007) was a NI Wide Survey of those aged 16+. The survey was based on the results from 1,020 face to face interviews with individuals across Northern Ireland. Key Findings Overall It s All About Time indicated that young people aged were one of the most likely age groups to volunteer formally (23%, average for the population, 21%) and were less likely to volunteer informally that other age groups (33%, average for the population, 35%). This age group was also most likely to be involved in sport / exercise type of volunteering activities. Summary of Youth Volunteering: Making a Difference to Community Relations (2010). This research shows that there are many factors which determine whether young people volunteer, who they volunteer with, the type of volunteering they do, the time spent on it and the experience they have. It has also demonstrated how volunteering can provide unique opportunities for young people to meet new friends, including people who come from different backgrounds to them. This is particularly important for young people from less well-off backgrounds who may otherwise have fewer opportunities to meet a diversity of people. The research raised important issues about the need to ensure that all young people are given opportunities to benefit from volunteering. Schools, policy makers, parents / guardians and the volunteering infrastructure have a role to play in making this happen. Methodology The Youth Volunteering Making a difference to Community Relations (2010) report came from a module of questions on volunteering which was included in the 2009 Young Life and Times Survey (YLT) and was funded by the Youth Council for Northern Ireland. The YLT survey is an annual postal survey undertaken with 16 year olds. A random sample from the NI Child Benefit Register was used. The 2009 survey had responses from year olds, giving a response rate of 23%. Key Findings The YLT research showed that 54% of the 16 year olds surveyed had volunteered in the previous 12 months- 30% formally, within an organisation, 17% informally in their community and 7% both formally and informally. Of the young people who had volunteered in the previous 12 months, 85% said they had volunteered in school. 11

12 Young people from less well off backgrounds were less likely to say that they volunteered. Related to background, young people from grammar schools were more likely to volunteer formally or informally (67%), than those from integrated (51%) or secondary schools (40%). There was a higher level of formal volunteering happening in suburbs compared to any other place of living i.e. big city, small town, country village, farm or countryside. Motivation and benefits from volunteering were multiple and varied. As expected building skills and developing ones CV were the most popular motivations. However, helping others, making friends and having fun were also important. Young people benefited in many ways from volunteering including, building confidence, meeting new people, building skills and having new and different experiences. Young people who volunteered were more likely to socialise with people from different backgrounds. Those that volunteered were more likely to say that community relations between Catholics and Protestants had improved over the last 5 years. Young People from less well-off backgrounds were more likely to say that volunteering increased their contact with people from different community or religious backgrounds (53% not well off, 41% average, 39% well off). Young people from Protestant or religiously mixed areas were more likely to say that their contact with people from different communities or backgrounds had increased due to their volunteering (44%) compared to those who lived in Catholic areas (37%). A significant number of young people said that they had never thought about volunteering (36%) or wouldn t know how to find out about getting involved in volunteering (30%). Communication technology such as the internet or mobile phones is an untapped media with regards to promoting volunteering to young people. Sources: Irvine, C & Schubotz, D. (2010) Youth Volunteering: Making a Difference to Community Relations, Belfast, Ark and Volunteer Now. Available from Volunteer Development Agency (2007) It s All About Time, Volunteer Development Agency. These reports are available from the publications section of the Volunteer Now website- Category Search- Research. 12

13 5. Sports Volunteering Northern Ireland based research in this area demonstrates the integral position which volunteers play in sports activities, including the wide range of roles that they carry out and time dedicated to it. Research has also highlighted the benefits which governing bodies could gain from developing key areas of their practice with respect to volunteer management. A number of pieces of research have been used to help understand sports volunteering in NI. This includes extracting information from Its All About Time (2007), Needs Analysis Study with Olympic Sports Governing Bodies in Relation to Volunteering and Volunteer Management (2009) and the Mapping in Volunteer Involving Organisations- Sports Overview (2011). Summary of relevant sections of It s All About Time Its All About Time being a population based survey allows us to get a picture of the profile of volunteering in NI. This section of the report has focused on the prevalence, age and gender breakdown of those involved in sports specific volunteering compared to other types of volunteering. Methodology Its All About Time (2007) was a NI Wide Survey of those aged 16+. The survey was based on the results from 1,020 face to face interviews with individuals across Northern Ireland. Key Findings An estimated 37,233 (13.2%) of the 282,067 formal volunteers in Northern Ireland are involved in voluntary activities with a sports club. 35.7% of all formal volunteers who are involved with a sports club are female (overall females represent 60.8% of all formal volunteers). This represents 7.7% of all female formal volunteers and 1.7% of all females in the population. 53% of sports club volunteers are aged years old and the 50+ age group being least likely to volunteer in sporting related activities. 13

14 Summary of Needs Analysis Study with Olympic Sports Governing Bodies in Relation to Volunteering and Volunteer Management (2009) This report was focused on understanding the prevalence of volunteering and volunteer management practices within Olympic Sports Governing Bodies. Methodology Needs Analysis Study with Olympic Sports Governing Bodies in Relation to Volunteering and Volunteer Management (2009) was a survey with 26 Olympic Governing Bodies resulted in a response from 25 of the 26 Bodies. The survey focused on their current level of volunteer management practices. Key Findings For volunteers involved with a sports club, coaching was the most common activity (39.3%). This was followed by organising events (35.7%) and working with young people (21.4%). Formal volunteers who are involved with a sports club tend to volunteer more often than is the case for all formal volunteers. For instance, 78.5% of all sports club volunteers are engaged in some sort of activity at least once a month, compared to 73.6% of all formal volunteers. For formal volunteers who engage with sports clubs the most common way they become involved is through knowing someone else already involved in the group or being involved in setting up the group. For formal volunteers who engage with sports clubs, a desire to improve things and help people were important motivations to get involved. This was closely followed by the fact that individuals had time to spare to become involved and by the fact the individuals perceived a need to exist in their community. Summary of the Mapping Volunteer Involving Organisations- Sports Overview This summary report provides an overview of the profile of organisations with respect to income, number of volunteers involved and type of roles offered. It also reported on volunteer management practices implemented and patterns of recruitment and retention over the previous year. 14

15 Methodology In 2010, phase two of a mapping exercise of volunteer involving organisations was conducted in NI. In part, this report focused on including groups that identified themselves as coming from the Sports Sector (n=150 groups). The sports element of this sample was generated by Sports NI with additional contacts from NICVA and Volunteer Now. Key Findings In general, the sports clubs that responded to the survey were categorised as coming from low income groups (just under half had annual incomes 1,001-10,000). There is a wide range of volunteering opportunities available within Sport, the main ones being coaching (90%), sports/ outdoor (84%), administration / office work (80%), child protection (76%) and officiating / refereeing (76%). The most common forms of volunteer management practices being implemented by sports groups were providing information or a copy of a child protection policy (80.8%), offering a named person for support (80.6%), training to carry out the role (77.9%) and an induction (66.4%). The least common practices were role descriptions (30.8%) and written volunteer agreements (19.6%). Whilst the mapping research overall shows the difficulty all sectors face in the recruitment and retention of volunteers, sports clubs/ groups consistently report high levels of difficulty in both recruitment and retention of volunteers. Also, sports groups identified higher than average difficulties in providing sufficient induction and or training to volunteers. Sources: Volunteer Development Agency (2007) It s All About Time, Volunteer Development Agency. This report is available from the publications section of the Volunteer Now website- Category Search- Research and Type Search- Volunteering Patterns. Click here to access. Volunteer Now (2010) Mapping Volunteer Involving Organisations in NI: Phase 2- Sports Overview, Volunteer Now. Volunteer Development Agency (2009) Needs Analysis Study with Olympic Sports Governing Bodies in Relation to Volunteering and Volunteer Management, Volunteer Development Agency. These sports specific research reports are available from the 2012 Sports section of the Volunteer Now website- Click here to view. 15

16 This paper has summarised a range of the high quality research that has produced on volunteering in NI. The following link will give you access to all of the reports that have been produced over the last number of years by Volunteer Now, including areas such as minority ethnic groups, neighbourhood renewal and mentoring All of Volunteer Now s good practice information sheets and checklists on volunteer management issues are informed by research. The full ranges of resources are available from the publications section of Volunteer Now s website Disclaimer Reasonable precautions have been taken to ensure information in this publication is accurate. However it is not intended to be legally comprehensive; it is designed to provide guidance in good faith without accepting liability. If relevant, we therefore recommend you take appropriate professional advice before taking any action on the matters covered herein. Charity (Inland Revenue) No. XT Company Limited by Guarantee No. NI Registered in Northern Ireland. Volunteer Now March Ormeau Road Belfast BT7 1SH Tel: Fax: Web: 16

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