How diverse are volunteers in London?

The volunteering charity London Plus use Understanding Society to see whether volunteers reflect the diversity of the city.  

London Plus looked at whether rates of volunteering differed by gender, ethnicity, age, education, employment status, religious status, income, housing tenure, and disability status.

The project was commissioned by the GLA who want to encourage equality in participation in volunteering and civic action in London. London Plus used Understanding Society because we regularly ask our participants about their volunteering activities. The research showed that volunteering levels in London have remained broadly stable since 2009, with around 21% of people living in the city volunteering at least once a year.

London Plus explain why the research was needed: "The aim of this analysis was to bring attention to potential inequalities in participation, not to stigmatise groups who were less likely to participate. Volunteering brings a number of positive benefits to individuals and allows people to influence positive change in their communities. There are many reasons why people may be less likely to volunteer despite good intentions, including having less time, having less opportunities to participate or not finding suitable opportunities."

What did they find out?

  • Women were only slightly more likely to volunteer than men, and this was not statistically significant when controlling for other variables. Women were, however, more likely to volunteer regularly.
  • People who were Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi were less likely to say they had volunteered in the last 12 months than people from other ethnic backgrounds.
  • There was little difference in volunteering by age when controlling for job status.
  • Differences in volunteering behaviours were largest by socio-economic factors:
    • People in the highest income quintile, and people with a degree were most likely to say they volunteered.
    • Full-time students were most likely to do any volunteering, and people who were full-time students, unemployed or retired were most likely to volunteer regularly.
  • There were no observed differences in volunteering behaviours by disability status.
  • Whilst there were no differences in volunteering behaviours between people who said they were, or were not, religious, people who were religious and either said they felt their religion made a difference to their lives, or attended services often, were most likely to volunteer.

The project has helped London Plus develop an online probability of volunteering calculator.  This tool allows users to see who is most, and least likely, to volunteer in London. You can find the calculator here.

Read more about this project from London Plus here