A History of NGOs in Britain

Volunteering for the Environment in the UK

1. Volunteering_for_the_Environment
2. General_reports_on_Volunteering
3. Some_Key_Figures_(contemporary)
4. Historical_figures_on_volunteering_for_the_environment


Volunteering for the Environment (some specific reports)

Environmental Volunteering in the North East of England (Institute for Volunteering Research, 2008)

Making volunteering easier: the story of environmental volunteering in South West England (companion report to the above, for the South East Region, July 2009)

Environmental volunteering: motivations, barriers and benefits (Report to the Scottish Forestry Trust and Forestry Commission, July 2008) (see full report)

Volunteering in the natural outdoors in the UK and Ireland: A literature review (Nick Ockenden, March 2007, IVR)

Environmental volunteering: motivations, modes and outcomes (report focussing on Australia)

Volunteer Development Scotland (2006). Volunteering in the natural heritage; an audit and review of natural heritage volunteering in Scotland. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 219 (ROAME No. F05NC07). (2007)

Volunteer Skills Research, Mantra, 2008 (report focussing on Environmental and land-based volunteers, including Animal Welfare)

Ramblers Association volunteers survey, December 2009

Volunteers and the Historic Environment (Heritage Link, 2003)


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General reports on Volunteering:

Helping out: a national survey of volunteering and charitable giving  (2007)

The 1997 national survey of volunteering (summary; data; snipet view on Google books)

The 1991 national survey of voluntary activity in the UK (P. Lynn and J. Davis Smith, Voluntary Action Research, Second Series, Paper N.1) (data)

Field, J., and B. Hedges. A national survey of volunteering, London: SCPR, 1984.

Humble, S. Voluntary action in the 1980's: a summary of the findings of a national survey: The Volunteer Centre England, 1982.

(Note: there are also specific data relating to volunteering in the Citizenship surveys, conducted since 2001):

(more recent citizenship surveys can be downloaded from here)

2005 Citizenship survey (no data specifically on volunteering for environmental organisations in this survey)

2003 Citizenship survey (no data specifically on volunteering for environmental organisations in this survey)

2001 Citizenship survey (data relating to the environment p. 99 and 104)


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Some Key Figures (contemporary):

- 500,000 'environmental and land-based volunteers across the UK'. 'Environmental and land-based volunteers are overwhelmingly white and almost half of them are aged over 55'; 'Approximately one in six volunteers are aged under 24' ; 'Almost half of volunteers volunteer in the environmental and land-based sector 'once a week' whilst one-fifth volunteer 'every day'.(source: Volunteer Skills Research, Mantra, 2008)

- Volunteers by organisations (2005-2006):

    - BTCV involves 100,000 'directly Managed volunteer workdays' (2005; annual report);

    - Wildlife Trusts: over 30,000 volunteers (source: website)

    - National Trust: 55,000 volunteers (source: Annual Report, 2009)

    - RSPB: 14,000 volunteers gave a total of 774,000 hours in 2007, corresponding to about 400 full-time volunteers for one year (source: RSPB website: '2007 sees record year for volunteers';  'all about volunteering')

(no precise data found for Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, WWF, or the Ramblers association)


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Historical figures on volunteering for the environment:

- 200,000 volunteers involved in organisations working with the national outdoors in 1992 (figure based on a survey of 279 national, regional and local environmental groups in the UK in 1992: Pinkney Baird, J. "Report on environmental volunteering survey." The Volunteer Centre UK (1992)). (source: Environmental Volunteering in the North East of England (Institute for Volunteering Research, 2008)

- The National Trust saw a 30 % increase in the number of people volunteering between 1993 and 2003 (source: Volunteers and the Historic Environment, Heritage Link, 2003: 5)

- People volunteering for the environment (please note that the figures are not always strictly comparable)

        - 2007: 4% of the population in England (8% of current volunteers) claim to volunteer with organisations whose main purpose was 'conservation, the environment and heritage' and 6% for 'animal welfare' (10% of current volunteers) (source: Helping Out, 2007)

        - 2001: 14 % of the population of England and Wales had been involved at least once in the last twelve months ('social participants') in organisations caring for the environment / animals; but only 11% claimed to have formally volunteered at least once in the last twelve months in such organisations (source: Citizenship survey) (no breakdown available to separate 'environment' from 'animal' organisations). By contrast, the Citizen Audit of Great Britain, a survey conducted in 2000-2001 recorded only 0.4% of British citizens to have given "voluntary or unpaid work for Environmental organisation (e.g. Greenpeace) and 0.8% for Conservation organisation (e.g. The National Trust). (see Figure 4: Members, participants, donors and volonteers for the environment and conservation, 2000-2001).

        - 1997: 5% of people in the UK claimed to have volunteered (in the last 12 months) for an environmental organisation (6% of all men and 4% of women). The proportion was in the region of 3-4% of people having volunteered for animals groups (2% of men and 5% of women). (Source: National Survey of Volunteering, Institute for Volunteering Research, 1997)

        - 1991: Of all the respondents to the 1991 National Survey of Voluntary Activity in the UK, 3% had volunteered in the last 12 months for a group whose area of interest was 'the environment', and 2% for a group interested in 'animals'. In a previous survey in 1981, unfortunately, environmental and animal protection groups had been put in the same category. However, the 1991 figures are not additive, as people may have volunteered for both an environmental group and an animal rights body. To allow direct comparison with 1981 figures, the 1991 survey thus combined different categories. This showed a small growth in volunteering for environmental groups or groups to help animals - from 2% of all respondents in 1981 to 4% in 1991. Classification of the fields of interest here are based on the 'main purpose of the group or organisation, rather than the immediate purpose of the activity in which the volunteer was involved. Thus, for example, much of the environmental work done by volunteers will not appear under the heading "The environment": environmental work done through the Scouts would have been classified as "Youth/children". Furthermore, many respondents had done environment-related activities on their own, rather than through a group or organisation (the results of these are reproduced in a table p. 107, table 88: informal voluntary activity in the past year, but this is very broad. For example, one of the fields is 'improving the environment, e.g. picking up litter or sweeping pavement' (38% did). (Source: The 1991 national survey of voluntary activity in the UK).

        - 1981: 2% of British people had volunteered in the last 12 months for environmental or animal protection groups (source: 1981 National Survey of Volunteering).


In a nutshell, and in a very simplified form as a crude summary of the above, the table below shows how volunteering for the environment has evolved since 1981. Animal groups are included to enable comparison with 1981 and 2001 surveys. Empty cells indicate where no breakdown is available (between environmental and animal groups). Figures in italics show where no combined figure is available. The figures in Italics are purely speculative and are based randomely on the same ratio as in 1991, the only year for which there exists a breakdown between Environmental and animal groups AND a combined figure.

  Environmental Groups Animal Groups either or both
2007 (Helping Out) 4% 6% 8%
2001 (Citizenship survey)     11%
2001 (Citizen Audit of GB) 1% 0.8% 1.44%
1997 (Nat. Surv. of Vol.) 5% 3.5% 6.8%
1991 (Nat. Surv. of Vol.) 3% 2% 4%
1981 (Nat. Surv. of Vol.)     2%

    Table 1. Percentage of people volunteering for the environment, 1981-2007, according to different surveys.

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