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Volunteering Trends in Scotland – A Changing Landscape? (2007 - 2018)

To better understand the volunteering landscape in Scotland, we have completed a time series analysis of the Scottish Household Survey (SHS) from 2007 – 2017. The full analysis and presentations for this analysis will be updated every 4 years, with new data tables provided under download annually.

We know that volunteering contributes to Scotland’s economic and social prosperity: more than 1.2 million people volunteered last year and contributed an estimated £2.26 billion to Scotland’s economy. It’s crucial to remember that volunteering does so much more than this; bringing significant individual and societal wellbeing benefits too. Volunteer Scotland has recently completed a comprehensive appraisal of Volunteering, Health & Wellbeing, critically appraising the evidence around the contribution of volunteering to volunteers’ health and wellbeing.

Understanding the volunteering landscape in Scotland is very important as we are currently working in a rapidly changing environment which presents both opportunities and challenges for volunteering in Scotland.

For further information on the details of this analysis, please see our data tables and technical note.


  • Overall levels of volunteering have been declining – from 31% in 2010 to 28% in 2017.
  • The majority (72%) of people are not currently volunteering, with 49% of people having never volunteered.
  • A core group of volunteers (19%) contribute the majority (65%) of all volunteer hours.

So what?

These findings raise some important questions for policy and practice. We know that more and more is being asked of people to volunteer their time – for example, a number of Scottish Government policies assume that people can and will do more to deliver public services locally.

But volunteering overall is in decline, with a fairly low number (17%) providing regular help (at least monthly). How can we reverse this overall trend? Where will potential growth come from?  Who has the capacity and resources to support those people who are willing to volunteer so they can enjoy the many benefits that volunteering can bring. 

If the majority of people are not volunteering and a core group are doing the majority of hours, we have to ask ourselves whether the current approach to volunteer involvement is working. Also, is this a sustainable position? And what can we all do to encourage and support more people to volunteer? 

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